Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wild Man or Confused Man

Tom Wells took a big challenge in writing “Wild Man” (a biography of Daniel Ellsberg, whose sole claim to fame was releasing the Pentagon Papers) about such a complicated personality but he went too far in dealing with this challenge & not for best mostly.

To sum up Ellsberg’s personality one can say an intelligent man detracted for his whole life. Main reason behind this being his relationship with his mother who’s expectations knew no limits & never showed satisfaction with her son’s achievements. The main reason why Ellsberg was never able to produce results which paralleled his intelligence levels.

His self-centeredness (a characteristic which forms the bases of his persona & affects his relationships) was also the result of his mother’s training. He was treated as the most important member of the family & everyone else was considered secondary. Daniel was never able to break through this feature, considering only what he was saying or doing to be the most important thing of the time; which needed everyone’s attention. Nothing else mattered. Also his lack of analyzing situations from a multi-dimensional viewpoint was an extension of his self-centeredness.

The self-contradictory element of this personality is seen in the fact that at one hand he is a hundred percent self-centered person & on the other hand he needs the approval of others around him constantly. This he never found & he took refuge in reconstructing the events of the past. None of his accounts (or if one has to be polite you can say ninety-nine percent) match to the recollections of the other individuals involved in those events.

Daniel Ellsberg’s whole life it seems is spent in trying to prove himself, in which ever way he felt he could make a mark. In this quest (for which again one finds it impossible not to point the finger at his mother’s role) he missed out the little things which produce huge effects & are core essentials of the humane aspect of mankind; which is where you start to feel sad for Dan. Most of his actions produce the opposite reaction from what he desires are shouting examples of the things essential for a normal brought up which he was denied.



His lust for being in the lime light & power are seen dripping out in his attitudes towards keeping secrets & his exhibitionery attitude with regards to his sex-life. Buying extra copies of the papers to distribute among peers just to make sure that they see him in the news, sending his drafts to people all around are all indicators.

Once a part of the system & a complete supporter of the Vietnam War, his 180 degree turn towards being an anti-war activist (this might not be the right word for him as during this phase of his life his main objective remained being the solo star on the stage, something quite contrary to the attributes of an activist who in general would love to be standing in a team) makes no real sense. His emotional imbalance is evident everywhere but one fails to point out one solid core reason for his conversion.

Combination of these reasons made people doubt Ellsberg’s real intentions behind the only act which brought him his 5mins of fame, the release of the Pentagon Papers. And you can’t blame them for their cynicism as it is well rooted in rational justifications.

The book is interesting from a physiological analysis view point but to consider it a complete political biography is to overestimate the book’s cardinals. The author has done quite an extensive research & as most of it presents the exact results the book gets quite repetitive & the organization of these same points narrated form different people spread in different chapters make it a difficult read as it gets extremely boring & is not able to keep the reader gripped to the story. Joan Hoff in his praise of the book stated that “…Wells’s biography will save him (Daniel) from becoming a mere footnote to history”. However, after reading this account one wonders whether his becoming a footnote in the end is such a bad idea.

Everyone has a story & every story is worth listening but Tom Well’s over did Daniel Ellsberg’s story in 604 pages as it was not really worth this much space in the archives of the history.

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