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Sunday, January 20, 2013

What Livestrong says about Armstrong

In many of the recent discussions about Lance Armstrong, there has been a lot of weighing of the good and bad in his life against each other. The bad is of course represented by the doping scandal, and the vicious way he went after those who accused him of doping.

The good is represented by his foundation Livestrong, whose primary mission is to provide support for cancer patients. Until recently they used Armstrong's image to inspire patients as well, imparting an if-Lance-can-make-it-so-can-you message. Some were undoubtedly helped by such cheerleading.

But if you're familiar with how successful sociopaths operate, such a foundation can in fact be evidence OF their sociopathy as much as evidence against it. Many sociopaths feel a need to proclaim to the world how wonderful they are, and what better way to do that than a foundation? It's almost a sort of greed: not only do they want the accolades for their success, they want accolades for being saintly as well.

Non-sociopaths simply don't campaign for sainthood. Decent types tend to do good in a quiet, behind the scenes sort of way. A public campaign, named partially after the chief do-gooder, with his picture splashed all over, starts to resemble a cult of personality as much as it does an ordinary charity. This is not to say Livestrong doesn't do a lot of good, because it does -- as the many testimonials on its website attest.

Likewise, a billionaire who donates a chunk of money to splash his name across a new hospital wing undoubtedly does a great deal of good. But that doesn't necessarily make the billionaire a decent human being. Goodness can not be bought. Rather, it's defined by the pattern of one's personal relationships, by one's loyalty and honesty. And many of those billionaires undoubtedly have less than exemplary histories on that score -- just like Lance.

There are certainly people who start such foundations with only the best of intentions. But when someone with a proven track record of dishonesty and manipulation and vindictiveness opens a foundation, it's a pretty safe bet that his motives for doing so are egotistical rather than charitable.

Those who knew him say that Armstrong hated attending the meetings for Livestrong, and avoided them whenever possible. One can hardly blame him for that; such conferences can be deadly. But it is indicative that he wanted the reputation for saintliness without the honest work required for canonization. Which is not entirely unlike the way he approached his cycling career.


whattodo said...

I so much agree with your analysis about what motivates Armstrong. Ego. Armstrong loves Armstrong!
And he wants to be seen.

John Craig said...

FAA --
Thank you.

I guess from your moniker that you used to know him. One thing about a sociopath, there's always a real unanimity of opinion about him from former acquaintances.