Charlie Sheen has been ranting, to the delight of all media. He has been ranting about being a special human being that has an organism that allows him to do drugs in amounts that can kill others; an enlightened frame of mind that places him above that of mere mortals, and a power of will that enables him to stop using drugs within the space of a one second decision. He also presents himself as a “great man” that will fight to the death, never considering defeat as an option. These comments have made great material for late night hosts, constant fodder for news channels, and, of course the essential diagnoses-by-media of Dr. Drew and other media mental health experts. The summary consensus is that Charlie Sheen is an arrogant, and entitled addict, experiencing a “meltdown.” The fact that Charlie Sheen is experiencing a psychological crisis is evident. But why is this particular “meltdown” producing this upheaval? Because Charlie Sheen is not only experiencing a psychological breakdown, he is also experiencing a breakdown of his ability to PR. In other words, he has lost the ability to keep his excesses, and true beliefs private. His madness broke his ability to lie; he has become completely sincere: sincerely crazy.
Without the ability to modulate his impulses, Charlie Sheen is exhibiting the behavior of a high status male in a troupe of Chimpanzees, or a high status male in a culture that idealizes wealth, and fame indiscriminately: our culture. He is a person who has been given very clear messages that he is special, unique, and above the consequences that a normal member of this culture would have to face when he breaks its rules; he internalized this message, and is now broadcasting it; and for having the audacity to be honest about his true beliefs, he has become an object of interest, scorn, and pontification; and will be punished, not for what he has done, but for the arrogance of not having the decency of presenting us with an apologetic and sorrowful attitude. He has broken an important unspoken cultural contract.
For many years Charlie Sheen has belonged to a class that is the modern equivalent of aristocracy: the class of the celebrity. The members of aristocratic classes, have been known throughout history to indulge in sexual, sensual, and behavioral excess (think of the Roman, European, Persian, and Asian aristocrats, all the way to the modern day Movie and Rock stars) However, Charlie is making a great mistake: he is behaving like a modern Caligula, not like a Henry the VII. He is indulging in excess, and flaunting it openly; versus indulging in excess, while preaching, and presenting a posture of righteousness, and religiousness.
In psychology we know that high status, wealth, and power, opens the way to indulge the human-animal appetites: specially aggression, sex, food, and pleasurable altered states of consciousness. But, from the beginning of our species, indulging these urges at the expense of others is not a good strategy for survival: in our ancient environment, if you took another’s mate, or food, to please yourself, that other would not go hunting with you, or help you protect yourself from enemies. So, through human history the ability to modulate the appetites, and display a cooperative, righteous, and even humble image served as an effective survival strategy. Those individuals that could obtain the most loyalty and cooperation from others became leaders; so, in most cases, natural selection favored high-status members of a culture, that even when indulging in the adulation, wealth, and power of their position, presented a public image of virtue.
This is still true today: if you are a famous degenerate, but adopt children from the Congo, or do Charity events for the starving people of Ethiopia, you will preserve fame, and fortune. We all have seen how shows of humility, and self deprecation, are very effective in re-gaining a positive public perception, and return of status, even when they may be false. But Charlie didn’t do this. This is the social contract that Charlie did not keep: he took the advantages of his status, indulged in the excesses that they bought him, and gave nothing back to the masses that gave it to him; gave no humility (humiliation would have been even better,) shame, or apology; this is unforgivable. This is what has made this particular psychological fall so resonant hysterical. In summary, Charlie lost the use of his mental filters, and became completely sincere; and for this, he will be punished by those that have the sense to honor their contract of celebrity, and the culture that create them.