Friday, September 11, 2009

Folders vs. Crumplers

There was an era when human beings could be divided into two categories: folders and crumplers. This was sometime between the invention of modern toilet paper in l857 by Joseph Gayetty and the end of the Cold War. Toilet paper actually goes back as far as the Tang and Yuan dynasties, but its modern form is a product of American ingenuity, and something that has yet to catch on in India, where water is still used for cleansing, but without the power of the modern industrial bidet.

On the most basic level, the folder acted in a premeditated fashion and was capable of the kind of impulse control that allowed him to create a strategy. Conversely, the crumpler was an impulsive, charming sociopath, gifted at extemporization, but with a deficiency in the kind of brain chemistry that allows for sublimation. A crumpler was not likely to turn his sexual energies into art. Rather he would immediately try to fondle the object of his desire.

Due to genetic mutations, this easy dichotomy seems to have changed radically. Just as infidelity, which was all the rage in the America chronicled by O’Hara and Updike, was made obsolete by cybersex, so the easy insight into personality through bathroom folderol started to decline in the last decade of the Twentieth Century.

Both the FBI and CIA, which had used longitudinal studies of wiping patterns to profile world leaders, ceased producing microfiches on the subject in 1995. All Soviet diplomats, from Gromyko to Shevardnadze, had been targeted by intense studies involving interviews with hotel staff who were adept at identifying crumplers based on reports of clogging and requests for plungers emanating from certain V.I.P. suites.

But with the advent of the Putin era, Congress has not appropriated the necessary funds to continue this important research. Within the major think tanks, folding/crumpling is still considered to be an important metric, but the data has become increasingly unreliable.

President Bush was widely regarded as a crumpler, while Dick Cheney was his folding counterpart, or “enabler,” to use recovery movement jargon. Colin Powell represented the new politics, an amalgam of folding and crumpling that epitomized the best of the Hegelian dialetic: thesis (fold), antithesis (crumple), synthesis (origami).

It is hard to come up with a Wikipedia-style entry to describe the fate of folding and crumpling, especially as regards the current administration. Is Barack Obama truly a folder? It’s fun to try to speculate as to whether Timothy Geithner or Hillary Clinton are truly the crumplers they seem to be. (One wonders how crumplers can rise as far as they sometimes do in public life.) But what is emerging is that the old folding/crumpling criteria, which proved such dependable predictors of human behavior in the past, have turned out to be only one way to get the poop on leaders, here and abroad.

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