Furor poeticus is Latin for ‘poetic frenzy’. The term goes back to the Ancient Greeks and refers to a poet’s being transported to a state in which he would channel the gods’ thoughts and feelings. During his Trinity College days, with some humour, Edmund Burke borrowed the term to describe his youthful fixation on poetry and history. He called those phases his furor poeticus and furor historicus.
The idea of a frenzied psychological state came to mind when I read a report on msn.com with the headline: Bureaucrats refuse to reveal Abbott’s alcohol preferences despite FOI request. It seems that all this year Labor Senator Penny Wong has been after an account of the brands and types of alcohol Tony Abbott drank while prime minister. After the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was forced by a Freedom of Information request to come up with a pile of receipts, Wong’s desired information was blacked out. She ‘likened this lack of transparency to an episode of ABC comedy Utopia.’
Evidently Ms Wong thinks that the types and brands of beer, wine and spirits Tony Abbott ordered and consumed as prime minister can be used against him – that there is something of import to be found in one beer as compared with another. Does she perhaps think that a choice of one national beer over another entails racism? Whatever she can make of it, it is clear she will use to harm Abbott even though her party’s objective has already been achieved. It is an amusing irony that Wong compares the actions of the PMO with an ABC produced satire on government – a comparison that appears to have the approval of the editor of MSN News.
This is a paradigm case of a state of mind that prevails in government, the public service and the media. So insistent and so wide is it that I think it worth a technical term in the field of psychopathology. Let me offer Furor Abbottus to the government department that deals with psychological disorders. I will propose a preliminary definition that I may have to refine later.
FUROR ABBOTTUS is a psychopathological condition in which an uncontrollable hatred and enmity seizes one about all aspects of the person of Tony Abbott – his masculinity, his character, his religion, his philosophy, his appearance, his mannerisms and so on – and causes one first to hallucinate and then to indulge in obsessive repetitive speeches and acts about the product of those hallucinations.
It is a curious thing about Penny Wong: she apes the very thing she despises, tormented by the knowledge that she will never be the man Tony Abbott is.