The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Narcissism and the Self-Esteem Cult

Posted on | March 21, 2013 | 5 Comments

Amelia Hamilton has some interesting reflections on the rampant gooey egalitarianism that inspires Generation Whiner:

[I]n St. Mary’s County, Maryland . . . birthday party invitations have been banned from all schools. “If there are 20 individuals in the class and someone brings in seven birthday invitations, it was creating an academic disruption,” Hall said. “People were getting their feelings hurt.” . . .
Unfortunately, our country is extending this bizarrely insulated existence into adulthood, and it shows. American college students are doing worse while thinking, more than ever, that they are “gifted” or “driven to succeed.” This inflated idea of self-worth is not helpful and it is not natural. This is a product of the “everybody gets a trophy” generation and it’s ruining our country. If left unchecked, the ruggedness and tenacity that we know and love about America will be lost. What will take its place? An America where narcissism is on the rise, adulthood is being delayed, and American boys could be “in crisis.”
What happens when these children grow up and go out into the real world? Will they have the earned confidence to be self sufficient and a blessing or will the expect what they haven’t earned and become a burden?

The latter, of course. People are increasingly incapable of objectivity, blind to their own faults, and thus prone to the narcissistic approach to failure: Victimhood and scapegoating.

What else is feminism, but an entire vast political ideology devoted to telling women that they are never responsibile for their own problems, but instead should blame the patriarchy? All identity-politics movements are essentially the same, derived from the Marxist conception that “workers” were victimized by “capitalists,” and thus not responsible for their own problems.

The egalitarian emphasis on “fairness,” the idea that everyone is equally entitled to their “fair share” of everything, functions in a Newtonian manner: There are equal and opposite effects. Even while people give lip-service to “fairness” and complain endlessly when they feel they have been short-changed, they simultaneously become more selfish and less concerned about dealing fairly with other.

Welcome to the Age of Envy: “How dare he have more than me?”

And, as I remarked the other day (“Like Ferris Bueller’s Sister“), for all the celebration of individualism, there is fierce resentment of those who are truly independent, whose success frees them from an obligation to “play the game.”

Much of what Hamilton describes was explained more than 30 years ago in Christopher Lasch’s book, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. Lasch was a man of the Left, and one must weed through some of his preconceptions (including his orthodox Freudianism), but his insights are keen:

“On the fringes of the radical movement, many tortured spirits actively sought a martyrdom made doubly attractive by the glamour of modern publicity. The left, with its vision of social upheaval, has always attracted more than its share of lunatics, but the media have conferred a curious sort of legitimacy on antisocial acts merely by reporting them. . ..
“Narcissistic patients, according to [psychiatrist Otto] Kernberg, ‘often admire some hero or outstanding individual’ and ‘experience themselves as part of that outstanding person.’ They see the admired individual as ‘merely an extension of themselves.’ . . . The narcissist admires and identifies himself with ‘winners’ out of his fear of being labeled a loser.”

And again:

“The 19th-century cult of success . . . measured achievement not against the achievements of others but against an abstract ideal of discipline and self-denial. At the turn of the century, however, preachments on success began to stress the will to win. The bureaucratization of the corporate career changed the conditions of self-advancement; ambitious young men now had to compete with their peers for the attention and approval of their superiors. . . . Personal magnetism, a quality which supposedly enabled a man to influence and dominate others, became one of the major keys to success.’ . . . The management of interpersonal relations came to be seen as the essence of self-advancement. The captains of industry gave way to the confidence men, the masters of impressions. Young men were told that they had to sell themselves in order to succeed.”

An obsession with image, a constant concern with how one is perceived, has the effect of turning life into a performance, demoting others to the role of mere spectators. Nothing is genuine or sincere or authentic, but instead everything is done for the sake of the impression it creates on others. Everybody is Willy Loman, worried about being “well-liked.”

To hell with all that. Life as an endless high-school popularity contest is only interesting to people whose egos are so badly damaged they are consumed with a self-hate which they attempt to mask with sociopathic manipulations. They deliberately cause problems and then blame others for the problems they’ve caused, because their entire lives are an evasion of responsibility. They are incapable of recognizing themselves as the source of their own problems, because this would require them to admit error, a recognition of personal shortcoming that their fragile egos could never withstand.

My son called home today from Army basic training, but only had two minutes to talk because, while they were waiting in line to use the phone, some doofus did something that got the whole platoon “smoked” (extra PT). Thank God, Army drill sergeants have not yet surrendered to the cult of self-esteem, but they are among the few remaining holdouts.




5 Responses to “Narcissism and the Self-Esteem Cult”

  1. Mike G.
    March 21st, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

    One tends to lose any tendencies towards narcissism they might have when they go through boot camp.

  2. robertstacymccain
    March 21st, 2013 @ 11:55 pm

    Well, the boy inherited a certain tendency toward arrogance, which isn’t quite the same, and I fear that if he ever makes it to SF — as is his ambition — he’ll be insufferable. But, of course, earned achievement is not the problem; it’s people who feel they are entitled to achieve (regardless of effort or ability) who are the problem.

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  4. Vera Eyzendooren
    March 23rd, 2013 @ 10:22 am

    We are constantly encouraging self love at homes and in schools and then we wonder what happened to society.

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