Tag: narcissism

I read the news today, oh boy.


As America indulges narcissistically in the deaths of school children at the hands of a young man deranged by his own mentally deranged society, I wonder, where is their great display of emotion for the millions of dead and displaced Iraqis after years of American wars and sieges. You know, the dead from the Iraq-Iran war, Operation Desert Storm (Stormin’ Norman!), the 500,000 dead Iraqi children from the sanctions Mdm. Albright thought were “worth it,” and the million or so dead from our most recent engagement, aka war crime, at the hands of Mssrs. Cheney, Rumsfeld, und Bush. Not to mention the ten bazillion other foreign places where American violence remains “incontinent,” so to speak, but more like “exploding shits.”

Mr. Obama, Master of Predator & Reaper Drones that kill children arbitrarily, and their funeral and medic and wedding parties, can go piss his tears up a rope.

At least Susan Rice got “torpedoed.”  Sloshy-assed, skank-assed ho.  Responsibility to protect, my ass.

No Grand Conspiracy

There is no grand conspiracy to turn the world into a one-world Empire and destroy democracy and the Enlightenment principles that inform the form of government we once enjoyed. As you know, I no longer believe we live in a Constitutional Republic but, rather, in a transitional state a new combination of neo-feudalism, imperialism, fascism into something utterly new and unprecedented. The source of all this is something we can find by looking in the mirror for long enough.

This has all happened with, more or less, the consent of people around the world. The chief feature is Orwellian version of a Brave New World. The Global War on Terror is the most clear example of this. We wish to eliminate terrorism by using terrorism and making sure that terror is used to subjugate peoples abroad and to subjugate people here. They can do that here in this country because of its radically anti-intellectual tendencies (due to the failure of public schools to educate anyone and, instead, pretend to educate) and a stunning flight away from even the concept of virtue for which we were warned in the seventies by Christopher Lasch’s prescient book The Culture of Narcissism. This allows people to be unashamed to be cowards. You can only describe the American public’s reaction to 9/11 as cowardly–in going to war against weak countries who had no capacity to fight back and were not the cause of the terrorist attacks. In fact, it was Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (and perhaps Israel) who were involved directly in 9/11 even if you accept the notion that the American gov’t had nothing to do with the attacks (highly improbable). Even if the gov’t story were true the reaction is still cowardly and the way those wars were fought were deeply dishonorable–wantonly killing civilians because maybe there were some insurgents among them. Estimates of deaths in Iraq go from around a hundred thousand to more than a million–most of it due to U.S. saturation bombing of neighborhoods and communities which was largely unreported in the American press. In Afghanistan the violence was not as bad because the U.S. uses direct terrorist tactics against civilian populations like the people in the border regions (see Chris Floyd’s latest post).

There is no conspiracy only the ongoing wheel of history moving away from the unstable mythological frameworks brought on by the modernist project (the general movement away from uncomprehending belief in a particular world-view towards an intellectual openness to new ideas) and it’s inability to take into account the needs and requirements of human beings. People need to belong, people need to feel they are a part of something larger than themselves, people need to have some kind of spiritual framework and modernism doesn’t seem to be able to provide for these needs. It has brought fantastic riches and technological marvels but has done very little for the human spirit and, if anyhthing, has caused us to devolve rather than evolve as human beings. Cowardice, self-indulgence and narcissism are the main features of society today–and BTW I include myself in that critique.

And, at the same time, there never was a time when the nature of existence of life, of human nature were better known–we truly live in an age of not just information but wisdom that is flying all around us yet we cannot, fore some reason, take the medicine that will move us out of our problems.

The conspiracy we face it made in the collective unconscious, as I alluded to above. It is we who are resisting opening up our lives to the new and who want to return to authoritarian systems where our place in the world is clear and unambiguous. This is now possible for us. I think the social contract is that as long as the corporate system supplies most people with a Matrix-like system of amusements and entertainments that the people will go along with anything–endless wars, an hereditary aristocracy and a neo-feudal future where their children will inherit a world where they will be serfs if they’re lucky, slavery or death if they’re not.

In order to break out of this we need to open up our conscious minds to the knowledge of how deep our unconscious is and how much we are dominated by it. Once we understand that we can begin to take steps in life that are more reasonable. It all starts with each one of us and has nothing to do with politics as such–our problems are cultural and philosophical. While those who read this may be dissenters most of our fellows believe in a world of winners and losers. Winners should glory in their success and indulge in excesses while losers should suffer mightily and sing the blues.

We were Waiting for 9/11

In the late 90’s I shared an office with a Chinese academic who, because of the fact he belonged to a family of scholars going back many generations, was put in a work-camp on the Mongolian border during the Cultural Revolution during most of his adolescence. This was not a happy experience for him and had left deep scars in him. But he still was a Chinese patriot and we would have friendly arguments about Chinese/American conflicts. He expressed doubts that the U.S. would respond to provocations or crises in any muscular way–he saw us as “soft.” I told him that should we ever be attacked the perpetrators would experience a storm of violence beyond their imagining.

I felt, in those days, an underlying sense of frustration and repressed violence that was a result of being the lone superpower in the world yet, we weren’t able to just assert our superiority and, so it appeared to us, not get the proper respect and deference we deserved. I sensed this in American culture. Here we were, the most successful people on earth and we had no national mission like we did when we “fought” and won the Cold War. Capitalism triumphant, prosperity, but what did it mean? Who are we? Why was the most important news story for months a blow job? Neo-conservative intellectuals did write that only a “a new Pearl Harbor” would bring the U.S. out of its lethargy. They made much of our moral decline and need for a unifying enterprise and I think they were right–they saw us as drifting into hedonism and triviality which we were then and still are doing only now much poorer because of the way we reacted to 9/11.

Let’s Be Very Clear About The Criminal Reality We Are Facing

While it is important to point out the inconsistencies and lies that are the hallmark of most of our public institutions we also need to start with some firm foundations to future essays and comments. I feel one of the first things we need to face is that the situation we face today is no longer a political struggle between conservatives and liberals or even reactionaries and progressives. As has been brought out by several people here at DD the struggle is between criminal entities (most large corporations, big banks, traditional organized crime, the military (yes I believe much though not all of the military has become a criminal enterprise), the covert ops part of the intel agencies, the MSM (the worst of the lot), the federal government and many state and local governments. No, it is not a matter of “incompetence” that has brought us to this situation but of what I consider criminal behavior.

There are two aspects of criminal behavior. The first, obviously, is the breaking of laws on the books–well, in this country with more laws (I’m sure) than any entity that has ever existed, it is pretty easy for anyone to break the law but still even if you look at major statutes the fact is that major corporations and the elites escape the law while the poor do not. The Federal government now no longer even pretends to follow the law, for example, the Geneva Conventions and protocols are routinely ignored despite the fact that they are the law. Of course, laws against fraud were ignored during and after the financial crisis. Disappearance of trillions from DOD elicited no action and no response from the media, criminal fraud by contractors in Iraq almost completely ignored by any agencies and, generally, underreported in the MSM. The list can go on and on and this blog has at one time or another reported on nearly all of them. These aren’t arguments over policy but clear criminality that, in a healthy society, would have been prosecuted. This criminality and corruption has rapidly increased in recent years.

The second aspect of criminal behavior I would like to describe as follows:

The deliberate attempt by private interests to undermine public welfare, public spaces, public health and the future of the species for financial gain.

This aspect of criminality is far worse than simply breaking particular laws. It is about the deliberate destruction of society and government itself. I suggest to you that this has been the conscious and deliberate intention of most (not all) of the ruling elite for the past few decades but particularly since the stolen election of 2000. I believe their intention was then and is now the looting of the entire world and the destruction of American society and any other society for the purpose of instituting a New World Order based on a global imperial system on the macro-level and various modes of neofeudal social arrangements at the local level with most of the population either expendable or in a state of serfdom. This system is not in place yet and can be stopped but this is the agenda of most of the power players.

As has been made abundantly clear on this blog, the Obama administration is only cosmetically different than the previous administration. The differences are largely cultural rather than political. We can mostly agree here that we are no longer fooled by the Kabuki of Obama and his allies in Congress. Obama simply is beside the point.  

Examining Happiness Beyond a Gendered Lens

Commentators have variously chimed in over the years, and from a variety of different ideological persuasions, regarding the question of whether the Feminist movement has done women and society at large more harm than good.  Recently, the argument has been couched in terms of whether women’s collective happiness has suffered with increased equality, and as a result, whether efforts towards gender parity are to blame.  Some columnists have returned to the same old arguments against women’s rights that have been used for centuries and others have placed the yoke upon basic human selfishness, greed, and societal narcissism.  I myself fall into the latter category.

To begin my remarks, I don’t honestly believe for a second that Feminism has made women more unhappy, or that somehow the old ways were superior, or even that women are innately less able to survive in a draining world of leap-frog and sharp elbows.  The survey data cited which indicates that basic life satisfaction has declined over time must be qualified first.  It must be noted that so must of the conclusions drawn are made as a kind of blanket accusation upon everyone, when they really only apply to a relatively limited slice of the population—professionals, middle class and above, usually white, highly educated, big city residents.  Yet, since regrettably so much dialogue in mainstream woman-centric media is dictated by the privileged, if not in all mainstream media, the accuracy of the results are taken as gospel and never thought to be extended to anyone beyond the immediate audience.  Who knows if this same attitude pertains to working class women, for example.  

If one is seeking blame, of course, it can be safely assigned to consumerism, which states that one is what one buys, or rather what one wishes to buy.  If one is seeking blame, one can place it upon the shoulders of a kind of toxic materialism whereby some arbitrary standard of living is the ultimate goal.  In that vein, I recall the story of a close relative of mine, who was raised in a family where love was purely conditional, and was only granted at all when she jumped one hurdle after another—first rising up the ladder, then making more money, then accumulating another in a series of never ending status symbols.  The expectation turned into a  sibling rivalry between herself and her brother that led to a most unfortunate competition between them, whereby those who wished to have the affections and blessings of Mom and Dad knew that it only arrived in the form of dollar signs, new houses, new cars, and a thousand others ways in which those who have money flaunt it.  Her case may be extreme, but I think even muted forms of this disease are prevalent among many.

In the column I cited above, Madeleine Bunting writes,

The problem, Twenge believes, derives in part from a generation of indulgent parents who have told their children how special they are. An individualistic culture has, in turn, reinforced a preoccupation with the self and its promotion. The narcissist is often rewarded – they tend to be outgoing, good at selling themselves, and very competitive: they are the types who will end up as Sir Alan’s apprentice. But their success is shortlived; the downside is that they have a tendency to risky behaviour, addictive disorders, have difficulties sustaining intimate relationships, and are more prone to aggressive behaviour when rejected.

The narcissism of young women could just be a phase they will grow out of, admits Twenge, but she is concerned that the evidence of narcissism is present throughout highly consumerist, individualistic societies – and women suffer disproportionately from the depression and anxiety linked to it.

In my own life among young professionals I notice similar findings to that of the survey, but not to such an alarming degree.  The disorders of those who live lives of quiet desperation rarely lend themselves to screaming headlines and panicked rhetoric.  Rather, I see a group of overworked, highly driven, heavily motivated, but overburdened toilers desperately seeking to make a name for themselves.  At this stage in their careers, those in their late twenties pushing thirty like me are on the path towards greater visibility, an increase in salary, and the ability to achieve fullest satisfaction based on the fact that so much of their own self-worth is heavily tied up in achievement.  If they don’t already have a Master’s Degree at this point, they are surely already enrolled and taking courses, or are at minimum making plans to be enrolled somewhere very soon.  Self-worth is a positive thing at its face, but I have always felt it needs to come from within, not from the accumulation of merit badges, skill sets, and embossed pieces of paper.        

Yet, as they put in unnecessarily long hours and place their careers first, many end up also denying their basic needs as humans.  To be sure, I am not arguing that women who put their careers first ought to return to the days of subservient housewifery.  I think that as we have had more equality in the workplace, to say nothing of the rest of society as a whole, the results have been overwhelmingly positive for all.  What I am saying, though, is that letting one’s work consume one’s life is an excellent way to reach burn out and to sacrifice one’s health in the process.  A recent article in Politico detailed the sad demise of a Congressional staffer who put in 100 hour workweeks and eventually perished from the stress of her occupation.  For about two days the topic was incorporated into some modest debate, then everyone moved on to something else entirely.

I firmly believe we are meant to be social with each other, we are meant to date and be in close relationships, and we are meant to find a balance between our obligations and our free time.  I myself have engaged in conversation with many people my own age who haven’t just pushed back the date at which they intend to be married, assuming that they even want to be married at all, they’ve also filled their schedules so full that they simply don’t have time to devote to look for a relationship or to socialize with friends.  Delayed gratification is fine, of course, within reason.  If this were some temporary state of being, much like buckling down at college and studying for finals, it could be excused, but far too many people live their lives as though they are preparing to take their final examinations.  I don’t think the Grim Reaper makes one take the Death Preparation Test (DPT) upon condition of being accepted into the world of the deceased.

We are a highly individualistic people, yes, but I have long believed that this degree of individualism works against us time in and time out.  More recently, the reason we can’t seem to agree upon the most basic of reforms is that too many of us are looking out for number one.  Over the course of my life I have personally observed a thousand inspiring speakers, each saying some variation of the same thing, namely that we have got to think more collectively rather than individually if we ever wish to make the next leap forward.  They have some fine old company in this endeavor, beginning arbitrarily with Jesus, and moving as far forward or backwards in time as one wishes.  And yet, the problem persists.

What is the solution?  Well, solutions are easy enough, provided people adopt them.  Learning that we are finite beings with a finite amount of energy is a beginning.  Closely linked with it is the realization that work ought to be provide us a sense of satisfaction of having achieved a job, a paycheck, of course, and a resulting sense of pride in having done a job well rather than a ceaseless Sisyphean struggle.  Acknowledging that it really doesn’t matter how many committees you happen to be a member of is another.  Recognizing that one shouldn’t settle for good enough while also taking into account that learning how to say no is an essential life skill is still another.  After a time, some people really think that they are their resumes or the letters either before or after their name, and you can be sure they’ll want you to know it, too.  But namely, we’ve got to understand that it’s not about us:  it’s not our careers, or our paychecks, or our starter homes, or the Holy Grail of the corner office someday, or any of these superficial concerns.  

For too many of us, for every step up we take, with it comes the compulsion to accumulate accessories.  Our possessions often weigh us down; they do not enrich us.  Rethinking the idea of achievement and success is where we’re really lacking and until we even consider dipping our toe into the way things could be, expect more unhappiness for everyone concerned.  We might not be equal, but we will be equally miserable until we choose to change.

Ecopsychology for capitalism’s spell: Andy Fisher

Book review: Fisher, Andy.  Radical Ecopsychology: Psychology in the Service of Life.  Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2002.

This is a book review, really some ruminations, upon Andy Fisher’s Radical Ecopsychology.  Here I wish to explore the subtext of capitalism’s spell in Fisher’s book.  Our separation from the world-ecosystem in equilibrium and our joining with the machines of industrial development under the spell of capitalism is what is at stake; Fisher speculates upon the possibility of “making sense of suffering in a technological world” so we can “hear our own inner voice” (183) in a naturalistic sense.  In short, Fisher wishes to break the spell.  Fisher intends ecopsychology as a therapeutic support to an ecology movement which must win something for our “human nature” if any of us are to survive.

(Crossposted at Orange)