Narcissism and grievance: modern fabrics

The New York Times reports a rise in narcissism:

By comparing decades of personality test results, Dr. Twenge has concluded, over and over again, that younger generations are increasingly entitled, self-obsessed and unprepared for the realities of adult life.

And the blame, she says, falls squarely on America’s culture of self-esteem, in which parents praise every child as “special,” and feelings of self-worth are considered a prerequisite to success, rather than a result of it.

“There’s a common perception that self-esteem is key to success, but it turns out it isn’t,” she said. Nonetheless, “young people are just completely convinced that in order to succeed they have to believe in themselves or go all the way to being narcissistic.”

The belief that there’s nothing wrong with me and I don’t need to change is one of the worst illnesses affecting men. In its most extreme form, you see it in sociopaths, people who place themselves at the center of the moral universe, with everything and everyone serving their purposes. A milder form is encouraged by an indulgent and amoral relativism.

This relativism is not a belief in nothing. It’s the inherent unjudginess of radical individualism. Under this standard, one is judged by the degree to which he believes people should be judged.

But it is not true, as Ivan Karamazov said, without God “everything is permitted.” Radical individualists have merely jettisoned the principle of fallen man in need of redemption and replaced it with competing narratives of grievance. The stronger one enforces the perception of being put upon, the more privelege he has.

Riley Cooper went about the fallout from his racist rant at a Kenny Chesney concert all wrong. He slandered a priveleged group. The correct play in this day and age is not to ask for forgiveness, but to cloak oneself in victimhood. Cooper should have defended his rant as an ironic expression of his guilt over being a priveleged white male. “Why did I have to be born in America, where white men’s success comes at everyone else’s expense! This torment is too great for me to bear.” See?

The Times article continues:

“I found that across all the studies from the ’70s to the ’90s, there was a very clear upward trend in women scoring higher on this measure of stereotypically masculine traits,” she said.

Thus a method was born. By analyzing the results of a survey that had been administered regularly to college students for decades, Dr. Twenge had found a novel way of tracking personality changes across generations — an elusive metric among social psychologists. She would eventually term her method “cross-temporal meta-analysis.”

Intrigued by the approach, she began to focus on studying generational changes in personality. The more research she did, she says, the more the themes of increasing self-focus and individualism began to emerge.

Narcissism is not a recent phenomenon. People have nursed individual identity contra group identity since the Agricultural Revolution and the birth of civilization. Neither the individual or the group is more noble than the other. But groups working in cooperation, even in competition, propel the well-being of men. Culture is what members of a group settle on as a common identity, and the individual must adopt it to some extent to partake in the blessings of community. He must sacrifice his individuality.

Twenge observes narcissism trending upwards. That is because American society has undergone a radical shift in perspective, one from the individual’s obligation to society to society’s obligation to the individual.

When Vice President Joe Biden tells the wealthy they need to have more “skin in the game,” he reveals more about himself and those he’s speaking for than the wealthy. Sure, the wealthy have an obligation to society, but so does everyone. Instead of asking yet more from a select few people, why not ask a minimum from the majority? Because that would demand sacrifice and contribution, which the radicalized self, steeped in grievance, finds offensive.

About Joseph Dooley

I’m 28 years old and I’ve been writing since I learned how to type. I grew up in Texas but I lived nearly 5 years in the belly of the liberal beast, Maryland. Through my writing, I hope to convince readers of the truth and help to reverse the suicidal momentum of the present. As Francis Schaeffer wrote: “Any ways in which the system is still working is largely due to the sheer inertia of the continuation of the past principles. But this borrowing cannot go on forever.” Check out my blog, "Life's complexity and mortal weight."


One thought on “Narcissism and grievance: modern fabrics

  1. Sooooo true!

    Posted by Linus | August 6, 2013, 11:14 pm

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"There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by sword. The other is by debt." -John Adams 1826


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