Saturday, April 11, 2009
Narcissism and Our National Moment
It is impossible to assess an individual apart from the culture to which he belongs. Although pathological narcissism is considered to be a psychopathology, as set forth within the framework of the APA's DSM IV R, I consider narcissism to be a continuum existing to degrees within all persons. At a certain extreme, it becomes all encompassing and comprises pathology. Generation X is said to display the traits of narcissism to a marked degree. At first glance, this seems unfair, as the parent generation, Boomers, seems far more so. But when one considers the chameleon aspect of Generation Xers, as set forth in the book by Bernard Carl Rosen, Masks and Mirrors : Generation X and the Chameleon Personality, one is to a large degree enlightened.
The Boomers are the cause of this narcissism. They transmitted it via apathy. Narcissism is a manouver, an adaptive stance, used as a survival tool by the neglected. Its mark is chameleon behavior: a constant blending in with the environment, and mirroring of others. Loyalty and ties are spurned. Novelty and adaptability are admired greatly.
What is disturbing is that a nomadic generation - thus, through no fault of their own - are now at the helm of our nation. Their skills are pragmatism and cynicism. Obama is their elder brother. He himself is a Jones, caught between Boomer and X ( as am I). The clashing of his ideology with their own - although his is not dissimilar to theirs in many of its aspects - will bring about a national alchemy. But there is a danger therein, which comes even with the fostering power. How can this generation achieve their true stature and attain to their formidable heights, if in doing so, they may blend their earnest desires as well as the baser part of their narcissism with global movements which are dangerous to democracy?
Narcissism is prevalent in American Generation Xers and in their global counterparts: Witness the worship of accused killer and sexual sadist, American university student Amanda Knox, in Perugia as well as all over Italy.
Sam Vankin, PhD, who is author of Malignant Self-Love, a treatise on narcissism, has done an on -paper analysis of Barack Obama: his childhood, youth, family experiences, generational cohort, etc. His diagnosis: Classic narcissism. It may be so. It may even be a spur and a whip to Presidential greatness. In any case, it is in accord with the times. Narcissus had an Echo, and Obama's has been the voice of legion: "Yes, we can." It will be interesting to see where psyche, culture, and nation all collide in the alchemical moment, where the bar is raised, and with Hegel, we jump: hic salta! Let us hope that the hero overcomes tyranny and hypocrisy, and that America moves in a line of ascension, and not regression.