Dark Triad Domination

It has been noted that some indigenous languages have words that can be interpreted as what, in English, is referred to as psychopathic, sociopathic, narcissistic, Machiavellian, etc. This is the region of the Dark Triad. One Inuit language has the word ‘kunlangeta‘, meaning “his mind knows what to do but he does not do it.” That could be thought of as describing a psychopath’s possession of cognitive empathy while lacking affective empathy. Or consider the Yoruba word ‘arankan‘ that “is applied to a person who always goes his own way regardless of others, who is uncooperative, full of malice, and bullheaded.”

These are tribal societies. Immense value is placed on kinship loyalty, culture of trust, community survival, collective well-being, and public good. Even though they aren’t oppressive authoritarian states, the modern Western notion of hyper-individualism wouldn’t make much sense within these close-knit groups. Sacrifice of individual freedom and rights is a given under such social conditions, since individuals are intimately related to one another and physically dependent upon one another. Actually, it wouldn’t likely be experienced as sacrifice at all since it would simply be the normal state of affairs, the shared reality within which they exist — their identity being social rather than individual.

This got me thinking about psychopathy and modern society. Research has found that, at least in some Western countries, the rate of psychopathy is not only high in prison populations but equally as high among the economic and political elite. My father left upper management in a major corporation because of how ruthless was the backstabbing, a win at all costs social Darwinism. This is what defines a country like the United States, as these social dominators are the most revered and emulated individuals. Psychopaths and such, instead of being eliminated or banished, are promoted and empowered.

What occurred to me is the difference for tribal societies is that hyper-individualism is seen not only as abnormal but dangerous and so intolerable. Maybe the heavy focus on individualism in the modern West inevitably leads to the psychopathological traits of the Dark Triad. As such, that would mean there is something severely abnormal and dysfunctional about Western societies (WEIRD – Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic). Psychopaths, in particular, are the ultimate individualists and so they will be the ultimate winners in an individualistic culture — their relentless confidence and ruthless competitiveness, their Machiavellian manipulations and persuasive charm supporting a narcissistic optimism and leading to success.

There are a couple of ways of looking at this. First off, there might be something about urbanization itself or a correlated factor that exacerbates mental illness. Studies have found, for example, an increase in psychosis across the recent generations of city-dwellers — precisely during the period of populations being further urbanized and concentrated. It reminds one of the study done on crowding large numbers of rats in a small contained cage until they turned anti-social, aggressive, and violent. If these rats were humans, we might describe this behavior in terms of psychopathy or sociopathy.

There is a second thing to consider, as discussed by Barbara Oakley in her book Evil Genes (pp. 265-6). About rural populations, she writes that, “Psychopathy is rare in those settings, notes psychologist David Cooke, who has studied psychopathy across cultures.” And she continues:

“But what about more urban environments? Cooke’s research has shown, surprisingly, that there are more psychopaths from Scotland prisons of England and Wales than there are in Scottish prisons. (Clearly, this is not to say that the Scottish are more given to psychopathy than anyone else.) Studies of migration records showed that many Scottish psychopaths had migrated to the more populated metropolitan areas of the south. Cooke hypothesized that, in the more crowded metropolitan areas, the psychopath could attack or steal with little danger that the victim would recognize or catch him. Additionally, the psychopath’s impulsivity and need for stimulation could also play a role in propelling the move to the dazzling delights of the big city — he would have no affection for family and friends to keep him tethered back home. Densely populated areas, apparently, are the equivalent for psychopaths of ponds and puddles for malarial mosquitoes.”

As Oakley’s book is on genetics, she goes in an unsurprising direction in pointing out how some violent individuals have been able to pass on their genetics to large numbers of descendants. The most famous example being Genghis Khan. She writes that (p. 268),

“These recent discoveries reinforce the findings of the anthropologist Laura Betzig. Her 1986 Despotism and Differential Reproduction provides a cornucopia of evidence documenting the increased capacity of those with more power — and frequently, Machiavellian tendencies — to have offspring. […] As Machiavellian researcher Richard Christie and his colleague Florence Geis aptly note: “[H]igh population density and highly competitive environments have been found to increase the use of antisocial and Machiavellian strategies, and my in fact foster the ability of those who possess those strategies to reproduce.” […] Beltzig’s ultimte point is not that the corrupt attain power but that those corrupted individuals who achieved power in preindustrial agricultural societies had far more opportunity to reproduce, generally through polygyny, and pass on their genes. In fact, the more Machiavellian, that is, despotic, a man might be, the more polygynous he tended to be — grabbing and keeping for himself as many beautiful women as he could. Some researchers have posited that envy is itself a useful, possibly geneticall linked trait, “serving a key role in survival, motivating achievement, serving the conscience of self and other, and alerting us to inequities that, if fueled, can lead to esclaated violence.” Thus, genese related to envy — not to mention other more problematic temperaments — might have gradually found increased prevalence in such environments.”

That kind of genetic hypothesis is highly speculative, to say the least. Their could be some truth value in them, if one wanted to give the benefit of the doubt, but we have no direct evidence that such is the case. At present, these speculations are yet more just-so stories and they will remain so until we can better control confounding factors in order to directly ascertain causal factors. Anyway, genetic determinism in this simplistic sense is largely moot at this point, as the science is moving on into new understandings. Besides being unhelpful, such speculations are unnecessary. We already have plenty of social science research that proves changing environmental conditions alters social behavior — besides what I’ve already mentioned, there is such examples as the fascinating rat park research. There is no debate to be had about the immense influence of external influences, such as factors of socioeconomic class and high inequality: Power Causes Brain Damage by Justin Renteria, How Wealth Reduces Compassion by Daisy Grewal, Got Money? Then You Might Lack Compassion by Jeffrey Kluger, Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charity by Ken Stern, Rich People Literally See the World Differently by Drake Baer, The rich really DO ignore the poor by Cheyenne Macdonald, Propagandopoly: Monopoly as an Ideological Tool by Naomi Russo, A ‘Rigged’ Game Of Monopoly Reveals How Feeling Wealthy Changes Our Behavior [TED VIDEO] by Planetsave, etc.

Knowing the causes is important. But knowing the consequences is just as important. No matter what increases Dark Triad behaviors, they can have widespread and long-lasting repurcussions, maybe even permanently altering entire societies in how they function. Following her speculations, Oakley gets down to the nitty gritty (p. 270):

“Questions we might reasonably ask are — has the percentage of Machiavellians and other more problematic personality types increased in the human population, or in certain human populations, since the advent of agriculture? And if the answer is yes, does the increase in these less savory types change a group’s culture? In other words, is there a tipping point of Machiavellian and emote control behavior that can subtly or not so subtly affect the way the members of a society interact? Certainly a high expectation of meeting a “cheater,” for example, would profoundly impact the trust that appears to form the grease of modern democratic societies and might make the development of democratic processes in certain areas more difficult. Crudely put, an increase in successfully sinister types from 2 percent, say, to 4 percent of a population would double the pool of Machiavellians vying for power. And it is the people in power who set the emotional tone, perhaps through mirroring and emotional contagion, for their followers and those around them. As Judith Rich Harris points out, higher-status members of a group are looked at more, which means they have more influence on how a person becomes socialized.”

The key factor in much of this seems to be concentration. Simply concentrating populations, humans or rats, leads to social problems related to mental health issues. On top of that, there is the troubling concern of what kind of people are being concentrated and where they are being concentrated — psychopaths being concentrated not only in big cities and prisons but worse still in positions of wealth and power, authority and influence. We live in a society that creates the conditions for the Dark Triad to increase and flourish. This is how the success of those born psychopaths encourages others to follow their example in developing into sociopaths, which in turn makes the Dark Triad mindset into a dominant ethos within mainstream culture.

The main thing on my mind is individualism. It’s been on my mind a lot lately, such as in terms of the bundle theory of the mind and the separate individual, connected to my long term interest in community and the social nature of humans. In relation to individualism, there is the millennia-old cultural divide between Germanic ‘freedom‘ and Roman ‘liberty‘. But because Anglo-American society mixed up the two, this became incorrectly framed by Isaiah Berlin in terms of positive and negative. In Contemporary Political Theory, J. C. Johari writes that (p. 266), “Despite this all, it may be commented that though Berlin advances the argument that the two aspects of liberty cannot be so distinguished in practical terms, one may differ from him and come to hold that his ultimate preference is for the defence of the negative view of liberty. Hence, he obviously belongs to the category of Mill and Hayek.”  He states this “is evident from his emphatic affirmation” in the following assertion by Berlin:

“The fundamental sense of freedom is freedom from chains, from imprisonment, from enslavement by others. The rest is extension of this sense or else metaphor. To strive to be free is to seek to remove obstacles; to struggle for personal freedom is to seek to curb interference, exploitation, enslavement by men whose ends are theirs, not one’s own. Freedom, at least in its political sense, is coterminous with the absence of bullying or domination.”

Berlin makes a common mistake here. Liberty was defined by not being a slave in a slave-based society, which is what existed in the Roman Empire. But that isn’t freedom, an entirely different term with an etymology related to ‘friend’ and with a meaning that indicated membership in an autonomous community — such freedom meant not being under the oppression of a slave-based society (e.g., German tribes remaining independent of the Roman Empire). Liberty, not freedom, was determined by one’s individual status of lacking oppression in an oppressive social order. This is why liberty has a negative connotation for it is what you lack, rather than what you possess. A homeless man starving alone on the street with no friend in the world to help him and no community to support him, such a man has liberty but not freedom. He is ‘free’ to do what he wants under those oppressive conditions and constraints, as no one is physically detaining him.

This notion of liberty has had a purchase on the American mind because of the history of racial and socioeconomic oppression. After the Civil War, blacks had negative liberty in no longer being slaves but they definitely did not have positive freedom through access to resources and opportunities, instead being shackled by systemic and institutional racism that maintained their exploited status as a permanent underclass — along with slavery overtly continuing in other forms through false criminal charges leading to prison labor, such that the criminal charges justified blaming the individual for their own lack of freedom which maintained the outward perception of negative liberty. Other populations such as Native Americans faced a similar dilemma. But is one actually free when the chains holding one down are invisible but still all too real? If liberty is an abstraction detached from lived experience and real world results, of what value is such liberty? The nature of negative liberty has always had a superficial and illusory quality about it in how it is maintained through public narrative. Unlike freedom, liberty as a social construct is highly effective as a tool for social control and oppression.

This point is made by another critic of Berlin’s perspective. “It is hard for me to see that Berlin is consistent on this point,” writes L. H. Crocker (Positive Liberty, p. 69). “Surely not all alterable human failures to open doors are cases of bullying. After all, it is often through neglect that opportunities fail to be created for the disadvantaged. It is initially more plausible that all failures to open doors are the result of domination in some sense or another.” I can’t help but think that Dark Triad individuals would feel right at home in a culture of liberty where individuals have the ‘freedom’ to oppress and be oppressed. Embodying this sick mentality, Margaret Thatcher once gave perfect voice to the sociopathic worldview — speaking of the victims of disadvantage and desperation, she claimed that, “They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society.” That is to say, there is no freedom.

The question, then, is whether or not we want freedom. A society is only free to the degree that as a society freedom is demanded. To deny society itself is an attempt to deny the very basis of freedom, but that is just a trick of rhetoric. A free people know their own freedom by acting freely, even if that means fighting the oppressors who seek to deny that freedom. Thatcher intentionally conflated society and government, something never heard in the clear-eyed wisdom of a revolutionary social democrat like Thomas Paine“Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best stage, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.” These words expressed the values of negative liberty as made perfect sense for someone living in an empire built on colonialism, corporatism, and slavery. But the same words gave hint to a cultural memory of Germanic positive freedom. It wasn’t a principled libertarian hatred of governance, rather the principled radical protest against a sociopathic social order. As Paine made clear, this unhappy situation wasn’t the natural state of humanity, neither inevitable nor desirable, much less tolerable.

The Inuits would find a way for psychopaths to ‘accidentally’ fall off the ice, never to trouble the community again. As for the American revolutionaries, they preferred more overt methods, from tar and feathering to armed revolt. So, now to regain our freedom as a people, what recourse do we have in abolishing the present Dark Triad domination?

* * *

Here are some pieces on individualism and community, as contrasted between far different societies. These involve issues of mental health (from depression to addiction), and social problems (from authoritarianism to capitalist realism) — as well as other topics, including carnival and revolution.

Self, Other, & World

Retrieving the Lost Worlds of the Past:
The Case for an Ontological Turn
by Greg Anderson

“[…] This ontological individualism would have been scarcely intelligible to, say, the inhabitants of precolonial Bali or Hawai’i, where the divine king or chief, the visible incarnation of the god Lono, was “the condition of possibility of the community,” and thus “encompasse[d] the people in his own person, as a projection of his own being,” such that his subjects were all “particular instances of the chief’s existence.” 12 It would have been barely imaginable, for that matter, in the world of medieval Europe, where conventional wisdom proverbially figured sovereign and subjects as the head and limbs of a single, primordial “body politic” or corpus mysticum. 13 And the idea of a natural, presocial individual would be wholly confounding to, say, traditional Hindus and the Hagen people of Papua New Guinea, who objectify all persons as permeable, partible “dividuals” or “social microcosms,” as provisional embodiments of all the actions, gifts, and accomplishments of others that have made their lives possible.1

“We alone in the modern capitalist west, it seems, regard individuality as the true, primordial estate of the human person. We alone believe that humans are always already unitary, integrated selves, all born with a natural, presocial disposition to pursue a rationally calculated self-interest and act competitively upon our no less natural, no less presocial rights to life, liberty, and private property. We alone are thus inclined to see forms of sociality, like relations of kinship, nationality, ritual, class, and so forth, as somehow contingent, exogenous phenomena, not as essential constituents of our very subjectivity, of who or what we really are as beings. And we alone believe that social being exists to serve individual being, rather than the other way round. Because we alone imagine that individual humans are free-standing units in the first place, “unsocially sociable” beings who ontologically precede whatever “society” our self-interest prompts us to form at any given time.”

What Kinship Is-And Is Not
by Marshall Sahlins, p. 2

“In brief, the idea of kinship in question is “mutuality of being”: people who are intrinsic to one another’s existence— thus “mutual person(s),” “life itself,” “intersubjective belonging,” “transbodily being,” and the like. I argue that “mutuality of being” will cover the variety of ethnographically documented ways that kinship is locally constituted, whether by procreation, social construction, or some combination of these. Moreover, it will apply equally to interpersonal kinship relations, whether “consanguineal” or “affinal,” as well as to group arrangements of descent. Finally, “mutuality of being” will logically motivate certain otherwise enigmatic effects of kinship bonds— of the kind often called “mystical”— whereby what one person does or suffers also happens to others. Like the biblical sins of the father that descend on the sons, where being is mutual, there experience is more than individual.”

Music and Dance on the Mind

We aren’t as different from ancient humanity as it might seem. Our societies have changed drastically, suppressing old urges and potentialities. Yet the same basic human nature still lurks within us, hidden in the underbrush along the well trod paths of the mind. The hive mind is what the human species naturally falls back upon, from millennia of collective habit. The problem we face is we’ve lost the ability to express well our natural predisposition toward group-mindedness, too easily getting locked into groupthink, a tendency easily manipulated.

Considering this, we have good reason to be wary, not knowing what we could tap into. We don’t understand our own minds and so we naively underestimate the power of humanity’s social nature. With the right conditions, hiving is easy to elicit but hard to control or shut down. The danger is that the more we idolize individuality the more prone we become to what is so far beyond the individual. It is the glare of hyper-individualism that casts the shadow of authoritarianism.

Pacifiers, Individualism & Enculturation

I’ve often thought that individualism, in particular hyper-individualism, isn’t the natural state of human nature. By this, I mean that it isn’t how human nature manifested for the hundreds of thosands of years prior to modern Western civilization. Julian Jaynes theorizes that, even in early Western civilization, humans didn’t have a clear sense of separate individuality. He points out that in the earliest literature humans were all the time hearing voices outside of themselves (giving them advice, telling them what to do, making declarations, chastising them, etc), maybe not unlike in the way we hear a voice in our head.

We moderns have internalized those external voices of collective culture. This seems normal to us. This is not just about pacifiers. It’s about technology in general. The most profound technology ever invented was written text (along with the binding of books and the printing press). All the time I see my little niece absorbed in a book, even though she can’t yet read. Like pacifiers, books are tools of enculturation that help create the individual self. Instead of mommy’s nipple, the baby soothes themselves. Instead of voices in the world, the child becomes focused on text. In both cases, it is a process of internalizing.

All modern civilization is built on this process of individualization. I don’t know if it is overall good or bad. I’m sure much of our destructive tendencies are caused by the relationship between individualization and objectification. Nature as a living world that could speak to us has become mere matter without mind or soul. So, the cost of this process has been high… but then again, the innovative creativeness has exploded as this individualizing process has increasingly taken hold in recent centuries.

“illusion of a completed, unitary self”

The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves
by Charles Fernyhough, Kindle Locations 3337-3342

“And we are all fragmented. There is no unitary self. We are all in pieces, struggling to create the illusion of a coherent “me” from moment to moment. We are all more or less dissociated. Our selves are constantly constructed and reconstructed in ways that often work well, but often break down. Stuff happens, and the center cannot hold. Some of us have more fragmentation going on, because of those things that have happened; those people face a tougher challenge of pulling it all together. But no one ever slots in the last piece and makes it whole. As human beings, we seem to want that illusion of a completed, unitary self, but getting there is hard work. And anyway, we never get there.”

Delirium of Hyper-Individualism

Individualism is a strange thing. For anyone who has spent much time meditating, it’s obvious that there is no there there. It slips through one’s grasp like an ancient philosopher trying to study aether. The individual self is the modernization of the soul. Like the ghost in the machine and the god in the gaps, it is a theological belief defined by its absence in the world. It’s a social construct, a statement that is easily misunderstood.

In modern society, individualism has been raised up to an entire ideological worldview. It is all-encompassing, having infiltrated nearly every aspect of our social lives and become internalized as a cognitive frame. Traditional societies didn’t have this obsession with an idealized self as isolated and autonomous. Go back far enough and the records seem to show societies that didn’t even have a concept, much less an experience, of individuality.

Yet for all its dominance, the ideology of individualism is superficial. It doesn’t explain much of our social order and personal behavior. We don’t act as if we actually believe in it. It’s a convenient fiction that we so easily disregard when inconvenient, as if it isn’t all that important after all. In our most direct experience, individuality simply makes no sense. We are social creatures through and through. We don’t know how to be anything else, no matter what stories we tell ourselves.

The ultimate value of this individualistic ideology is, ironically, as social control and social justification.

It’s All Your Fault, You Fat Loser!

Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?
By Mark Fisher, pp. 18-20

“[…] In what follows, I want to stress two other aporias in capitalist realism, which are not yet politicized to anything like the same degree. The first is mental health. Mental health, in fact, is a paradigm case of how capitalist realism operates. Capitalist realism insists on treating mental health as if it were a natural fact, like weather (but, then again, weather is no longer a natural fact so much as a political-economic effect). In the 1960s and 1970s, radical theory and politics (Laing, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, etc.) coalesced around extreme mental conditions such as schizophrenia, arguing, for instance, that madness was not a natural, but a political, category. But what is needed now is a politicization of much more common disorders. Indeed, it is their very commonness which is the issue: in Britain, depression is now the condition that is most treated by the NHS . In his book The Selfish Capitalist, Oliver James has convincingly posited a correlation between rising rates of mental distress and the neoliberal mode of capitalism practiced in countries like Britain, the USA and Australia. In line with James’s claims, I want to argue that it is necessary to reframe the growing problem of stress (and distress) in capitalist societies. Instead of treating it as incumbent on individuals to resolve their own psychological distress, instead, that is, of accepting the vast privatization of stress that has taken place over the last thirty years, we need to ask: how has it become acceptable that so many people, and especially so many young people, are ill? The ‘mental health plague’ in capitalist societies would suggest that, instead of being the only social system that works, capitalism is inherently dysfunctional, and that the cost of it appearing to work is very high.”

There is always an individual to blame. It sucks to be an individual these days, I tell ya. I should know because I’m one of those faulty miserable individuals. I’ve been one my whole life. If it weren’t for all of us pathetic and depraved individuals, capitalism would be utopia. I beat myself up all the time for failing the great dream of capitalism. Maybe I need to buy more stuff.

“The other phenomenon I want to highlight is bureaucracy. In making their case against socialism, neoliberal ideologues often excoriated the top-down bureaucracy which supposedly led to institutional sclerosis and inefficiency in command economies. With the triumph of neoliberalism, bureaucracy was supposed to have been made obsolete; a relic of an unlamented Stalinist past. Yet this is at odds with the experiences of most people working and living in late capitalism, for whom bureaucracy remains very much a part of everyday life. Instead of disappearing, bureaucracy has changed its form; and this new, decentralized, form has allowed it to proliferate. The persistence of bureaucracy in late capitalism does not in itself indicate that capitalism does not work – rather, what it suggests is that the way in which capitalism does actually work is very different from the picture presented by capitalist realism.”

Neoliberalism: Dream & Reality

[…] in the book Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher (p. 20):

“[…] But incoherence at the level of what Brown calls ‘political rationality’ does nothing to prevent symbiosis at the level of political subjectivity, and, although they proceeded from very different guiding assumptions, Brown argues that neoliberalism and neoconservatism worked together to undermine the public sphere and democracy, producing a governed citizen who looks to find solutions in products, not political processes. As Brown claims,

“the choosing subject and the governed subject are far from opposites … Frankfurt school intellectuals and, before them, Plato theorized the open compatibility between individual choice and political domination, and depicted democratic subjects who are available to political tyranny or authoritarianism precisely because they are absorbed in a province of choice and need-satisfaction that they mistake for freedom.”

“Extrapolating a little from Brown’s arguments, we might hypothesize that what held the bizarre synthesis of neoconservatism and neoliberalism together was their shared objects of abomination: the so called Nanny State and its dependents. Despite evincing an anti-statist rhetoric, neoliberalism is in practice not opposed to the state per se – as the bank bail-outs of 2008 demonstrated – but rather to particular uses of state funds; meanwhile, neoconservatism’s strong state was confined to military and police functions, and defined itself against a welfare state held to undermine individual moral responsibility.”

[…] what Robin describes touches upon my recent post about the morality-punishment link. As I pointed out, the world of Star Trek: Next Generation imagines the possibility of a social order that serves humans, instead of the other way around. I concluded that, “Liberals seek to promote freedom, not just freedom to act but freedom from being punished for acting freely. Without punishment, though, the conservative sees the world lose all meaning and society to lose all order.” The neoliberal vision subordinates the individual to the moral order. The purpose of forcing the individual into a permanent state of anxiety and fear is to preoccupy their minds and their time, to redirect all the resources of the individual back into the system itself. The emphasis on the individual isn’t because individualism is important as a central ideal but because the individual is the weak point that must be carefully managed. Also, focusing on the individual deflects our gaze from the structure and its attendant problems.

This brings me to how this relates to corporations in neoliberalism (Fisher, pp. 69-70):

“For this reason, it is a mistake to rush to impose the individual ethical responsibility that the corporate structure deflects. This is the temptation of the ethical which, as Žižek has argued, the capitalist system is using in order to protect itself in the wake of the credit crisis – the blame will be put on supposedly pathological individuals, those ‘abusing the system’, rather than on the system itself. But the evasion is actually a two step procedure – since structure will often be invoked (either implicitly or openly) precisely at the point when there is the possibility of individuals who belong to the corporate structure being punished. At this point, suddenly, the causes of abuse or atrocity are so systemic, so diffuse, that no individual can be held responsible. This was what happened with the Hillsborough football disaster, the Jean Charles De Menezes farce and so many other cases. But this impasse – it is only individuals that can be held ethically responsible for actions, and yet the cause of these abuses and errors is corporate, systemic – is not only a dissimulation: it precisely indicates what is lacking in capitalism. What agencies are capable of regulating and controlling impersonal structures? How is it possible to chastise a corporate structure? Yes, corporations can legally be treated as individuals – but the problem is that corporations, whilst certainly entities, are not like individual humans, and any analogy between punishing corporations and punishing individuals will therefore necessarily be poor. And it is not as if corporations are the deep-level agents behind everything; they are themselves constrained by/ expressions of the ultimate cause-that-is-not-a-subject: Capital.”

Sleepwalking Through Our Dreams

The modern self is not normal, by historical and evolutionary standards. Extremely unnatural and unhealthy conditions have developed, our minds having correspondingly grown malformed like the binding of feet. Our hyper-individuality is built on disconnection and, in place of human connection, we take on various addictions, not just to drugs and alcohol but also to work, consumerism, entertainment, social media, and on and on. The more we cling to an unchanging sense of bounded self, the more burdened we become trying to hold it all together, hunched over with the load we carry on our shoulders. We are possessed by the identities we possess.

This addiction angle interests me. Our addiction is the result of our isolated selves. Yet even as our addiction attempts to fill emptiness, to reach out beyond ourselves toward something, anything, a compulsive relationship devoid of the human, we isolate ourselves further. As Johann Hari explained in Chasing the Scream (Kindle Locations 3521-3544):

There were three questions I had never understood. Why did the drug war begin when it did, in the early twentieth century? Why were people so receptive to Harry Anslinger’s message? And once it was clear that it was having the opposite effect to the one that was intended— that it was increasing addiction and supercharging crime— why was it intensified, rather than abandoned?

I think Bruce Alexander’s breakthrough may hold the answer.

“Human beings only become addicted when they cannot find anything better to live for and when they desperately need to fill the emptiness that threatens to destroy them,” Bruce explained in a lecture in London31 in 2011. “The need to fill an inner void is not limited to people who become drug addicts, but afflicts the vast majority of people of the late modern era, to a greater or lesser degree.”

A sense of dislocation has been spreading through our societies like a bone cancer throughout the twentieth century. We all feel it: we have become richer, but less connected to one another. Countless studies prove this is more than a hunch, but here’s just one: the average number of close friends a person has has been steadily falling. We are increasingly alone, so we are increasingly addicted. “We’re talking about learning to live with the modern age,” Bruce believes. The modern world has many incredible benefits, but it also brings with it a source of deep stress that is unique: dislocation. “Being atomized and fragmented and all on [your] own— that’s no part of human evolution and it’s no part of the evolution of any society,” he told me.

And then there is another kicker. At the same time that our bonds with one another have been withering, we are told— incessantly, all day, every day, by a vast advertising-shopping machine— to invest our hopes and dreams in a very different direction: buying and consuming objects. Gabor tells me: “The whole economy is based around appealing to and heightening every false need and desire, for the purpose of selling products. So people are always trying to find satisfaction and fulfillment in products.” This is a key reason why, he says, “we live in a highly addicted society.” We have separated from one another and turned instead to things for happiness— but things can only ever offer us the thinnest of satisfactions.

This is where the drug war comes in. These processes began in the early twentieth century— and the drug war followed soon after. The drug war wasn’t just driven, then, by a race panic. It was driven by an addiction panic— and it had a real cause. But the cause wasn’t a growth in drugs. It was a growth in dislocation.

The drug war began when it did because we were afraid of our own addictive impulses, rising all around us because we were so alone. So, like an evangelical preacher who rages against gays because he is afraid of his own desire to have sex with men, are we raging against addicts because we are afraid of our own growing vulnerability to addiction?

In The Secret Life of Puppets, Victoria Nelson makes some useful observations of reading addiction, specifically in terms of formulaic genres. She discusses Sigmund Freud’s repetition compulsion and Lenore Terr’s post-traumatic games. She sees genre reading as a ritual-like enactment that can’t lead to resolution, and so the addictive behavior becomes entrenched. This would apply to many other forms of entertainment and consumption. And it fits into Derrick Jensen’s discussion of abuse, trauma, and the victimization cycle.

I would broaden her argument in another way. People have feared the written text ever since it was invented. In the 18th century, there took hold a moral panic about reading addiction in general and that was before any fiction genres had developed (Frank Furedi, The Media’s First Moral Panic). The written word is unchanging and so creates the conditions for repetition compulsion. Every time a text is read, it is the exact same text.

That is far different from oral societies. And it is quite telling that oral societies have a much more fluid sense of self. The Piraha, for example, don’t cling to their sense of self nor that of others. When a Piraha individual is possessed by a spirit or meets a spirit who gives them a new name, the self that was there is no longer there. When asked where is that person, the Piraha will say that he or she isn’t there, even if the same body of the individual is standing right there in front of them. They also don’t have a storytelling tradition or concern for the past.

Another thing that the Piraha apparently lack is mental illness, specifically depression along with suicidal tendencies. According to Barbara Ehrenreich from Dancing in the Streets, there wasn’t much written about depression even in the Western world until the suppression of religious and public festivities, such as Carnival. One of the most important aspects of Carnival and similar festivities was the masking, shifting, and reversal of social identities. Along with this, there was the losing of individuality within the group. And during the Middle Ages, an amazing number of days in the year were dedicated to communal celebrations. The ending of this era coincided with numerous societal changes, including the increase of literacy with the spread of the movable type printing press.

Another thing happened with suppression of festivities. Local community began to break down as power became centralized in far off places and the classes became divided, which Ehrenreich details. The aristocracy used to be inseparable from their feudal roles and this meant participating in local festivities where, as part of the celebration, a king might wrestle with a blacksmith. As the divides between people grew into vast chasms, the social identities held and social roles played became hardened into place. This went along with a growing inequality of wealth and power. And as research has shown, wherever there is inequality also there is found high rates of social problems and mental health issues.

It’s maybe unsurprising that what followed from this was colonial imperialism and a racialized social order, class conflict and revolution. A society formed that was simultaneously rigid in certain ways and destabilized in others. The individuals became increasingly atomized and isolated. With the loss of kinship and community, the cheap replacement we got is identity politics. The natural human bonds are lost or constrained. Social relations are narrowed down. Correspondingly, our imaginations are hobbled and we can’t envision society being any other way. Most tragic, we forget that human society used to be far different, a collective amnesia forcing us into a collective trance. Our entire sense of reality is held in the vice grip of historical moment we find ourselves in.

Social Conditions of an Individual’s Condition

A wide variety of research and data is pointing to a basic conclusion. Environmental conditions (physical, social, political, and economic) are of penultimate importance. So, why do we treat as sick individuals those who suffer the consequences of the externalized costs of society?

Here is the sticking point. Systemic and collective problems in some ways are the easiest to deal with. The problems, once understood, are essentially simple and their solutions tend to be straightforward. Even so, the very largeness of these problems make them hard for us to confront. We want someone to blame. But who do we blame when the entire society is dysfunctional?

If we recognize the problems as symptoms, we are forced to acknowledge our collective agency and shared fate. For those who understand this, they are up against countervailing forces that maintain the status quo. Even if a psychiatrist realizes that their patient is experiencing the symptoms of larger social issues, how is that psychiatrist supposed to help the patient? Who is going to diagnose the entire society and demand it seek rehabilitation?

Winter Season and Holiday Spirit

With this revelry and reversal follows, along with licentiousness and transgression, drunkenness and bawdiness, fun and games, song and dance, feasting and festival. It is a time for celebration of this year’s harvest and blessing of next year’s harvest. Bounty and community. Death and rebirth. The old year must be brought to a close and the new year welcomed. This is the period when gods, ancestors, spirits, and demons must be solicited, honored, appeased, or driven out. The noise of song, gunfire, and such serves many purposes.

In the heart of winter, some of the most important religious events took place. This includes Christmas, of course, but also the various celebrations around the same time. A particular winter festival season that began on All Hallows Eve (i.e., Halloween) ended with the Twelfth Night. This included carnival-like revelry and a Lord of Misrule. There was also the tradition of going house to house, of singing and pranks, of demanding treats/gifts and threats if they weren’t forthcoming. It was a time of community and sharing, and those who didn’t willingly participate might be punished. Winter, a harsh time of need, was when the group took precedence. […]

I’m also reminded of the Santa Claus as St. Nick. This invokes an image of jollity and generosity. And this connects to wintertime as period of community needs and interdependence, of sharing and gifting, of hospitality and kindness. This includes enforcement of social norms which easily could transform into the challenging of social norms.

It’s maybe in this context we should think of the masked vigilantes participating in the Boston Tea Party. Like carnival, there had developed a tradition of politics out-of-doors, often occurring on the town commons. And on those town commons, large trees became identified as liberty trees — under which people gathered, upon which notices were nailed, and sometimes where effigies were hung. This was an old tradition that originated in Northern Europe, where a tree was the center of a community, the place of law-giving and community decision-making. In Europe, the commons had become the place of festivals and celebrations, such as carnival. And so the commons came to be the site of revolutionary fervor as well.

The most famous Liberty Tree was a great elm near the Boston common. It was there that many consider the birth of the American Revolution, as it was the site of early acts of defiance. This is where the Sons of Liberty met, organized, and protested. This would eventually lead to that even greater act of defiance on Saturnalia eve, the Boston Tea Party. One of the participants in the Boston Tea Party and later in the Revolutionary War, Samuel Sprague, is buried in the Boston Common.

There is something many don’t understand about the American Revolution. It wasn’t so much a fight against oppression in general and certainly not about mere taxation in particular. What angered those Bostonians and many other colonists was that they had become accustomed to community-centered self-governance and this was being challenged. The tea tax wasn’t just an imposition of imperial power but also colonial corporatism. The East India Company was not acting as a moral member of the community, in its taking advantage by monopolizing trade. Winter had long been the time of year when bad actors in the community would be punished. Selfishness was not to be tolerated.

Those Boston Tea Partiers were simply teaching a lesson about the Christmas spirit. And in the festival tradition, they chose the guise of Native Americans which to their minds would have symbolized freedom and an inversion of power. What revolution meant to them was a demand for return of what was taken from them, making the world right again. It was revelry with a purpose.

* * *

As addiction is key, below is some other stuff in terms of individualism and social problems, mental health and abnormal psychology. It seems that high rates of addiction are caused by the same and/or related factors involved in depression, anxiety, dark triad, etc. It’s a pattern of dysfunction found most strongly in WEIRD societies and increasingly in other developed societies, such as seen in Japan as the traditional social order breaks down (e.g., increasing number of elderly Japanese dying alone and forgotten). This pattern is seen clearly in the weirdest of WEIRD, such as with sociopathic organizations like Amazon which I bet has high prevalence of addiction among employees.

Drug addiction makes possible human adaptation to inhuman conditions. It’s part of a victimization cycle that allows victimizers to not only take power but to enforce the very conditions of victimization. The first step is isolating the victim by creating a fractured society of dislocation, disconnection, and division. Psychopaths rule by imposing a sociopathic social order, a sociopathic economic and political system. This is the environment in which the dark triad flourishes and, in coping with the horror of it, so many turn to addiction to numb the pain and distress, anxiety and fear. Addiction is the ‘normal’ state of existence under the isolated individualism of social Darwinism and late stage capitalism.

Addiction is the expression of disconnection, the embodiment of isolation. Without these anti-social conditions, the dark triad could never take hold and dominate all of society.

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”
~ Johann Harri

“We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.”
~ Albert Schweitzer

The New Individualism
by Anthony Elliott and Charles Lemert
pp. 117-118

Giddens tells us that reflexivity, powered by processes of globalization, stands closest to autonomy. In a world in which tradition has more thoroughly been swept away than ever before, contingency appears unavoidable. And with contingency comes the potential to remake the world and negotiate lifestyle options — about who to be, how to act, whom to love and how to live together. The promised autonomy of reflexivity is, however, also a problem, since choice necessarily brings with it ambivalence, doubt and uncertainty. There is no way out of this paradox, though of the various, necessarily unsuccessful, attempts people make to avoid the dilemmas of reflexivity Giddens identifies ‘addiction’ as being of key importance to the present age. As he writes:

Once institutional reflexivity reaches into virtually all parts of everyday social life, almost any pattern or habit can become an addiction. The idea of addiction makes little sense in a traditional culture, where it is normal to do today what one did yesterday . . . Addictions, then, are a negative index of the degree to which the reflexive project of the self moves to the centre-stage in late modernity.

Reflexivity’s promise of freedom carries with it the burden of continual choice and deals with all the complexities of emotional life. ‘Every addiction’, writes Giddens, ‘is a defensive reaction, and an escape, a recognition of lack of autonomy that casts a shadow over the competence of the self.’

How Individualism Undermines Our Health Care
from Shared Justice

Addictions Originate in Unhappiness—and Compassion Could Be the Cure
by Gabor Maté

Dislocation Theory of Addiction
by Bruce K. Alexander

Addiction, Environmental Crisis, and Global Capitalism
by Bruce K. Alexander

Healing Addiction Through Community: A Much Longer Road Than it Seems?
by Bruce K. Alexander

What Lab experiments Can Tell Us About The Cause And Cure For Addiction
by Mark

#7 Theory of Dislocation
by Ross Banister

‘The globalisation of addiction’ by Bruce Alexander
review by Mike Jay

The cost of the loneliness epidemic
from Broccoli & Brains

The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think
by Johann Hari

The Politics of Loneliness
by Michael Bader

America’s deadly epidemic of loneliness
by Michael Bader

Addiction and Modernity: A Comment on a Global Theory of Addiction
by Robert Granfield

The Addicted Narcissist: How Substance Addiction Contributes to Pathological Narcissism With Implications for Treatment
by Kim Laurence

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The Group Conformity of Hyper-Individualism

When talking to teens, it’s helpful to understand how their tendency to form groups and cliques is partly a consequence of American culture. In America, we encourage individuality. Children freely and openly develop strong preferences—defining their self-identity by the things they like and dislike. They learn to see differences. Though singular identity is the long-term goal, in high school this identity-quest is satisfied by forming and joining distinctive subgroups. So, in an ironic twist, the more a culture emphasizes individualism, the more the high school years will be marked by subgroupism. Japan, for instance, values social harmony over individualism, and children are discouraged from asserting personal preferences. Thus, less groupism is observed in their high schools.

That is from Bronson and Merryman’s NurtureShock (p. 45). It touches on a number of points. The most obvious point is made clear by the authors. American culture is defined by groupism. The authors discussed this in a chapter about race, explaining why group stereotypes are so powerful in this kind of society. They write that, “The security that comes from belonging to a group, especially for teens, is palpable. Traits that mark this membership are—whether we like it or not—central to this developmental period.” This was emphasized with a University Michigan study done on Detroit black high school students “that shows just how powerful this need to belong is, and how much it can affect a teen.”

Particularly for the boys, those who rated themselves as dark-skinned blacks had the highest GPAs. They also had the highest ratings for social acceptance and academic confidence. The boys with lighter skin tones were less secure socially and academically.

The researchers subsequently replicated these results with students who “looked Latino.”

The researchers concluded that doing well in school could get a minority teen labeled as “acting white.” Teens who were visibly sure of membership within the minority community were protected from this insult and thus more willing to act outside the group norm. But the light-skinned blacks and the Anglo-appearing Hispanics—their status within the minority felt more precarious. So they acted more in keeping with their image of the minority identity—even if it was a negative stereotype—in order to solidify their status within the group.

A group-minded society reinforces stereotypes at a very basic level of human experience and relationships. Along with a weak culture of trust, American hyper-individualism creates the conditions for strong group identities and all that goes with it. Stereotypes become the defining feature of group identities.

The worst part isn’t the stereotypes projected onto us but the stereotypes we internalize. And those who least fit the stereotypes are those who feel the greatest pressure to conform to them in dressing and speaking, acting and behaving in stereotypical ways. There isn’t a strong national identity to create social belonging and support. So, Americans turn to sub-groups and the population becomes splintered, the citizenry divided against itself.

The odd part about this is how non-intuitive it seems , according to the dominant paradigm. The ironic part about American hyper-individualism is that it is a social norm demanding social conformity through social enforcement. In many ways, American society is one of the most conformist countries in the world, related to how much we are isolated into enclaves of groupthink by media bubbles and echo chambers.

This isn’t inevitable, as the comparison to the Japanese makes clear. Not all societies operate according to hyper-individualistic ideology. In Japan, it’s not just the outward expression of the individual that is suppressed but also separate sub-group identities within the larger society. According to one study, this leads to greater narcissism among the Japanese. Because it is taboo to share personal issues in the public sphere, the Japanese spend more time privately dwelling on their personal issues (i.e., narcissism as self-obsession). This is exacerbated by the lack of sub-groups through which to publicly express the personal and socially strengthen individuality. Inner experience, for the Japanese, has fewer outlets to give it form and so there are fewer ways to escape the isolated self.

Americans, on the other hand, are so group-oriented that even their personal issues are part of the public sphere. It is valuing both the speaking of personal views and the listening to the personal views of others — upheld by liberal democratic ideals of free speech, open dialogue, and public debate. For Americans, the personal is the public in the way that the individualistic is the groupish. If we are to apply narcissism to Americans, it is mostly in terms of what is called collective narcissism. We Americans are narcissistic about the groups we belong to. And our entire self-identities get filtered through group identities, presumably with a less intense self-awareness than the Japanese experience.

This is why American teens show a positive response to being perceived as closely conforming to a stereotypical group such as within a racial community. The same pattern, though, wouldn’t be found in a country like Japan. For a Japanese to be strongly identified with a separate sub-group would be seen as unacceptable to larger social norms. Besides, there is little need for sub-group belonging in Japan, since most Japanese would grow up with a confident sense of simply being Japanese — no effort required. Americans have to work much harder for their social identities and so, in compensation, Americans also have to go to a greater extent in proving their individuality.

It’s not that one culture is superior to the other. The respective problems are built into each society. In fact, the problems are necessary in maintaining the social orders. To eliminate the problems would be to chip away at the foundations, either leading to destruction or requiring a restructuring. That is the reason that, in the United States, racism is so persistent and so difficult to talk about. The very social order is at stake.

Delirium of Hyper-Individualism

Individualism is a strange thing. For anyone who has spent much time meditating, it’s obvious that there is no there there. It slips through one’s grasp like an ancient philosopher trying to study aether. The individual self is the modernization of the soul. Like the ghost in the machine and the god in the gaps, it is a theological belief defined by its absence in the world. It’s a social construct, a statement that is easily misunderstood.

In modern society, individualism has been raised up to an entire ideological worldview. It is all-encompassing, having infiltrated nearly every aspect of our social lives and become internalized as a cognitive frame. Traditional societies didn’t have this obsession with an idealized self as isolated and autonomous. Go back far enough and the records seem to show societies that didn’t even have a concept, much less an experience, of individuality.

Yet for all its dominance, the ideology of individualism is superficial. It doesn’t explain much of our social order and personal behavior. We don’t act as if we actually believe in it. It’s a convenient fiction that we so easily disregard when inconvenient, as if it isn’t all that important after all. In our most direct experience, individuality simply makes no sense. We are social creatures through and through. We don’t know how to be anything else, no matter what stories we tell ourselves.

The ultimate value of this individualistic ideology is, ironically, as social control and social justification.

The wealthy, the powerful and privileged, even the mere middle class to a lesser degree — they get to be individuals when everything goes right. They get all the credit and all the benefits. All of society serves them because they deserve it. But when anything goes wrong, they hire lawyers who threaten anyone who challenges them or they settle out of court, they use their crony connections and regulatory capture to avoid consequences, they declare bankruptcy when one of their business ventures fail, and they endlessly scapegoat those far below them in the social hierarchy.

The profits and benefits are privatized while the costs are externalized. This is socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor, with the middle class getting some combination of the two. This is why democratic rhetoric justifies plutocracy while authoritarianism keeps the masses in line. This stark reality is hidden behind the utopian ideal of individualism with its claims of meritocracy and a just world.

The fact of the matter is that no individual ever became successful. Let’s do an experiment. Take an individual baby, let’s say the little white male baby of wealthy parents with their superior genetics. Now leave that baby in the woods to raise himself into adulthood and bootstrap himself into a self-made man. I wonder how well that would work for his survival and future prospects. If privilege and power, if opportunity and resources, if social capital and collective inheritance, if public goods and the commons have no major role to play such that the individual is solely responsible to himself, we should expect great things from this self-raised wild baby.

But if it turns out that hyper-individualism is total bullshit, we should instead expect that baby to die of exposure and starvation or become the the prey of a predator feeding its own baby without any concerns for individuality. Even simply leaving a baby untouched and neglected in an orphanage will cause failure to thrive and death. Without social support, our very will to live disappears. Social science research has proven the immense social and environmental influences on humans. For a long time now there has been no real debate about this social reality of our shared humanity.

So why does this false belief and false idol persist? What horrible result do we fear if we were ever to be honest with ourselves? I get that the ruling elite are ruled by their own egotistic pride and narcissism. I get that the comfortable classes are attached to their comforting lies. But why do the rest of us go along with their self-serving delusions? It is the strangest thing in the world for a society to deny it is a society.

Back to Our Future: David Sirota on the 80s

I just noticed a reference to David Sirota’s recent book, Back to Our Future. It looks interesting. After reading some reviews and hearing some interviews, I decided to purchase the book on my Kindle. So far, I’ve only read the beginning and skimmed later sections. This post is more about my initial response, but it’s a very thorough initial response.

To put it simply, this book provides analysis of 80s culture’s impact on politics and how that impact continues.

In ‘Back to Our Future,’ the ’80s are alive and, well

Remember the ’80s? Greed. Narcissism. Size.

“Everything was big — really big,” Sirota writes. “Big hair. Big defense budgets. Big tax cuts. Big shoulder pads. Big blockbuster movies. Big sports stars. The Big Gulp.”

Let me begin with a summary of what defines the 1980s, according to David Sirota:

•Atari: Best-selling videos Missile CommandCombat and Space Invaders sold techno-militarism to a generation of future drone pilots.

•Rambo: Embittered vet refought America’s wars and “gets to win” this time.

Ghostbusters: The movie’s lesson: When government fails, these private security contractors saved us from interdimensional “terrorists.”

•World Wrestling Federation: Theatro-sport in which American good guys like Sgt. Slaughter body slammed foreign bad guys like the Iron Sheik.

•Mr. T: No matter what character this Mohawk-wearing strongman played, he represented racial stereotyping and threw it back in our faces.

The Cosby Show: The pre-Obama image of the “post-racial” brand, the Huxtables were the first black family to dominate TV.

•Ferris Bueller: John Hughes’ cheeky truant glorified “going rogue” years before Sarah Palin.

Air Jordans: Best-selling sneakers pushed the idea that we can each be superstars if we “just do it.”

The Yuppie: Upwardly mobile wealth-obsessed Alex P. Keatons rejected ’60s idealism for modern materialism.

“Greed is Good”: Gordon Gekko’s line from Wall Street became the decade’s most famous phrase — and its most enduring ethos.

 – – – 

My discovering this book was serendipitous. I happened upon a reference to it the other night. A few hours prior, while at work, I had been talking to a coworker about all things apocalyptic, the Japanese nuclear plant problems being the starting point of the conversation. She mentioned something about a tv show and I was reminded of how many post-apocalyptic movies there were in the 1980s when I was a child. Between that and evil children movies, a child of the 80s was almost inevitably warped in the head.

Sirota makes this connection to the present nuclear situation in Japan:

I’m a child of the ’80s, and I was deeply impacted by that decade and that pop culture — and for many reasons, that pop culture is back in a lot of ways. So I started thinking about why it’s back — and some of it is Hollywood laziness, some of it is coincidence — but it’s really kind of eerie, too, with the crisis at the Japanese nuclear power plant happening; you know, the last time that kind of thing was happening was at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, in the ’80s. So there’s a real zeitgeist of the ’80s returning.

I don’t know that Sirota discusses the post-apocalyptic genre, but it seems to fit in with his overall analysis. The nuclear accidents back then made nuclear apocalypse an increasingly real possibility which was imaginatively portrayed in various entertainment media. As a GenXer born in 1975 (the same year Sirota was born), I’m well aware of the impact of 80s culture.

Sirota takes this a step further and says this impact is continuing as if the 80s somehow stunted America’s natural development. The country was going in one direction with the civil rights movement, environmentalism and other things, but then the 80s came and a different attitude took over: hyper-individualism, capitalist greed, paranoia of government, aggressive militarism, ultra-nationalism, racial fear-mongering, class war, culture war, radicalization of religion, etc. Americans haven’t yet collectively recovered from the trauma of the 80s. There were the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, and it’s been the 80s ever since. An endless nightmare as if Reagan were still president.

As explained in the USA Today article:

[T]he ’80s speak to us today for one simple reason: “Because it’s still the ’80s. The calendar doesn’t say ’80s, but we’re still looking through an ’80s mind-set.” Think Charlie Sheen. Think Lehman Brothers. Think McMansions.

As William Faulkner said: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

The ’80s set the stage for our lives today, Sirota says, and he explains it best in his introduction: “Almost every major cultural touchstone is rooted in the ’80s. … The Sopranos was an update of an ’80s Scorsese flick (Raging Bull and later Goodfellas).The Wire was Baltimore’s own Colors. Curb Your Enthusiasm is a Los Angeles-set Seinfeld. American Idol is Star Search.” And so on.

[ . . . ] “The reason you see so many remakes is not just because nostalgia resonates,” Sirota says, “but because (’80s movies) are still culturally relevant.”

Part of his argument relates to his realization that most people aren’t political at all, or rather don’t consciously identify as political, don’t consciously think out their political views. And, even those who are consciously political as adults, usually didn’t identify as being political when growing up. Nonetheless, it’s obvious that everyone has political views. Even children, when asked, can offer views on political issues. We all gain our political views from somewhere. Sirota thinks that pop culture has a greater impact on our minds and worldviews than we normally realize. He even goes so far as to see it playing a role of pseudo-propaganda in some cases and outright propaganda in other cases. This can be seen to some extent as part of the normal enculturation process, but the 80s were anything other than normal… and, in the process, a new norm was created for American society.

From a Denver Westword interview, Sirota said:

So I’d been reading some social research, and one thing that’s been coming up is that pop culture and entertainment — especially for children — is just as formative to how we see the world as news; as children, this entertainment that’s packaged as non-political, it can be as reality-shaping as reality is.

How Your Taxpayer Dollars Subsidize Pro-War Movies and Block Anti-War Movies

All the buzz in the entertainment/tech world about the blockbuster new video game Homefront brings back memories of the 1984 film Red Dawn — and rightly so. The creator of Homefront is none other than John Milius, the writer/director of the 1984 film that later became the deliberate namesake of the most famous operation in today’s Iraq War. But it should also bring back memories of the larger militarist themes that continue to define our entertainment culture — themes that ultimately bring up the direct but little-examined connections between the Pentagon and the entertainment industry. It is the legacy of those connections, first intensified in the 1980s, that continue to embed militarism in seemingly non-political products like video games and action movies.

As I show in , much of the video game industry was subsidized by the military and military contractors, and many of the earliest games were consequently martial in thrust. Think: Atari Combat and Missile Command, which then grew into a larger video game world that, as one Konami executive said in 1988, “takes anything remotely in the news and makes it a game.” You could see that in Nintendo’s Iran-Contra era game Contra just as you can see it in today’s hits like Call of Duty. And in almost each of these games, the ideology of militarism (i.e. military action solving all problems) is reiterated and reinforced.

Same thing when it comes to the Pentagon-Hollywood relationship since the 1980s — only in that case, we’re now seeing military officials quite literally line-editing scripts to make them more pro-military.

– – – 

Several points stand out to me in Sirota’s analysis.

First, Sirota argues that the 80s was when violence became normalized. Violence became a central part of our collective psyche: movies, video games, etc. Part of this had to do with the Vietnam War, the first major military loss that shook America’s collective confidence and righteous nationalism. Americans had internalized the violence from the Vietnam War footage and were now trying to come to terms with the sense of national failure that came after the withdrawl from Vietnam. It was maybe something like a collective Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sirota does mention the Vietnam War. He talks about the explanations given such as what he calls the “hands tied behind their backs” myth. I guess the idea was that if the soldiers weren’t held back, they could’ve demonstrated some real violence that would’ve forced the enemy into submission.

Second, the obsession with violence was inseparable from the obsession with hyper-individualism. This partly was represented by fear and hatred of government, the belief that the government can’t do anything right, that the government is the enemy of the people, of local governance, the enemy of communities, of religions, of capitalism, the enemy of all that is good. In general, all collective action and activism was looked upon with suspicion. Nothing good could come from people working together cooperatively toward the common good. Only individuals (or else individuals working together for the purpose of profit, i.e., private contractors: The A-Team, Ghostbusters, etc) could solve problems. People couldn’t rely on government, the FBI, or the police to solve their problems… and, so, people instead had to hope for a hero figure to come to town. And it was considered admirable when things got done, even if it meant breaking laws and committing violence. This hero worship also led to our culture of idolizing celebrity and wealth (a celebritocracy borne out of a distorted vision of meritocracy).

From the USA Today article:

“A lot of the changes that happened (in the ’80s) weren’t good,” Sirota admits. “The deification of celebrity, for instance. The individual. Michael Jordan could soar above all the rest. It wasn’t about the team anymore. That wasn’t so good.”

[ . . . ] “It was the outlaw with morals. The guy working on the inside for the common good,” Sirota says. He says that trend translated to sports, pointing to a poster of bad-boy Barkley. “He broke the rules but he was a good guy.”

As for ’80s greed, the examples are endless both then and today.

He cites Michael J. Fox’s The Secret of My Success (1987) as glorifying the ’80s goal of “working your way up to huge sums of wealth.”

But another 1987 movie perhaps summed up the era best. Wall Street (which co-starred Sheen) lives on because of three famous words uttered by Michael Douglas: “Greed … is good.” The sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, was released last year. Still relevant. Bernie Madoff, anyone?

“The young of the ’80s didn’t want to save the world,” Sirota says. “They wanted to get rich. It became the norm, and it’s the norm today.”

Third, Sirota explains how all of this was disconnected from reality. It had become a collective myth that couldn’t be questioned. He gave some examples about the enemies the media and government demonized during the 80s.

The US government was using propaganda about the Godless commies for the purpose of justifying the building up of the military-industrial complex, but the US government had plenty of data in their own reports that the Soviet Union was technologically inferior by far and was destroying itself trying to keep up with US technological advancement. The US government knew the commies were no real threat, but the myth of a powerful enemy was necessary and desired. To have a powerful enemy, gives a nation a sense of meaning and purpose even if it’s an utter lie.

The other example shows how lies when repeated enough become collective reality. On some level, I suspect most Americans were aware that the commies couldn’t be used as a scapegoat forever. The Cold War was drawing to a close and so the search for a new great enemy was already beginning. The new enemy to be feared was Islamic terrorists (which was already at that time starting to become the new standard enemy in American entertainment).

In our fighting the commies, we had at times aligned with radical Islamic fundamentalists and theocrats. I think many people realized that this would eventually lead to blowback, that our allies once we were finished using them would turn against us. More importantly, we just needed an enemy. If we had to create that enemy by funding, training and arming radical Islamic fundamentalists, by overthrowing democratic governments and supporting oppressive regimes in the Middle East, then so be it. Creating enemies is no easy task. It takes a lot of money and time, a lot of effort and planning, a lot of destruction and loss of life. But what the 80s have taught us is that endlessly fighting enemies of our own creation is something worth fighting for.

 – – – 

Here is another related factor that Sirota may or may not touch upon. The attitude of seeking enemies was an all-encompassing way of making sense of the world and hence of making public policies.

Worst of all, the demented paranoia of the 80s even led to the American people becoming the enemy. There was evidence of this mentality from earlier times such as with COINTELPRO from the decades prior, but the 80s brought it to a whole new level. COINTELPRO only targeted specific groups. The War on Drugs, however, targeted the entire American population. In many ways, it was worse than even McCarthyism. The War on Drugs has done more damage than probably any other public policy in American history. I doubt there is any US policy that has led to more people being imprisoned, more people having their lives destroyed, more increase in violence, more increase in a corporatist elite profiting off of the suffering of others, more targeting of the poor and minorities. My God, even Prohibition wasn’t this damaging. The War on Drugs has been going on for decades which has only led to an increase in drug use and drug-related violence. Now, the War on Terror (funded by the black market for drugs) has ratcheted up even further this paranoid oppression and authoritarian fear-mongering.

The 80s created a schizophrenic mentality. The government was the enemy and yet the government was necessary to fight the supposed even greater enemy of commies, terrorists, and drug dealers. The government was the enemy and yet the government was necessary to fight the enemy that is hiding within. Any American potentially might be a commie, a terrorist, or a druggy (or a gangsta, or a welfare queen, or an illegal alien, or an eco-terrorist, or a radical liberal). Everyone potentially was an enemy. No one could be trusted. It was everyone against everyone. A society of trust and cooperation was a thing of the past. The role of the government in helping average Americans was seen as evil and the power of the government to hurt the enemy was seen as good.

So, spending on social services and infrastructure (what conservatives like to call socialism) were reduced as the military-industrial complex (along with the alphabet soup agencies) continued to grow (along with the debt). Both fiscal and social conservatism were ironically used as part of the propaganda to increase the power of the ruling corporatist elite. Fiscal conservatism!?! Give me a fucking break! Neocons like Reagan believed in fiscal conservatism in the same way a pedophile priest believes in God. Even if their belief is genuine and earnest, those negatively effected would hardly find much comfort. I don’t know if a laissez-faire ideology correlates to reality any more than Christian theology. What I do know is real are the impacts that those who believe in such things have on the real world and on real people. And the enduring results of 80s culture of greed ain’t pretty.

 – – – 

What appeals to me about David Sirota’s view is that he is putting this all in the context of the larger history of the 20th century. The 80s concretized a particular worldview of culture war that continues to this day, and it continues to be grounded in mainstream culture. He explains this well in giving a summary about his book:

The book really has four basic sections. There’s a section about how the 1980s redefined our memories and our ideas of the 1950s and the 1960s, basically by remaking our memories of the 1950s into this idyllic time of calm and prosperity, and remaking the 60s into things that are bad, things like chaos and assassination — and so that ’50s vs 60s battle is still something that influences groups like the Tea Party and so forth, and it really divides along political lines.

[ . . . ] You know, the 1980s really was the time when there was this conflation between entertainment and real — Reagan was constantly referencing movies and pop culture in his speeches; you know, he’d been an actor himself. And so people might say, oh, The A Team wasn’t a big deal, Dukes of Hazzard wasn’t a big deal — but The A-Team, this one one of the highest rated shows for preteens, this show with the premise of four, you know, private contractors on the lam from a government that can’t do anything right. This stuff has a real impact on how you think about your world.   

I was just reading that Reagan considered Family Ties one of his favorite shows and offered to be in an episode. Sirota considers that show to have been central. Many young conservatives took inspiration from the Alex P. Keaton’s rebellion against his liberal former hippie parents. Alex stated a classic line when he complained about his parents being arrested for protesting nuclear weapons:

“You know what’s wrong with parents today? They still think they can change the world.”

With all the angry right-wingers, fear-mongering fundies and cold-hearted neocons these days, it’s hard to remember there was a time when a Republican could be portrayed as being a genuinely kind, lovable character. With all the horrifying results of trickle down economics, all the rampant crony capitalism following deregulation and all the cynical class war against the working class, it’s hard to imagine that fiscal conservatism once upon a time could’ve been shown as almost quaintly charming in it’s innocent naivette. It’s understandable that many at that time were persuaded, inspired even, by Michael J. Fox’s role:

The world has changed. The contemporary equivalent of Alex P. Keaton would be Eric Cartman from South Park. In the episode “Die, Hippie, Die”, Cartman sees hippies as dangerous vermin to be exterminated.

“Every time one of these ex-hippies comes prancing in from yesteryear, we gotta get out the love beads and pretend we care about people.”
~ Alex P. Keaton

“For the past several days I’ve been noticing a steep rise in the number of hippies coming to town.… I know hippies. I’ve hated them all my life. I’ve kept this town free of hippies on my own since I was five and a half. But I can’t contain them on my own anymore. We have to do something, fast!”
~ Eric Cartman

Alex as the charming fiscal conservative has morphed into Cartman the not-so-charming bigoted conservative. And yet both capture some basic essence of the desire of many contemporary conservatives to rebel against society (a corrupt, lazy and generally inferior society that deserves being rebelled against).

The radicalization of the conservative movement is one of the oddest phenomena in US history. There were always radical elements in American society, but something about Goldwater’s campaign allowed the radicals to take over the entire conservative movement. Now we have Cartman-like pundits on the radio and on cable. They still rail against mainstream culture despite having become so much apart of mainstream culture that they now help to shape it. That, of course, doesn’t stop them from acting like victims as if hippies were somehow still a dominant force. The right-wing mindset is forever stuck in the past which blinds them to the present. To the right-winger, Cartman’s paranoia is the reality they live in.

Alex P. Keaton continues to be relevant more than a couple decades after Family Ties ended. Having gained power, the conservatives inspired by the likes of Alex may now feel disgruntled by their failure which has inevitably followed from their success. But that doesn’t stop them from believing, doesn’t give them pause, doesn’t cause them to doubt their ideology. It remains relevant because the True Believers keep it relevant:

Still, it’s tempting to conclude that Keaton’s near-iconic status requires more explanation. Last summer in the New Republic, Rick Perlstein, the left-leaning author of a book on Barry Goldwater, argued that, even now, after years of Republican rule, the “culture of conservatives still insists that it is being hemmed in on every side.” Having been “shaped in another era [the mid-1960s], one in which conservatives felt marginal and beleaguered,” conservative culture—Perlstein had in mind everything from “Goldwater kitsch” to Fox News—still feeds on this antagonism, reflecting a sense that righteousness is always at odds with the decadent mainstream.

Alex P. Keaton fits this vision perfectly. Throughout the show’s run, he was on his own: His parents were liberal, his sister was a ditz, and his one conservative ally, Uncle Ned, was a fugitive and then a drunk. Still, he persevered.

Conservatives nowadays have plenty of Uncle Neds who may seem like frauds and failures to those who don’t share their capitalistic idealism. Still, conservatives persevere.

 – – – 

Not only do they persevere, their becoming disgruntled has made them even more rabidly motivated. And big money has given their minority voice a big megaphone. This is what the Tea Party is or has become, arguments aside about how it began. Tea Party leaders and icons, such as Beck and Palin, represent this tendency toward nostalgia that Sirota writes about (Back to Our Future, pp. 27-8):

Now, during the Obama presidency, the Tea Party opposition is an exact analogue to the Reagan vanguard, all the way down to the latter-day roots of its very name—in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the The New York Times labeled what were then the first contemporary antigovernment/antitax revolts “modern Boston Tea Parties.” Not surprisingly, the goal of today’s Tea Party protesters is a return to the politics of the fifties-worshiping, sixties-bashing 1980s.

Tea Party protesters and their leaders in the conservative movement acknowledge this intrinsically in their choice of language and extrinsically in their most unfiltered declarations. For example, an essay posted on the website of Freedom Works, the organization that sponsors Tea Party demonstrations, says protesters are enraged by “the sense that the country that they grew up in is slipping away right before their eyes.”

[ . . . ] Glenn Beck, the Tea Party’s media field general, says it is about “real outrage from real people who just want their country back”—and he’s very clear that “back” means before The Sixties™. In one recent diatribe, Beck praised Joe McCarthy for “shin[ing] the spotlight on the Communist Party” in the 1950s. In another, he insisted “fifty years ago people felt happier” than they do today because today “we have less God,” prompting his guest to agree by saying, “Something happened in the 1950s where everything went down … that’s when they started taking God”—“they” being the hippies, “God” presumably being a reference to mid-twentieth-century courts barring prayer in school.

This kind of nostalgia now slashes its way through today’s politics and policy debates, and its lack of connection to specific issues betrays its eighties-crafted anchor in intergenerational conflict.

[ . . . ] “It’s kind of a time for another Eisenhower,” Bob Dole told Politico in a discussion about 2012 presidential candidates.

The language—“back,” “real people,” “deviating from,” “slipping away,” “the way it was,” “different country than I grew up in,” “legacy,” “better time”—underscores the fierce yearning for a fantastical authenticity and conformity of old-time fifties America, sans the real-world downsides like lynch mobs, religious bigotry, burning crosses, chauvinism, union-busting, and smokestack pollution that plagued the mid-twentieth century. Whether or not Tea Party leaders are specifically pointing to the actual 1950s is less important than that the broader movement is advocating that bigger, 1980s-manufactured concept of The Fifties™.

The tragedy, of course, is the elimination of the kind of moderate Republicanism that once played a pivotal political, cultural, and legislative role in the real 1950s and 1960s. Conservatives today accept no compromise positions on taxes, national security, social issues, or anything else, because to Republican leaders, conceding such middle ground is akin to aiding and abetting the hippies—an unthinkable proposition, but not just to them.

That passage caught my attention. I’ve been thinking about the Tea Party for quite a while now. Last year I started to write a post about the documentary Generation Zero. The documentary created quite a buzz at the time (at least, on Fox News), but it is mostly unknown outside of the Tea Party crowd. I only heard about it because of a blog I follow which focuses on the topic of generations. The documentary is based on the generation theory of Strauss and Howe.

I never finished writing my post about Generation Zero. I felt like I was missing some element to bring my thoughts together. Sirota’s analysis may be that missing element. It wasn’t a bad documentary per se. However, it did fall into this mythology of everything wrong with America is the fault of the hippies.

Sirota is correct that the nostalgic worship of The Fifties has become popular again. And Sirota is correct that this nostalgia is disconnected from reality, from the actual history of the 50s. John Oliver of The Daily Show did an awesome clip (Even Better Than the Real Thing) which utterly lambasted this naive vision of the past that is favored by right-wingers.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with looking for the positive in the past. But one can’t learn from the past by turning it into a Hallmark movie or a Norman Rockwell painting. One particular detail that caught my attention in the above passage is Bob Dole’s saying that, “It’s kind of a time for another Eisenhower”. If only Republicans were genuine about their reverence for the good ol’ days, many liberals would be more than happy to cooperate. In the good ol’ days of the first half of the 20th century, liberalism was triuphant and politicians were usually unwilling to publicly denounce liberals for fear of their political careers being destroyed by doing so. As Eric Alterman pointed out in his book Why We’re Liberals (p. 4):

It may shocking to some to discover that for much of the past century, the term liberal suggested, in the words of historian John Lukacs, “generosity nay, magnanimity; not only breadth of a mind but strength of soul.” A liberal was someone “free from narrow prejudice,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Even the enemies of liberalism sought legitimacy within it. In 1960, the New York Times Sunday Magazine published an article by the philosopher Charles Frankel in which he observed that it would be difficult to locate a single major figure in American politics who could not find a favorable remark or two about American liberalism. Indeed, he wrote, “Anyone who today identifies himself as an unmitigated opponent of liberalism…cannot aspire to influence on the national political scene.” Frankel noted that even politicians who indulged in attacks on “liberals” were usually sufficiently cautious in their criticism to attach qualifiers to the word, lest they be accused of antiliberalism themselves. Southern conservatives, for instance, complained about “Northern liberals,” often insisting that they themselves were liberals in matters of social welfare. Even Joe McCarthy usually restricted himself to attacking “phony liberals,” leaving open the inference, as Frankel put it, “that he had nothing against genuine liberals, if only he could find one.”20 Later the same year, “Mr. Republican,” Senator Robert A. Taft, claimed the liberal label for himself, stating—accurately, as it happens—that he was in reality “an old-fashioned liberal.”21 The party’s successful 1952 presidential candidate, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, was also on board: “To be fully effective,” Ike explained, “we need in Washington liberal and experienced members of Congress.”22 As late as 1968, voters heard this moving tribute to the virtues of liberalism: “Let me give you a definition of the word ‘liberal.’…Franklin D. Roosevelt once said…It is a wonderful definition, and I agree with him. ‘A liberal is a man who wants to build bridges over the chasms that separate humanity from a better life.’” The speaker? That famous liberal presidential candidate: Richard Milhous Nixon.

Eisenhower was more progressively liberal than most Democratic politicians are today. So, these right-wingers aren’t being genuine when they reference the past as if, prior to the hippies, all of American society was ruled by the far right. Today’s Republicans, unlike Eisenhower, aren’t moderate about anything. Moderate Republicans are an endangered species. How can the right-wing loons of today bring up Eisenhower’s name when the right-wing loons back then thought Eisenhower was a commie (and mainstream Republicans back then thought such right-wingers were radicals and extremists). You’d be hard pressed to find even a self-identified liberal in contemporary mainstream politics who would make the type of statements Eisenhower made such as (Letter to Edgar Newton Eisenhower, November 8, 1954):

“You keep harping on the Constitution; I should like to point out that the meaning of the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is. Consequently no powers are exercised by the Federal government except where such exercise is approved by the Supreme Court (lawyers) of the land.

“I admit that the Supreme Court has in the past made certain decisions in this general field that have been astonishing to me. A recent case in point was the decision in the Phillips case. Others, and older ones, involved “interstate commerce.” But until some future Supreme Court decision denies the right and responsibility of the Federal government to do certain things, you cannot possibly remove them from the political activities of the Federal government.

“Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this–in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything–even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon “moderation” in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

“[ . . . ] I assure you that you have more reason, based on sixty-four years of contact, to say this than you do to make the bland assumption that I am surrounded by a group of Machiavellian characters who are seeking the downfall of the United States and the ascendancy of socialism and communism in the world. Incidentally, I notice that everybody seems to be a great Constitutionalist until his idea of what the Constitution ought to do is violated–then he suddenly becomes very strong for amendments or some peculiar and individualistic interpretation of his own.

 – – –

So, what exactly are conservatives today reminiscing about? Where did they get their revisionist history from?

Sirota argues that much of this revisionist history and 50s mythologizing came from the 80s. That is the origin of the problem we now face. The 80s is the source of much revisionist history because the 80s is the point where the country started heading back toward some of the worst elements of the past. An example of this is how bigotry was championed in the 80s and was put in deceptive packaging to make it more socially acceptable. This racism has been disguised in the language of culture war and class war, but the underlying racism is obvious for anyone who has their eyes open. Most recently and most obviously, there has been a resurgence of this racism which can be found in the Tea Party. As Sirota wrote in his book (p. 212):

In light of the blitz, to blame Obama for seeking “to transcend, if not avoid, the issue of race” is to yet again avoid blaming the real culprit: the white America that since the 1980s demands reticence on race from all black public figures as the price of public support. Sure, as a purely tactical matter, you can credibly argue that Obama’s Cosby-esque deal with white America is a self-defeating Faustian bargain. Survey data show roughly six in ten whites openly admit to believing in at least one bigoted stereotype, and a recent study showed that when asked about health care legislation, a significant number of whites expressed less support for the exact same bill if it was coming from President Obama rather than from a white Democratic president. A black leader who tries to circumnavigate that intense bigotry by avoiding race may be emboldening the bigotry inevitably coming his way. Similarly, American politics is increasingly steered by a largely white Tea Party movement whose supporters are, according to polls, disproportionately motivated by racial resentment. An African American leader who goes out of his way to downplay that right-wing racism to the point of rebuking former president Jimmy Carter for criticizing it—well, that only helps the Tea Party opposition play its duplicitous dog-whistle games.

I was already aware of this. I have a post about the study done where Tea Party supporters admitted to having racially prejudiced views. Of course, this is nothing new… but I guess that is why it’s so disheartening. One of Sirota’s basic points is how we as a nation are atavistically mired in our own dark past. We are stuck in this manner because the distorted 50s mythology has appealed to what has been a white majority in this country, and the appeal becomes stronger as whites increasingly lose their majority status. In the words of Sirota from the article, “The Motto of Mad Men”:

As one tea party leader told The New York Times: “Things we had in the ’50s were better.”

To the tea party demographic, this certainly rings true. Yes, in apartheid America circa 1950, rich white males were more socially and economically privileged relative to other groups than they are even now. Of course, for those least likely to support the tea party—read: minorities—the ’50s were, ahem, not so great, considering the decade’s brutal intensification of Jim Crow.

But then, that’s the marketing virtuosity of the “I Want My Country Back” slogan. A motto that would be called treasonous if uttered by throngs of blacks, Latinos or Native Americans has been deftly sculpted by conservatives into an accepted clarion call for white power. Cloaked in the proud patois of patriotism and protest, the refrain has become a dog whistle to a Caucasian population that feels threatened by impending demographic and public policy changes.

I’m not sure how many people understand the way this came about. I’ve met many conservatives who seem to have a dim awareness that the world was once different when they criticize the Democratic Party as being the party of racists because it used to have it’s stronghold in the old KKK South. What conservatives forget, in making this criticism, is that the Republicans are now the party of the South. Republicans purposely gained the South by using the Southern Strategy which was an often overtly racist strategy. It began with Nixon, but became even more important with the campaigns of Reagan and Bush Sr. From Sirota’s book (p. 18):

The magma of resentment politics that had been simmering underground since the late 1970s exploded during the stretch run of the 1980 presidential campaign. In August of that year, Reagan channeled white rage at the civil rights movement by endorsing the racist euphemism states rights, an endorsement that came during a speech to a Confederate-flag-waving audience in the same Mississippi town where three civil rights workers had been murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.

I remember reading last year about Reagan’s campaign. I was shocked and amazed by the bravado of so blatantly referencing a violently racist past just for the sake of winning an election. You can’t get any more cynical than that. As I recall, the speech that started off his campaign was that very speech given at that town which was famous for having previously hosted the Ku Klux Klan’s murdering of civil rights workers. That was the beginning of the Republican Party and conservative movement we know today. That is the past America that conservatives feel nostalgic about.

 – – – 

I find myself simultaneously repulsed and fascinated by this history of American culture. I’m generally interested in any analysis of generations. It’s very strange how whole generations can get caught up in a single worldview, especially with our mainstream media today which offers everyone the same entertainment and news.

We live in interesting times. Boomers are losing power as GenXers are coming into power. Whites are losing majority position as minorities are gaining majority position. Religious fundamentalism and politicized religion is becoming less popular as religious diversity and non-religiousness are becoming more popular. We’re in a new century with a media of the likes never before seen. The world is becoming globalized and Americans are trying to find meaning and purpose in a time when everything is shifting.

Not everyone responds to this change with a positive attitude and an open embrace. But I, for one, am ready to leave the era of the 80s behind.

 – – – 

Note: I think that is all I have to say right now. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts once I read more of the book. Maybe I’ll continue my thoughts by eventually finishing my post on the documentary Generation Zero.

Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

   

Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

mikeS said Oct 12, 2008, 12:57 PM:             

  I recently posted this on my blog because I thought it a bit long for a thread. However, on second thought, maybe it might initiate some discussion. My thanks to Nicole.It seems fundamentally evident that, in order to aspire to a career in politics, one must eventually seek ‘votes’ to advance one’s career to ever higher office. Seeking votes means essentially being liked and to be elected to political office means being liked by more people than others seeking the same office.  This requires the acute and finely detailed tailoring of one’s ‘self’ in order to be liked, as opposed to NOT liked. This process easily eliminates those who are unable, for whatever reason, to tailor the ‘self’ in a way that generates votes through ‘likability.’ This tailoring process seems so deeply inherent to a political career, that the political aspirant may need to compromise his or her longstanding values and standards to achieve votes. A career in politics is not necessarily compatible with higher values like integrity (maybe this is why so much corruption exists in the field).   In fact, if standards and values are not to some degree compromised in order to increase ‘likability’ and collect votes, then the politician will eventually be eliminated from the field or at the least stuck in less esteemed positions. This elimination process, particularly in seeking the highest offices in which more votes are required, tends to produce a specific character type that, in many cases, may be inclined toward personality or character dysfunction almost to the point of a full-blown personality disorder.    I have found that the specific character disorder frequently exhibited by political aspirants is labeled Narcissistic Personality Disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, APA, (In fact, the spiritual philosopher, Ken Wilber, believes that “narcissism” is one of the most significant impediments to Deep Spirit, although his “narcissism” is a bit more complicated that the APA’s definition).       The APA has never, to my knowledge, made any psychological classification of politicians. However, I believe it is warranted. The problem is that in the field of politics it can be very difficult or almost impossible to identify those politicians with the disorder, since we all realize and tend to accept that politics is often a personality competition of celebrity proportions. Therefore, we could be witnessing a full-blown Narcissistic disordered personality right before our eyes, yet fail to recognize the symptoms of the disorder due to the very nature of politics in this postmodern age.          My point in this essay is in relation to the appearance of Deep Spirit and not necessarily, the appearance of narcissistic symptoms. However, Narcissism impedes Deep Spirit, particularly in those exhibiting symptoms of the disorder, and is generated primarily from fear. More specifically, in politics the fear is of not attaining votes because more voters dislike the political candidate. This is the fear of un-likability, that we all on some level experience. Yet my being disliked by many people may not result in the need to tailor my personality in order to be more liked so as to enhance my career, but for the politician this tailoring is crucial to career enhancement.             

Narcissism is a personality or “character” disorder actually diagnosable through the psychiatric model of mental disorders as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The officially accepted criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder according to the DSM-IV is as follows :             

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

            

              

 

recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)  to be(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects          

            

 

with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love   is preoccupied(2)         

           

(3) believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)    

        

          

(4) requires excessive admiration       

     

       

(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations          

  

    

(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends             

(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others             

(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her             

(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes             

Although Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a classification of the psychiatric model of mental disorders, the condition is pervasive to the personality or ‘self’ and is essentially impervious to medications, and most psychotherapies. In other words, if you are afflicted with this ‘disorder,’ narcissistic personality is what you ARE and you most likely can be NO different since the core ‘self’ IS the disorder and will not change (at least, not in this lifetime, anyway). This is different from psychiatric mental disorders which are primarily due to brain or neurochemicals imbalances and can be treated through medications             

As the symptoms reveal, there is an almost complete self-absorption with little regard for others or the suffering of others. In fact, others are seen as only means to greater enhancement, or advancement, of the ‘self.’ Therefore, any spiritual perspective of ‘oneness,’ any unity of perception or converging of perspectives to include the collective as opposed to the Narcissistic individual, is essentially absent or at the least, greatly minimized.             

I contend that many of our national leaders meet, if not all the criteria, many of the symptoms of this character disorder (notice that only 5 of the 9 symptoms need be met for the diagnosis to be applied).             

Based on the limited research available regarding Narcissistic Personality Disorder it appears to be the result of early childhood deprivation or neglect in terms of building healthy psychological ego-self structures. Based on current statistics, only a very small percentage of the U.S. population is afflicted with this disorder (many medical statistics claim only 1% of the population, however, since narcissists rarely admit to the symptoms of this disorder they rarely attend treatment and thus fail to be statistically counted).             

POLITICAL NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

Due to the grandiose nature of politics, individual politicians must be predisposed to acquiring high public esteem and self-glorification through the acquisition of ‘votes’ related to election and re-election. This election process tends to funnel, collect and lump together those who may be prone to narcissistic personality disorder, particularly at the highest political levels. This is a bit different then celebrity status, although certainly there are many narcissistic personalities in that field as well. Yet, since celebrities tend to be esteemed based on some artistic talent and exist primarily to entertain, politicians need not exhibit any specific talent other than that of tailoring the personality so as to attain the greatest number of votes thereby beating opposition. In addition, a movie or rock star can enhance their celebrity status through controversy, while a politician’s career can be completely derailed through anything less than a perfect personality and a stellar past. Therefore, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, though evident in other careers, is abundantly manifest in politics at the highest or national level.             

However, this is not to assume that all politicians exhibit the full-fledged disorder with most of the symptoms. It may be more indicative of a greater possibility of manifesting the “traits” or “styles” of the disorder. Some politicians will be more narcissistically disordered, while others may be less afflicted. But I contend that due to the nature of the career, most will exhibit symptoms even those who seem to appear the most “honest” (I hate to say it, but George Bush tends to conform quite adequately to this model of narcissism)             

One thing is certain however, the higher the office the greater the likelihood that those elected will exhibit symptoms of the disorder as opposed to merely traits or styles. Therefore, we will suffer, more or less, dependent on the degree of Narcissistic Personality symptoms the elected office holder is afflicted by.             

Based on this, and my strong belief that regardless of one’s professed religion, seekers of Deep Inner Spirit tend to be more inclined to a more generous “worldcentric” perspective and a vision that integrates all levels of our evolving global society. This vision is completely opposite of narcissism and actually demands the clearing of narcissistic symptoms (traits and styles) in order for others, as opposed to ‘self,’ to be even considered, let alone considered through a correspondence with a deeper Spirit within.             

However, Narcissistic individuals are very adept at “lip-service” or telling us what they believe we want to hear regardless of the truth factor (this is why outright ‘lies’ are referred to “mis-stating” the facts) in order to enhance likability and acquire votes . Due to this magnified self-absorption, they tend to lack a “worldcentric” perspective and are terminally ‘stuck’ in an egocentric view of the world and others. In fact, they tend NOT to be capable of considering any other perspective but their own (unless, of course, other perspectives are similar). The Narcissistic personality is dysfunctionally self-absorbed and wholly self-oriented and obviously not amenable to the progress of an evolutionary collective consciousness that seeks to encompass all perspectives, all the time.             

So, when you cast your vote this November, stop to consider which of the politicians seeking office seem to meet the above psychiatric criteria. This may help to insure that you are not voting for a candidate who is Narcissistic Personality Disordered having one chief value in mind above all others and that is the glorification of self. If this is the primary perspective they hold, then most likely they should not hold public office.             

Clearly, we are approaching difficult times ahead and the leaders we choose will need a foundation of Deep Spirit in order to help us seek that same foundation within ourselves. If we elect officials, no matter what party, who are personality/character disordered, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the disorder and corresponding symptoms we will no doubt experience. Of course, this statement may initiate an examination of the two-term election of George Bush and the question:
Can a large segment of a national population be Narcissistic Personality Disordered? I’ll leave that to brighter minds than mine, but the implications are bone-chilling.             

Peace Angels,
mike S              

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Alan said Oct 12, 2008, 3:01 PM:             

  A narcissist is simple a man or woman who’s ego is so out of control that even in this egoic age they’re out of balance.  

I have had up close personal views of narcissists.  Of course, power draws people who live solely for themselves and  to please their self-image.  As does wealth.  These are the flames the intensely ego-centric flock to, like moths, only to burn.
This is why we have this pain-filled world, I agree.  
Time to declare war on greed.  (for money, power, pleasure, whathaveyou)
Time to stop declaring war on eachother.  Every time we do, we lose sight of the real enemy
as surely as Iraq had little to do with bin laden.

              

 

        

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 13, 2008, 9:36 AM:             

  Alan and Mike, thanks.Mike, I am very grateful for you beginning the discussion with this marvelous blog of yours. It’s interesting, I just read a blog by Marmalade which is an in-depth personality analysis and comparison of the current candidates and past presidents, with a lot of detail of what leads to success in presidency, including the ability to lie well and being impulsive and passionate rather than collegial. It’s a very detailed blog though and I can’t do it justice so I hope you will check it out yourselves – Politics, Personality, and Character  I would love to hear what Marmalade and others think about this thread.    Alan, you’re so right about losing track of the real enemy. It has never been other people.    Light and peace,       Nicole          

 

        

 
     

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 13, 2008, 2:20 PM:             

  Thanks for the advertisement of my blog, dear Nicole.  As you know, I have a strong interest in personality.  Its quite fascinating all of the info that is out there.I noticed this thread when it was first posted.  I don’t know that I have much to add.  I can see the perspective of leadership roles attracting narcissists.  The one thing I would question is the issue of personality disorder.  If narcissism has offered survival value to the human species, then its not fair to call it a personality disorder.  Similarly, I’ve heard the theory that Attention Deficity Disorder may simply be a type of personality that no longer has a place in our society and such people are unfairly medicated.  The problem is that the world now is different than it was when humans evolved personality traits.  Narcissism may be quite benificial in a leader of a tribe but maybe dangerous on the largscale of international politics.  Also, maybe traditional cultures had ways of controlling narcissism from going out of control.   Marmalade   
 
     

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Alan said Oct 13, 2008, 2:46 PM:             

  Marmalade, 

Having lived with a narcissist, while I disagree with the very idea of ‘personality disorders’ a great deal, I can say that if the definition of personality disorders includes maladaptation, eg a state of being that causes extreme harm to the self or others, Narcissism must be a personality disorder.  We probably disagree about the idea that this state of being is or has ever been helpful.  Narcissism ruins everything it touches.  The story of King Midas is a very good myth about it.
In leaders, it is the most dangerous thing in the world…. whether tribe or nation.  These are just my .02 though…
Also, I’d be interested in reading a study about narcissism cross-culturally.  In Japanese culture, for example, as far as I know the children are so asked to empathize with each other that an individual who seemingly has no empathy at all (eg, a narccisist) is probably less of a likely phenomenon.  In fact, this set of behaviors, to me, is no more than a symptom of the larger imbalance of this particular society.  

              

 

            

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 13, 2008, 3:20 PM:             

  Alan,I haven’t ever studied it much, but from my meager research it seems that narcissism is a broad category.  I guess its important to know whether this thread is about narcissism in general or only narcissism as a personality disorder.  Here is something from the Wikipedia article:  Johnson [9] discusses Narcissism as constituting a spectrum, from a severe disorder with much in common with borderline personality disorder, to a much less severe, high-functioning form he calls “the narcissistic style.”   
“People who have a narcissistic
personality style rather than narcissistic personality disorder are relatively psychologically healthy, but may at times be arrogant, proud, shrewd, confident, self-centered and determined to be at the top. They may not, however, have an unrealistic image of their skills and worth and are not so strongly dependent on praise to sustain a healthy self-esteem.” [10]
As there are different types of Narcissism, I’d guess there are probably different causes of it also.  As an example I noticed acquired situational narcissism:    Acquired Situational Narcissism is a form of narcissism that develops in late adolescence or adulthood, brought on by wealth, fame and the other trappings of celebrity     

.

            

              

 

disorder.  pesonalityI was wondering about the social components to narcissism in our culture.  Maybe narcissistic personality style is common, but maybe narcissistic personality disorder isn’t.  Furthermore, maybe they exist on a gradient and maybe there is something about our society that turns the personality style into a          

            

 

, but this leads people to an even greater focus on their own personal problems because they have no one else to turn to.   is discouragedA cross-cultural study would be interesting.  I’ve read something about Japanese culture that relates to your comment.  The author was saying that Japanese culture has the opposite effect from what would be expected.  Individual expression         

           

I liked your last point.  Is Narcissism a personality disorder or a societal disorder?    

        

          

Marmalade      

     

       

   

  

    

   

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

mikeS said Oct 13, 2008, 3:48 PM:             

  I realize the title of this post was rather pejorative and exaggerated. Nevertheless, I was not addressing “leadership roles” per say since clearly in many industries and fields leadership does not rely as heavily or at all on ‘likability’ or attractiveness. Many leaders rose to leadership positions meritoriously or through talent and there is not the need to tailor the personality so acutely as with politics.If narcissism has offered survival value to the human species, then its not fair to call it a personality disorder.   That would be an interesting discussion as to whether personality disorders have survival value. As Alan points out, they are maladaptive to the person and society and do tend to impair the individual or others in some way. There are many different personality disorders and I’m mostly familiar with antisocial (sociopathic) and narcissistic from 8 yrs of work in a prison.
Actually, it seems to me that Narcissism would have little survival value since it is not amenable to leadership roles beneficial to the tribe.
In addition, although I use psychiatric diagnoses in my work, I am also very suspect of the criteria. Rarely do individuals meet even the minimum requirments and personality disorders often overlap with mood disorders. This is why I mentioned “traits” and “styles” in my initial post. Attention Deficit is a mood disorder and treatable through drugs and personality disorders are frequently untreatable since it involves impaired ego development usually traced to childhood parenting in combination with genetic predispositions   My  point was  that diagnosable “narcissistic personality disorder” may be more observable through the political arena than in any other public realm. In addition, due to the postmodern politics, and the cult of celebrity, this may be more true than in previous times. In that sense it would be a societal problem particularly if the society is narcissistic, but that would also make it less visible TO the society. A good book on sociel narcissism would be “Culture of Narcissism” by Christopher Lasch, which is quite an indictment of American society.    Thanks : )
mike S       
 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 1:16 AM:             

  Hey Mike!  I’m not really in disagreement with you.  I just like to complicate
things. I was reading that research shows that Japanese are more self-critical. 
Self-criticalness intuitively seems quite opposite from Narcissism.  But I also
noticed that in an articleabout narcissism that strong self-criticism is
sometimes seen in relationship to strong self-regard.  I came across the view
that it might be helpful to separate two types of narcissism.  One more overt
and what is typically thought of as narcissism, but the other more hidden. 
Here is a paper that speaks about narcissism amongst Japanese being more
of the latter type:      

http://www.athleticinsight.com/Vol1Iss1/Asian_Aggression.htm          

That paper also points out how narcissism relates to dependence.  Its not 
that  narcissists think only about themselves but that they think too much
about how others think about them.  They need confirmation of their own
self-regard.  Its the need for social acceptance that can lead to the
self-criticalness when they don’t live up to those externalized expectations.            

Of course, narcissism is very different in various populations.  The narcissism
of politicians is probably quite different than narcissism of prisoners, and the
narcissism of both of those populations probably would be quite different than 
narcissism amongst more average people.            

As a different perspective, here is an book excerpt about the relationship
between personality traits and narcissism:            

http://books.google.com/books?id=K-LLSx-n0lwC&pg=PA234&lpg=PA234&dq=narcissism+ffm&source=web&ots=oyZrnfCrwl&sig=cH6QbfKisuHszOWarrR8pG1mZYs&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result

p. 234: One of the facets of FFM antagonism is arrogance, the central
trait of NPD (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, Millon et al., 1996). 
An advantage of the FFM dimensional classification of personaity disorder
though is the ability to distinguish between arrogant persons who are high
versus low in neuroticism. A longstanding concern within the clinical
literature on narcissism is the distinction between narcissistic
persons who
are consistently self-confident, arrogant, andconceited (what
Ronningstam, 2005, describes as the “arrogant narcissit”) versus the
narcissistic person who is quite insecure and self-conscious (the
“shy narcissist”; Ronningstam, 2005). The dimensional perspective of the
FFM would not create subtypes of a diagnostic category to address the
considerable variation that does occur, but would simply describe the
extent to which a person high in arrogance is also low in the anxiousness,
self-consciousness, and vulnerability facets of neuroticism. Further
distinctions would be provided by the extent to which the person is low in
extraversion (the shy narcissist) versus high in extraversion (the outgoing,
interpersonally engaging narcissist), or high in conscientiousness
(the narcissist who is relatively successful in school, college, and career).
           

And here is narcissistic personality disorder translated into FFM traits:            

http://www.ptypes.com/narcissisticpd.html
             

High Neuroticism
Chronic negative affects, including anxiety, fearfulness, tension,
irritability, anger, dejection, hopelessness, guilt, shame; difficulty in inhibiting
impulses: for example, to eat, drink, or spend money; irrational beliefs: for
example, unrealistic expectations,perfectionistic demands on self,
unwarranted pessimism; unfounded somatic concerns; helplessness and
dependence on others for emotional support and decision making.             

High Extraversion
Excessive talking, leading to inappropriate self-disclosure and social
friction; inability to spend time alone; attention seeking and overly dramatic
expression of emotions; reckless excitement seeking; inappropriate attempts to
dominate and control others.        
     

Low Openness
Difficulty adapting to social or personal change; low tolerance or
understanding of different points of view or lifestyles; emotional blandness and
inability to understand and verbalize own feelings; alexythymia; constricted range
of interests; insensitivity to art and beauty; excessive conformity to authority.             

Low Agreeableness
Cynicism and paranoid thinking; inability to trust even friends or family;
quarrelsomeness; too ready to pick fights; exploitive and manipulative; lying; rude
and inconsiderate manner alienates friends, limits social support; lack of respect for
social conventions can lead to troubles with the law; inflated and grandiose sense of
self; arrogance.             

Low Conscientiousness
Underachievement: not fulfilling intellectual or artistic potential; poor
academic
performance relative to ability; disregard of rules and responsibilities can
lead to
trouble with the law; unable to discipline self (e.g., stick to diet, exercise plan)
even when required for medical reasons; personal and occupational aimlessness.

        

Here are some other links that interested me:          

http://www.ptypes.com/narcissistic.html

http://www.ptypes.com/compensatory-narcissisti2.html           

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2277465            

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Controversial+Issues+in+the+Diagnosis+of+Narcissistic+Personality…-a070739740             

Marmalade             

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

mikeS said Oct 14, 2008, 5:39 AM:             

  Whoa! Marm,You are ‘researcher extraordinaire’!  In addition, I did not necessarily perceive you as disagreeing or agreeing. The point is achieving synthesis through the ongoing dialogue. I only feel disappointed if my posts stimulate NO discussion (I think you have said as much before).The point of ALL my posts, blog and threads, is to either initiate discussion, for OR against, and continue it possibly toward such a synthesis. I have not cornered the market on knowledge, nor am I narcissistically certain of anything (neat how I slid that in!)   You seem to have deconstructed the DSM-IV Narcissistic classification. I love deconstructing accepted beliefs and although I have not heard of FFM It certainly looks credible (although i do take issue with the old freudian term “neuroticism” which is rarely used in clinical circles due to its being so nebulous).    

The narcissism of politicians is probably quite different than narcissism of prisoners, and the narcissism of both of those populations probably would be quite different than narcissism amongst more average people.

            

              

 

disorder shine brightly as the prison environment lends itself to that presentation.  narcississtichis disorder in politics, but as soon as we put him behind bars we would see his  demonstrateon environmental factors. In other words, the same narcissist would covertly  be dependent psychosocial environment. To say that one type is overt and another covert, I believe, would the thebased on  be differentI disagree in that the “narcissism” would be the same, however, the behaviors would          

            

 

japanese narcissism, but could we posit then a further contrast in that  the narcissism of Japanese culture is much more covert than American? Yet, the narcissism is the same psychological phenomenon, only tailored to the cultural norms?   regardingI have not yet read the link you provided         

           

I will look over the links you have provided since they seem highly informative.    

        

          

However, my general point from the previous posts was that we could see, if we know what to look for, Narcissism (based on the DSM, but maybe even more adequately based of FFM) in the highest level of politics. My hypothesis was that at the highest level of political functioning, those most deeply afflicted by this disordered personality could be seen. But, again, only if we know what we are looking for and thus, I used the DSM criteria as model. I do feel we need to differentiate between average everyday narcissism, or selfishness, and the narcissism of a disordered personality.       

     

       

My suggestion that the disorder is “destroying the world” is related to the idea that if you place a conglomeration of Narcissistically disordered personalities in one big room, say the U.S. Congress for instance, with the intent of making decisions beneficial to the world, most likely nothing will get done and thus the world will gradually devolve into some form of self-destruction. Quite a leap, I know, but that’s my general thesis.
Sometimes I wonder if, in our politically correct society, we have a tendency to water down what are truly dysfunctional personalities. I feel this neither serves well the person nor the society.          

  

    

believe me when I say that I genuinely look forward to your complicating things further!! : )             

Peace Angels,
mike S             

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 14, 2008, 9:11 AM:             

  Mike, I too am very pleased at the level of discourse this has generated, with Marmalade and Alan’s input! You guys all rock!I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into that link about the Japanese, seems particularly relevant this week as I’m in the midst of arrangements for the pre-conference activities in early December with my colleagues in Tokyo and surroundings 🙂  Light and peace,   Nicole   
 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 3:11 PM:             

  Mike, this comment of yours stood out to me.My suggestion that the disorder is “destroying the world” is related to the idea that if you place a conglomeration of Narcissistically disordered personalities in one big room, say the U.S. Congress for instance, with the intent of making decisions beneficial to the world, most likely nothing will get done and thus the world will gradually devolve into some form of self-destruction. Quite a leap, I know, but that’s my general thesis.

Its always a strange experiment when you stick a bunch of similar people together.  The similarities become magnified.  I first noticed this when visitng type forums.  Put the same type in a single forum and you get weird social dynamics.  Its an educational experience because you quickly discover what distinguishes people amidst their similarities.  I wonder what the social dynamics are in a group of narcissists?  I wouldn’t want to be the observer.  It could get ugly.   Marmalade    
 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 2:13 PM:             

  I just thought of something amusing.I learned about FFM through studying MBTI.  FFM is a popular topic on MBTI forums and there has been correlations made between the two systems.  Both models have been researched on their own, but also some research has been done on how well they correlate.  Here is a paper about this:  http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3852/is_/ai_n9213480   FFM Extraversion correlates to MBTI Extraversion
FFM Openness correlates to MBTI Intuition
FFM Agreeableness correlates to MBTI Feeling
FFM Conscientiousness correlates to MBTI Judging    The fifth FFM factor of Neuroticism doesn’t correlate as strongly but does have some correlation to MBTI Introversion.        So, the fun part is if we take the FFM correlation to MBTI (ignoring Neuroticism) and add it to the FFM correlation to Narcissism.  What we get is that the ESTP type correlates to a Narcissistic personality.   The real fun part is looking at the MBTI analysis of politicians.  I’ve looked around at various blogs, articles and forum discussions.  There seems to be a consensus that McCain is an ESTP.          Of course, MBTI focuses on the positive and isn’t designed to understand psychiatric disorders.  But its a fun game to play.  Here is a humorous page about negative descriptions of MBTI types:             

ESTP: The Conman
As an ESTP, you are driven to succeed and to win. Your personality is dominated by your drive to test yourself and to triumph over your fellow man.
This generally expresses itself as an overwhelming urge to prove your self worth (and fatten your wallet) by taking advantage of the suckers, marks, and dupes who surround you–after all, isn’t that what they’re there for? It’s not your fault that their stupidity and gullibility lets them believe you when you say that Hershey’s Kissesses exposed to your patented psychic amplifier rays will let them fly! As your hero and fellow ESTP, P. T. Barnum, once said, “it is morally wrong to let a sucker keep his money.”
As an ESTP, your greatest fear is failure. Under no circumstances will you permit yourself that kind of weakness, which makes you ideally suited for a job at Enron, where your natural talents can be recognized and rewarded.
RECREATION: ESTPs enjoy recreational activities such as card sharking, pool sharking, and conning little old women out of their lives’ savings. They’re often fond of polo as well.          

Famous ESTPs include P. T. Barnum and DR. PETER OKOYE, SON OF THE LATE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA M. B. OKOYE, WHO REQUESTS YOUR URGENT ASSISTANCE IN HELPING TO TRANSFER $150,000,000 (THE SUM OF ONE HUNDRED FIFTY MILLION USD) INTO YOUR U.S. BANK ACCOUNT SO THAT IT MAY BE DISTRIBUTED TO NEEDY CHILDREN, IN GOD’S CHARITY.
 
Marmalade     

        

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 2:46 PM:             

  Related to FFM is the SLOAN model that takes the traits and describes all of the possible combinations.  This makes it more of a typology system like the MBTI.  MBTI ESTP translates into 2 SLOAN types:http://similarminds.com/global5/scuen.html  SCUEN 
(2.9% of women; 3.2% of men) 

not easily hurt, spends more time in group activities than solitary activities, comes alive at parties and in crowds, not very religious, would not want to give up drinking or smoking, not mystical, not big on science fiction, does not care if people think poorly of them, not very introspective, fits in most places, does not like to go days without speaking to people, likes change, trusting, not very intellectual, underachiever, not easily moved to tears, thrill seeker, does not like to compromise, not apologetic, avoids difficult reading material, relaxed most of the time, likes danger, not punctual, impatient, not upset by the misfortunes of strangers, believes in an eye for an eye, not detail oriented, uninterested in the needs of others, avoids responsibilities, not known for generosity, more dominant than submissive, underachiever, likes crowds, aggressive, willing to take risks, not embarrassed easily, not passionate about improving the world, show off, socially comfortable, acts as they please, not bothered by disorder

http://similarminds.com/global5/sluen.html             

SLUEN 
(4.5% of women; 2.1% of men)       

quick tempered, thinks winning is no fun unless people know you have one, does not keep emotions under control, prefers to do things with others, emotional, not very intellectual, prone to envy, comes alive in night life activities and crowds, vain, would not be happy if poor, prefers instant gratification, easily hurt, not very introspective, wants to be famous, seductive, does not readily admit mistakes, more comfortable when things are imperfect, would rather spend than save, feels best when others find them physically attractive, materialistic, finds ordinary tasks draining, wants things done their way, overwhelmed by unpleasant feelings frequently, spontaneous, easily frustrated, impatient, low self confidence, prone to jealousy, misbehaves, improper, acts out frustrations on others, opinionated, non known for generosity, more pleasure seeking than responsible, ambivalent regarding the suffering of others, hard to reason with, does not accept what others say, does not value solitude, unpredictable
 
     

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 15, 2008, 8:26 AM:             

  Thanks, Marmalade, I really enjoyed that link with all the twisted MBTI characters! LOLOL!Thanks too for the SLOAN model, that’s an approach that was new to me. You are a veritable wealth of fascinating information.  Love,   Nicole      
 
     

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 15, 2008, 12:50 PM:             

  Yeah, I love that site.  I wonder if it was written by a disgruntled INFP.  The INFP description is not entirely unflattering.  Its good that the INFP population is kept from outgrowing its niche.There are few things that interest me more than personality.  Its researching personality that got me interested in the world wide web.  Its the web is a veritable wealth of fascinating information.  Marmalade   

            

 
     

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 16, 2008, 9:05 AM:             

  I think it’s quite likely that it was a disgruntled INFP, LOL! I especially enjoyed “The Cult Leader”, as an ENFJ :):)Love,  Nicole   

Politics, Personality, and Character

Politics, Personality, and Character

Posted on Oct 13th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25335299/   

Republican presidential nominee John McCain has spent months positioning himself as the heir to Ronald Reagan’s conservative movement. Recent poll data, however, show that his Democratic opponent perhaps better embodies some of Reagan’s key personality traits.  

http://www.csbsju.edu/uspp/Obama/Obama_Personality-Profile_2007.html

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Sen. Obama’s primary personality patterns were found to be Ambitious/confident and Accommodating/cooperative, with secondary features of the Outgoing/congenial pattern.
The combination of Ambitious, Accommodating, and Outgoing patterns in Obama’s profile suggests a confident conciliator personality composite. Leaders with this personality prototype, though self-assured and ambitious, are characteristically gracious, considerate, and benevolent. They are energetic, charming, and agreeable, with a special knack for settling differences, favoring mediation and compromise over force or coercion as a strategy for resolving conflict. They are driven primarily by a need for achievement and also have strong affiliation needs, but a low need for power.
The major implication of the study is that it offers an empirically based personological framework for anticipating Obama’s likely leadership style as chief executive, thereby providing a basis for inferring the character and tenor of a prospective Obama presidency. 


http://www.csbsju.edu/uspp/Obama/Obama_Jittan_1-4-2008.html

Transformational

Using a standard assessment procedure developed at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, we generated a personality profile for Sen. Obama. The profile reveals that Obama’s most prominent personal attributes are confidence, assertiveness, and congeniality.

In office, the behavior of confident, ambitious leaders like Obama is characteristically shaped by four core qualities: power, pragmatism, ideology, and self-validation. As persons with a strong belief in their talents and leadership ability, power is an important driver for their leadership behavior and they favor pragmatism as a way of ensuring their own success. Because of extraordinary confidence in their own ideas and potential for success, they are strongly motivated by ideology and a desire to transform society. Finally, their high-self-esteem stimulates a corresponding need for affirmation, resulting in a quest for personal validation.


Ambitious, goal directed

Ambitious, confident leaders like Obama are more goal- than process oriented. This implies that their own advancement and success is more important to them than compromise or maintaining good relations with colleagues.

By the same token, they also are more likely to act as advocates for their own policy vision than as consensus builders or arbitrators. However, because of their pragmatic nature, they will act in a cooperative or harmonious manner when they see it as furthering their self-interest.


Charismatic

Obama’s combination of confidence, assertiveness, and congeniality fits the profile of a charismatic leader; he is ambitious, dominant, and outgoing, which enables him to advance a personal vision, inspire followers, and connect with people.

The outgoing pattern in Obama’s personality profile, a quality he shares with presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Sen. John McCain – yet notably absent in Sen. Clinton – may be key to his meteoric rise to prominence and electoral success thus far in the 2008 election cycle. Ironically, in view of President Clinton’s “roll the dice” comment noted above, Obama shares more of Bill Clinton’s charismatic personality traits than any of the top-tier candidates in either party.
He will be a tough candidate to beat. In fact, Obama’s greatest obstacle may not be whether he has the right personal qualities or the requisite experience to lead, but the readiness of America to elect an African-American to the highest office in the nation.


http://www.csbsju.edu/uspp/Obama/Clinton-Obama_London_3-3-2008.html


http://www.csbsju.edu/uspp/McCain/McCain_Sweetman_1-7-2008.html


http://www.csbsju.edu/uspp/McCain/McCain_Personality-Profile_2007.html

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Sen. McCain’s primary personality pattern was found to be Dauntless/dissenting, with secondary features of the Outgoing/gregarious and Dominant/controlling patterns.
The combination of Dauntless and Outgoing patterns in McCain’s profile suggests a risk-taking adventurer personality composite. Leaders with this personality prototype are characteristically bold, fearless, sensation seeking, and driven by a need to prove their mettle.
McCain’s major personality strengths in a leadership role are the important personality-based political skills of independence, persuasiveness, and courage, coupled with a socially responsive, outgoing tendency that can be instrumental in connecting with critical constituencies for mobilizing support and implementing policy initiatives. His major personality-based limitation is a predisposition to impulsiveness, one manifestation of which is a deficit of emotional restraint.


http://www.csbsju.edu/uspp/ExecutiveSummaries/McCain.html

Sen. John McCain’s personality-based leadership strengths include:

  • the important personality-based political skills of independence, persuasiveness, and courage;
  • a socially responsive, outgoing tendency that enables him to connect with people;
  • skills and talents that can be employed to mobilize support and implement his policies; and
  • a dauntless, confident orientation conducive to the cut and thrust of political life and potentially useful in crisis situations.

Sen. John McCain’s personality-based leadership limitations include:

  • impulsiveness and lack of emotional restraint;
  • a tendency to make unguarded, imprudent remarks that may undermine his political capital;
  • a rebellious nature, accompanied by intolerance of delay or frustration and low thresholds for emotional discharge, particularly anger and hostility;
  • a potential for taking unnecessary risks and failing to plan ahead.


http://www.csbsju.edu/uspp/McCain/McCain’s_’histrionic’_personality.html

First and foremost it must be pointed out that, as with all personality patterns, the outgoing pattern occurs on a continuum ranging from normal to maladaptive. At the well-adjusted pole are warm, congenial personalities. Slightly exaggerated outgoing features occur in sociable, gregarious personalities such as Bill Clinton. And in its most deeply ingrained, inflexible form, extraversion manifests itself in impulsive, self-centered, overdramatizing, histrionic behavior patterns that may be consistent with a clinical diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder. In a nutshell, then, this is the essence of the outgoing personality pattern:

  • Characteristic behavior. Outgoing personalities are typically friendly and engaging. In more intense form these personalities are livewire, animated bon vivants. In its most extreme, often maladaptive form, histrionic personalities are flamboyant, self-dramatizing thrill-seekers with a penchant for momentary excitements, fleeting adventures, and shortsighted, hedonistic self-indulgence. As leaders they tend to lack “gravitas” and may be prone to scandal, predisposed to reckless, imprudent behaviors, with a penchant for spur-of-the-moment decisions without carefully considering alternatives.
  • Personal relations. Outgoing personalities are demonstrative, amiable, and display their feelings openly-anger included. In more extreme form, gregarious individuals may be shallow, superficial attention-seekers highly attentive to popular appeal. Finally, the full-blown histrionic is likely to be flirtatious and seductively exhibitionistic, actively manipulating others to solicit praise, approval, or attention. In a political leadership role, these traits translate into a strong need for validation, one manifestation of which may be an overreliance on polls as an instrument of policy formulation.
  • Mindset. Outgoing personalities are not paragons of deep thinking or self-reflection; they typically avoid introspective thought, focusing, instead, on external matters. In its more crystallized form, this personality style is exemplified by a superficial, often “thoughtless” mode. Finally, in their most distilled form, histrionic personalities are poor integrators of experience; they are slow to learn from their mistakes. Politically speaking, this tendency may result in scattered learning, poor judgment, and flawed decision-making.
  • Temperament Temperament refers primarily to activity level and the character and intensity of emotional experience. Outgoing personalities are emotionally expressive, responsive, spirited, and lively. People with more exaggerated variants of the outgoing pattern may be overexcitable and moody, with frequent-though short-lived-emotional displays. In its most maladaptive form, the histrionic personality is impetuous, mercurial, and capricious, being easily enthused and as readily angered or bored. Leaders with this personality pattern are skilled at staying in touch with the mood of the people but also prone-as at least one observer in the Clinton White House has put it-to periodic “purple rages.”
  • Self-image Outgoing personalities are confident in their social abilities, typically viewing themselves as affable and well liked. In stronger doses, extraversion translates into a charming sense of self. In its most distilled form, the histrionic’s self-perception has a hedonistic character, epitomized by a self-indulgent image of attracting acquaintances through pursuit of a busy, pleasure-oriented lifestyle. In politics, outgoing personalities, more than any other character types, are political animals strongly attracted to the lure of campaigning; they thrive on the validation of self offered by adulating crowds and the frenetic, connect-with-people activity on the rope line.
  • Self-regulation. The preferred stress-management strategy of outgoing personalities is to engage in self-distracting, mindless activities, often in the form of games or physical diversions. In maladaptive form, histrionic personalities employ the defense mechanism of dissociation (or so-called “compartmentalization”) to cope with conflict and anxiety. The political implications of dissociation include a leader’s failure to face up to unpleasant, dissonant thoughts, feelings, and actions and facile, complemented by cosmetic image-making as revealed in a succession of socially attractive but changing facades.

I conclude this analysis with the caveat that my initial assessment of John McCain’s personality, based on his autobiography and other materials in the public domain, departs from the analysis of McCain’s naval examiners. In my opinion, the outgoing pattern is of secondary significance in McCain’s overall character structure. Of greater primacy is a dauntless, dissenting personality pattern, which McCain shares with Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura and, to a lesser extent, George W. Bush.

As a parting thought-lest we come too quickly to conclusions concerning John McCain’s character-consider this: With the exception of Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, outgoing candidates have prevailed in every presidential contest since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

http://convention3.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/0/4/5/2/p204527_index.html  
McCain’s primary personality pattern was found to be Dauntless/dissenting, with secondary features of the Outgoing/gregarious and Dominant/controlling patterns. Giuliani’s primary personality pattern was found to be Dominant/aggressive, with secondary features of the Conscientious/dutiful and Ambitious/confident patterns. The combination of Dauntless and Outgoing patterns in McCain’s profile suggests a risk-taking adventurer personality composite. Leaders with this personality prototype are characteristically bold, fearless, sensation seeking, and driven by a need to prove their mettle. The combination of Dominant and Conscientious patterns in Giuliani’s profile suggests an aggressive enforcer personality composite. Leaders with this personality prototype are tough, uncompromising, and believe they have a moral duty to punish and control those who deviate from socially sanctioned norms. McCain’s major personality strengths in a leadership role are the important personality-based political skills of independence, persuasiveness, and courage, coupled with a socially responsive, outgoing tendency that can be instrumental in connecting with critical constituencies for mobilizing support and implementing policy initiatives. His major personality-based limitation is a predisposition to impulsiveness, one manifestation of which is a deficit of emotional restraint.  

http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov04/president.html  

Twenty-seven percent of American voters claim they choose presidential candidates primarily on the basis of the nominee’s character and moral values, according to a poll conducted after the 2000 elections. However, candidates with a solid character–straightforward, dutiful and disciplined–often run into trouble being an effective president, says Steven J. Rubenzer, PhD, a Houston-based clinical psychologist and co-founder of the Foundation for the Study of Personality in History. In fact, a tendency to tell the truth can actually harm a president’s shot at being considered historically “great,” he says.  

—  

Those presidents who received high marks from historians tended to be smart, have ambitious goals and be willing to bend the truth, according to results published in Rubenzer’s new book–co-authored with retired clinical psychologist Tom Faschingbauer, PhD–“Personality, Character & Leadership in the White House: Psychologists Assess the Presidents” (Brassey’s, 2004). And these findings converge with previous research by political psychologists such as Dean Simonton, PhD, at the University of California, Davis, who finds that intelligence, as measured by a combination of personal achievements, analysis of a president’s interests and scores on the personality measure openness to experience, predicts presidential success above all other individual factors.  

—  

“Openness overlaps with intelligence because to some degree you have to be intelligent to appreciate new experiences,” explains Simonton. “People who are low in intelligence, their systems are overwhelmed by the very rich environments that are attractive to people who are open to new experiences.”  


However, the personality factors that increase candidates’ chances for success in office are not necessarily the same as those that help them get elected, psychologists say. For example, intellectual brilliance seems negatively related to a president’s margin of victory, finds Simonton.
“The ones who are the most intellectually brilliant are often barely elected,” he says. “They have trouble speaking in sound bites and communicating with the public.”

While intelligence can make for a good president but a bad candidate, achievement-striving–or the tendency to work toward lofty goals–may benefit presidents both on the campaign trail and while in office.
“Achievement-striving means people have high goals, but more importantly, they work hard to achieve them,” says Rubenzer. “They stay focused; they are kind of workaholics.”

In contrast, research by psychologist David Winter, PhD, at the University of Michigan, finds that achievement motivation, defined as a drive to do things well, may be a hindrance for presidents in office.

“People high in achievement motivation do best when they have large amounts of personal control,” says Winter. “They become frustrated by the bureaucracy of politics.”
Indeed, in Rubenzer’s personality analysis Carter, who historians note as stymied by the checks and balances of the presidency, scored very high on achievement-striving–in the top 1 percent of all former presidents. However, Carter had two fatal personality flaws: a lack of assertiveness and a tendency to be straightforward, notes the psychologist.
“A president has to influence, either by deceit or forcefulness,” says Rubenzer. “When you see those two scores on someone who is otherwise so qualified you think, well, maybe that is the reason.”

http://www.apa.org/releases/presidents.html  

Results of the research indicate that great presidents, besides being stubborn and disagreeable, are more extraverted, open to experience, assertive, achievement striving, excitement seeking and more open to fantasy, aesthetics, feelings, actions, ideas and values. Historically great presidents were low on straightforwardness, vulnerability and order.  

—  

It may come as no surprise that the research shows that most modern presidents are clearly extraverts. However, the data indicates that the early presidents scored below average on this factor. Does that mean that presidents are becoming more extraverted, or that the entire population has become more extraverted? The researchers say their data can’t answer that question, but “given the increasing role of the media in presidential elections, the more plausible explanation is that the change is limited to the presidents and not the general population.”    

http://www.personalitiesinhistory.com/Presidency_Project.asp  

Presidential traits described in 'The Personality and the Presidency Project' The ability to lie and deceive is an important quality for success in the White House, and presidents who are less straightforward typically make better presidents.
Presidential traits described in 'The Personality and the Presidency Project' Despite his recent popularity and reputation for integrity, John Adams’s personality closely resembled Richard Nixon’s.
Presidential traits described in 'The Personality and the Presidency Project' Presidents are much more Extraverted today than in the past and less intellectually curious than in the past. They may also be lower in character.
Presidential traits described in 'The Personality and the Presidency Project' Jimmy Carter is the only modern president that much resembles Founding Fathers Jefferson and Madison and the greatest president of the 19th century, Abe Lincoln. Eisenhower is the only modern president much like Washington.
Presidential traits described in 'The Personality and the Presidency Project' Franklin Roosevelt seems to be the template for modern presidents, with recent presidents showing high (Kennedy, Clinton) or moderate (LBJ) similarity to him. Reagan resembled his as well.
Presidential traits described in 'The Personality and the Presidency Project' Modern Democratic presidents tend to be very Extraverted, achievement-oriented, ebullient, and sympathetic to the poor, but are willing to deceive and relatively unprincipled.
Presidential traits described in 'The Personality and the Presidency Project' Modern Republican presidents tend to be less sympathetic to the less fortunate and much more inclined to rely on traditional sources of moral authority than average Americans.
Presidential traits described in 'The Personality and the Presidency Project' George W. Bush appears to have fewer traits related to presidential success than most presidents. He most resembles Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan.

 
http://www.personalitiesinhistory.com/Types_of_Presidents.asp  

Types of Presidents


© Steve Rubenzer, 2004
DominatorsThe Dominators include LBJ, Nixon, Andrew Johnson, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, Teddy Roosevelt, and Chester Arthur (in order of inclusion).

They are prone to bully others and to disregard the feelings and rights of those not on their side. They are bossy, demanding, and domineering; they flatter or manipulate people to get their way. They bend or break rules, and as presidents, stretch the constraints of constitutional government. They are not religious or spiritual, and tend to be prejudiced.

IntrovertsJohn Adams, John Quincy Adams, Richard Nixon, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson, and Benjamin Harrison.

Introverted presidents are psychologically minded, complex, deep men. They are not regarded as warm and friendly, and have difficulty controlling social situations. They prefer to work alone and avoid close relationships. Often jittery or tense, they are not happy and high-spirited; they tend to feel irritable, overwhelmed by stress, and to overreact.


© Steve Rubenzer, 2004

© Steve Rubenzer, 2004
Good GuysHayes, Taylor, Eisenhower, Tyler, Fillmore, Cleveland, Ford, and Washington.

Good Guys almost never feel themselves to be worthless, are rarely jittery or tense, and don’t feel overwhelmed by stress. They make good decisions even under adversity. They have a hard time lying, aren’t crafty or sly, and don’t trick, bully or flatter people to get their way. They don’t spend much time fantasizing and daydreaming but don’t deny problems.

InnocentsTaft, Harding, and Grant

Innocents are submissive and accept domination easily, and are “gullible, naive, suggestible.” Not autonomous, independent or individualistic, they sometimes don’t assert themselves when they should. Compared to other presidents (who are an industrious lot), they have trouble getting motivated and down to work, and are lethargic, sluggish, lazy, and slothful.


© Steve Rubenzer, 2004

© Steve Rubenzer, 2004
The ActorsThe Actors group includes Ronald Reagan, Warren Harding, William Henry Harrison, Bill Clinton, and Franklin Pierce

Compared to other presidents, Actors are gullible, naive, and suggestible, warm and self-disclosing; they allow their feelings to show on their faces and in their posture. They are not meticulous, perfectionistic, or precise; they tend to waste time before getting to work, and tolerate unethical behavior in colleagues. Actors are enthusiastic, spirited, vivacious, zestful, charismatic, and charming.

Maintainers This group contains William McKinley, George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, and Harry Truman

Maintainers stay focused on the job, work slowly but steadily, and are “industrious, persistent, tenacious, thorough.” They are “uncreative, unimaginative,” and do not indulge in elaborate daydreams and fantasies. They are conforming and conventional, not rebellious.


© Steve Rubenzer, 2004

© Steve Rubenzer, 2004
PhilosophesJames Garfield, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Jimmy Carter, and Rutherford Hayes.

Compared to other presidents, Philosophes are curious and inquisitive, interested in science, and fascinated by patterns in nature and art. They are concerned with philosophical issues (e.g., religion, the meaning of life), have many interests, and enjoy solving brain-twister puzzles. They see themselves as broad-minded and believe that students should be exposed to new ideas and controversial speakers.

Despite being analytical, logical, and good at math, they value art and beauty and are attentive to the moods of different settings. They are also “nice” people: They believe that everyone is deserving of respect and prefer complimenting others to being praised themselves.
ExtravertsFDR and Kennedy form the kernel of this cluster, and are followed by Bill Clinton, Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, William Harrison, Warren Harding, Andrew Jackson, and LBJ.

Extraverted presidents are enthusiastic, spirited, vivacious, and zestful; they call attention to themselves. They are “impetuous, uninhibited, unrestrained,” are not consistent, predictable, or steady. They indulge their impulses and show their feelings through their faces and body language. They have a flair for the dramatic but are not dependable and responsible. They don’t take pride in being rational or objective.


© Steve Rubenzer, 2004

http://www.personalitiesinhistory.com/2004_Elections.asp
        
http://www.personalitiesinhistory.com/Predicting_Success.asp   

What is the Right Stuff to be a Successful President?
Using our data, Professor Deniz Ones of the University of Minnesota identified the following personality factors as predictors of presidential success:


Rated Intelligence
– Intelligence is related to success in almost any complicated job, from CEO to NFL quarterback. Although we did not have intelligence test scores, we did ask our raters how intelligent, inventive, insightful, complex, and wise they perceived the various presidents to be. Those that received high ratings, like Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Wilson, performed better than those who are rated as less gifted, like Harding.


Assertiveness
, or dominance, is the capacity to influence through one’s presence and ideas. It is the single most important trait to presidential success. Presidents are an assertive group, and on the average score higher than eight of ten typical Americans. Better presidents like the Roosevelts, Wilson, and Jackson score higher than average chief executives. Truman was the only successful president who was less assertive than his peers. Low scorers include Harding, Taft, and Coolidge.


Positive Emotions
– A president’s optimism and enthusiasm are important for performance on the job, but also for getting elected. Enthusiastic and high spirited presidents like the Roosevelts, Clinton, and Kennedy are typically more successful; low scorers are reserved and serious, like J. Q. Adams, Hoover, and Nixon. Washington was the only truly successful low scorer on this scale.


Activity Level
– Highly energetic chief executives like TR, LBJ, and Carter tend to be rated higher on this scale by historians than more placid characters like Grant, Taft, and Coolidge.


Achievement striving
(having high goals and working towards them in a systematic and focused manner) is an obvious asset and is related to success in most all walks of life apart from the arts. Two of the lowest scorers, Grant and Harding, are widely regarded as presidential failures. High scorers include a number of undisputed “greats” like Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, and Washington, but also more ambiguous performers such as Carter, Nixon, and LBJ.


Low Straightforwardness
– Historians tell us that a president’s credibility is essential to the ability to lead. Yet, the tendency and ability to deceive is correlated with historians’ ratings of presidential success. Great presidents, such as Lincoln and FDR, have tended to bend the truth more than a little. Both managed to be both a moral leader and an artful politician. Grant and Fillmore were more honest, but also less effective.


Tender-Mindedness
(concern for the less fortunate) predicts both presidential success and ethical behavior on the job. FDR and Lincoln scored high on this quality, while Buchanan and Nixon scored low.


Competence
– High scorers on this scale seek appropriate information when faced with a decision, have good judgment, and are broadly capable – like Washington and Eisenhower. Low scores include the lowest ranked presidents Harding and Grant, but also the impetuous and successful Andrew Jackson.


Low Vulnerability
– Presidents who feel unnerved by stress and unable to cope with problems on their own (score high on Vulnerability) are likely to be given low marks by historians. Emotionally hardy presidents, like Washington and Teddy Roosevelt, tend to do better than more Vulnerable chief executives, like Harding and the Adams’s.
These are the only traits that have been empirically shown to have a distinct and unique relation to presidential success. “Character” was unrelated to historians’ rating of presidential greatness.
  http://www.andycrown.net/presidential_personality.htm   
Presidential Personality

 

Dimensions of personality according to James David Barber in The Pulse of Politics (New York: W.W. Norton, 1980).
1) Activity or Passivity

How much energy does a president invest in his presidency?
2) Positiveness or Negativeness toward the job of president

Does the president enjoy his job?  Does he enjoy exercising power?  Does the job make him sad or discouraged?
*These dimensions are closely related to dimensions of dominance/submissiveness, extroversion/introversion, and optimism/pessimism.
Types of Personality
1. Active positive

A president who spends a lot of energy and enjoys his job.  This type of president tends to have high self-esteem.  He tends to be productive in pushing programs through.  He is flexible enough to try something else when his plans are stymied.  He wants results.

FDR, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, George Bush (The first Bush presidency)
2. Active negative

A president who spends a lot of energy but does not enjoy his job.  This type tends to have low self-esteem.  Expands his energy compulsively to compensate for some shortcoming or to prove to others that he is a person to be reckoned with,  Seeks and tries to retain power.  Is rigid when stymied.  He wants to get and keep power.

Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson
3. Passive positive

A president who does not spend much energy but nevertheless likes the job.  Tends to have low self-esteem and compensates for this by seeking affection instead of power.  He does this by being agreeable and cooperative rather than assertive.  He wants affection.

William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Ronald Reagan
4. Passive negative

A president who does not spend much energy and does not like the job.  He becomes president because he thinks he should, out of a sense of service to the country.  He wants the grim satisfaction of doing his duty.

Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon


http://www.politicaltypes.com/content/view/24/56/
  

NTPs tend towards independent more than towards either party but tend towards Republican slightly more than Democrat.
STJs tend towards Republican more than Democrat but tend towards Democrat more than independent.
ENFs tend to be equally distributed between Republican and Democrat.  

ISTJ
Dem  
30%
Rep  
42%
Ind  
28%
ISFJ
Dem  
34%
Rep  
36%
Ind  
30%
INFJ
Dem  
49%
Rep  
22%
Ind  
29%
INTJ
Dem  
19%
Rep  
40%
Ind  
41%
ISTP
Dem  
28%
Rep  
38%
Ind  
34%
ISFP
Dem  
33%
Rep  
26%
Ind  
41%
INFP
Dem  
38%
Rep  
22%
Ind  
40%
INTP
Dem  
17%
Rep  
34%
Ind  
49%
ESTP
Dem  
27%
Rep  
35%
Ind  
37%
ESFP
Dem  
39%
Rep  
31%
Ind  
31%
ENFP
Dem  
34%
Rep  
31%
Ind  
34%
ENTP
Dem  
26%
Rep  
28%
Ind  
45%
ESTJ
Dem  
32%
Rep  
46%
Ind  
22%
ESFJ
Dem  
33%
Rep  
37%
Ind  
30%
ENFJ
Dem  
35%
Rep  
35%
Ind  
30%
ENTJ
Dem  
26%
Rep  
40%
Ind  
34%

 
http://www.thembtiblog.com/2008/10/mbti-preferences-of-republicans-and.html  

Republicans preferred INTJ, ENTJ, ESTJ, and ISTJ (the executive types). The ESTJs are more than twice as likely as the INFPs and INFJs to be Republicans.

Democrats were typically NF or INFJ. In fact, those people with a preference for Feeling are more likely than other types to identify themselves as Democrats.

Independents preferred NTP.  

http://www.personalityzone.com/user/KipParent/view/blog/politics-genes-and-temperament.html

  • Artisans are about 10% more likely to be registered as Democrats than as Republicans or Independents. They are the least likely to actually vote in an election.
  • Guardians are about 10% more likely to identify themselves as Republicans than as Democrats, and are the least likely of the temperaments to be Independents or apolitical. They are also the most likely to vote.
  • Idealists are 17% more likely to be Democrats than Independents, and 34% more likely Democrats than Republicans.
  • Rationals are the most likely to identify themselves as Independents or apolitical. For those that are party members, they are 45% more likely to be Democrats than Republicans.
Raw results:
Apolitical Dem Rep Lib Ind Green Likely to vote
Artisans 9.6% 28.2% 25.4% 5.9% 24.1% 6.9% 47.5%
Guardians 9.1% 29.6% 32.5% 3.4% 21.4% 4.1% 60.0%
Idealists 12.6% 28.3% 21.2% 6.2% 24.7% 7.1% 56.4%
Rationals 13.8% 25.6% 17.5% 7.9% 28.0% 7.2% 58.4%

    
http://www.personalitypage.com/political_affil.html  

Percentages of political affiliation amongst types.  

http://209.85.173.104/search?q=cache:X1nCcq-HLaEJ:www.aptinternational.org/assets/jptvol67_0307_apti.pdf+republican+democrat+%22mbti%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=us  

“SJs were overrepresented in persons reporting very conservative political views, and Ns were overrepresented in persons reporting very liberal political views (ENTJs excepted).”  

FFM Openness to experience factor correlates to Intuition.  

Type is correlated with party affiliation but not party registration.
STJ – Conservative   
NFP – Liberal  Inuitives show more interest in politics.
Introversion (and Sensation) correlated to a sense of political alienation.
Thinking correlated with being for the death penalty.
Perceiving correlated with being pro-choice about abortion.  

http://www.mypersonality.info/personality-types/famous-people/  

  Protectors (SJ)

ESTJOverseer ESFJSupporter ISTJExaminer ISFJDefender
Lyndon B. Johnson William McKinley George Washington
James Monroe Andrew Johnson
Andrew Jackson Benjamin Harrison
William Henry Harrison Herbert Hoover
Grover Cleveland George H. W. Bush
George W. Bush Harry Truman

  Creators (SP)

ESTPPersuader ESFPEntertainer ISTPCraftsman ISFPArtist
James Buchanan Ronald Reagan Zachary Taylor Millard Fillmore
Bill Clinton Ulysses S. Grant

  Intellectuals (NT)

ENTJChief ENTPOriginator INTJStrategist INTPEngineer
Franklin D. Roosevelt John Adams Dwight D. Eisenhower Abraham Lincoln
Richard Nixon James A. Garfield Thomas Jefferson James Madison
Rutherford B. Hayes Woodrow Wilson John Quincy Adams
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Chester A. Arthur John Tyler
Calvin Coolidge Gerald Ford
James K. Polk

  Visionaries (NF)

ENFJMentor ENFPAdvocate INFJConfidant INFPDreamer
Martin Van Buren

 
http://www.keirsey.com/picking_president_temperament.aspx     

Elections Since 1960
Year Winner Temperament Loser Temperament
1960 Kennedy Artisan Promoter Nixon Guardian
1964 Johnson Artisan Promoter Goldwater Rational
1968 Nixon Guardian Supervisor Humphrey Idealist
1972 Nixon Guardian Supervisor McGovern Guardian
1976 Carter Guardian Supervisor Ford Guardian
1980 Reagan Artisan Performer Carter Guardian
1984 Reagan Artisan Performer Mondale Guardian
1988 Bush-41 Guardian Protector Dukakis Guardian
1992 Clinton Artisan Performer Bush-41 Guardian
1996 Clinton Artisan Performer Dole Guardian
2000 Bush-43 Artisan Promoter Gore Rational
2004 Bush-43 Artisan Promoter Kerry Idealist

 
http://www.personalityzone.com/user/KipParent/view/blog/rating-the-candidates-4-personality-as-the-differe.html  

John McCain is the Republican Party’s secret weapon in this election, should they decide to nominate the most electable (of the 4 I’ve looked at so far, that is) of their candidates.  Why is McCain the most electable, even though he is languishing well behind the front-runners in most primary polls?
Simple.  McCain is the only Artisan in the bunch.  Of the major Republican candidates, McCain has been the most straight forward to figure.  You get what you see – he really doesn’t seem to have any hidden agenda.  Like most STP Artisans (think Donald Trump or General George Patton), he is a man “in the moment”, not prone to introspection or giving careful thought before reacting to circumstances.

While McCain’s Artisan traits have not endeared him to the largely Guardian Republican base who decide the the primaries, they make him a winner with the independents who actually decide the November election. Remember, these voters are not strongly focused on issues, but on how much they “like” the candidate.  In fact, in both personalityZone’s surveys and CNN’s head-to-head polls, McCain is consistently the strongest of the Republican candidates against each of the Democratic front runners.  More than 100 years of consistent voter behavior in choosing Artisans in the November elections is still true today.


http://www.personalityzone.com/user/KipParent/view/blog/rating-the-candidates-7-personality-as-the-differe.html
  

Like Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, Obama is a Rational, most likely an INTJ Mastermind.  This comes through in his communication style – he has an exceptional ability to paint a vision, to communicate abstract pictures of the future that make sense to people, and his utilitarian approach to action –  looking for what “works” rather than “what’s been done before” or “what is ‘right'”.  

—  

While he is not an Artisan, his ability to connect with people is almost as strong, giving him the best ability outside the true Artisan candidates for garnering the uncommitted voters needed to win in November. 

http://www.slate.com/id/2184696/pagenum/all/#page_start  

Hillary Clinton – ESTJ
Barack Obama – ENFP
John McCain – ESTP  

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MWVmZWRkZDhiZTk3ZTBiNTZlZmFlNTc5NjdkZmYyZTE=   

Obama’s mistake is that he confuses being phlegmatic with being presidential. Hippocrates, the father of medical science, devised a system of grading personalities in the fifth-century B.C. that has never been more relevant. He described those with phlegmatic temperaments as harmonious, calm, easygoing, and diplomatic – precisely the traits that the current campaign coverage suggests we should want in any occupant of the Oval Office.

McCain, by contrast, is what Hippocrates would call choleric. Cholerics are passionate, decisive, opinionated, stubborn, and driven. To paraphrase one notable choleric, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (largely regarded as a great president), there is nothing cholerics love so much as a good fight. McCain’s temperament is, in part, what enabled him to survive imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Viet Cong.

Liberals will fret that the impulsive, passionate McCain has a temperament ill-suited for a president, yet it is those defining characteristics of the choleric – zeal, decisiveness, perseverance, a certainty of opinion on fundamental matters of right and wrong and on our core national values – that make McCain the better choice for the office. Not to lose one’s temper in the face of evil is actually dysfunctional and in certain cases downright dangerous. The real question is, then, not whether McCain has a temper (he most certainly does), but why Obama doesn’t and whether that matters.

Well, it does matter. The affable Obama is less-suited for the office because of his tendency to equanimity. The inclination to avoid confrontation and seek consensus, though admirable, are not the principal traits we should want in the person on whose desk the buck stops. The desire for everyone to get along too often leads to acquiescence and compromise, and a failure to do what is necessary in time of crisis (think of the indecisive Jimmy Carter and his mishandling of the Iran hostage crisis). That is not to say that dispassion and diplomacy have no place. They do, but you probably want them in a secretary of State, not the denizen of the Oval Office.  

——————————————————————————————————————-

Enneagram types of candidates.  

http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/FORUM/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=21386  

http://64.233.169.104/search?q=cache:6lyeJeCJ2J0J:blackfirewhitefire.blogspot.com/2008/09/enneagram-and-politicians.html+obama+mccain+enneagram&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=4&gl=us  

http://everydayenneagramblog.blogspot.com/2008/08/enneagram-personlity-types-of.html  

http://ptypes.disqus.com/ptypes_barack_obamas_enneagram_type_the_peacemaker_9w1/  
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Narcissism  

http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/narcissism.htm  

http://www.canada.com/saskatoonstarphoenix/story.html?id=0318e3e7-4f42-429c-861a-545b330a7960  

http://www.maccoby.com/Articles/NarLeaders.shtml   

http://pods.gaia.com/is_there_a_god/discussions/view/350021#350021

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Political Leadership for the New Century
By Linda O. Valenty, Ofer Feldman

http://books.google.com/books?id=MGXpQDNrPsgC&pg=PA85&lpg=PA85&dq=%22Millon+Inventory+of+Diagnostic+Criteria%22+MIDC&source=web&ots=1ow5LMK–E&sig=Xhz8ft1D77f0bdt_z1UwL2EFluQ&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPR1,M1 

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Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 12 hours later

Marmalade said

By the way, I should mention that besides a few summarizing notes the writing in this blog comes from the links.  I merely pulled out the relevant excerpts and put them in order to create a more complex picture of different ways personality can be used to view politics.  Gathering all of this together took me about a week or so.  That is all the motivation I had for this project.  Given anothe week I could’ve summarized it in my own words, but that didn’t seem necessary. 

I don’t have a whole lot of personal opinion about the matter.  I decided to do this blog because it interests me and I thought it would be a good alternative viewpoint to all the mindless media diatribe.  I’m not a big fan of politics, but I am very curious about how psychological and sociological dynamics play out on the largescale.

There is one fundamental distinction that I’d particularly like to point out.  McCain has a preference for the Sensation function.  Obama has a preference for the Intuition function.  Those two functions represent the clearest division between Republicans and Democrats.

On the other hand, the Republicans and Democrats have respectively been called the Daddy and Mommy parties.  This is reminiscent of gender differences in the Judging functions (Thinking and Feeling)… and also the gender differences in Hartmann’s boundary types.  I’ve heard that traditionally Westerners have based their ethics on the Judging functions.  The fact that the Perceiving functions have become a greater focus might represent a shift in our culture.

On a personal note, I’m an INFP and my parents are both TJs.  NFPs are some of the most liberal of the types and TJs tend toward the conservative.  True to our personalities, my parents and I follow the pattern.  It makes me wonder about the real reasons for why we believe what we do.

An interesting complexity is the fact that personality correlates to party affiliation but not to party registration.  So, its possible that conformity to social standards of family and community may play a stronger role than does personality.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 13 hours later

Marmalade said

McCain is an interesting case.  After his POW experience, he was involved with psychological testing.  I read that he might be one of the most well-researched politicians because of this.  Most politicians try to hide that kind of information.

I think all presidents should be given psychological (and intelligence) testing.  And I think that such testing should be made a public part of the campaign process.  Ultimately, we are electing a person and I think its only fair we actually know who we are electing.  Psychological testing is predictive of behavior and so it would be helpful in determining what politicians will do versus what they say they’ll do.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

about 24 hours later

1Vector3 said

Wow. Everything we never knew we wanted to know !!!!!

This definitely goes beyond media prattle, and thank you for that !!!!

I think any one perspective oversimplifies, as per the choleric vs phlegmatic argument for McCain over Obama. As if values and perspectives and past actions weren’t important.

I guess I am a one-issue voter: Who will do the least damage to my freedom and the freedom of others? !!! For that, I rely less on personality and character than past record and stated values and proposed actions.

In the present case, it’s clear to me who is the lesser of the two weevils (Obama, but not by a whole lot lot.) That’s about the best the current society has to offer. At least so it appears on the surface. Perhaps there is actually more choice than that between the two, in favor of Obama. We shall see.

I don’t think politics is the level on which a society changes, so like you (but perhaps for different reasons) I have a very limited span of interest in political matters. Borrrrrrrring.

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

I don’t know if that was everything we never knew we wanted to know, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.  I didn’t intend to blog about this exactly.  I just was thinking about personality types in the context the ongoing campaign.  After I’d come across a bunch of info I figured I might as well share.  I was already somewhat familiar with some of this personality info.  Lots of interesting info.

Yes, politics can get quite boring when overexposed to the media talking heads and idiotic campaign ads.  More enjoyable are some of the political satire.  Have you watched any of the Saturday Night Live debate parodies?  The Onion also has some hilarious parodies about the campaigning.  Maybe that’d would make a better blog than any of this.  🙂

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

I’m pissed off!  I just wrote this page long response and my computer turned off right when I was about finished.  Why does a computer always mess up only after you’ve almost completed whatever you’re doing?

Basically, what I was writing about is what orignally motivated me to write this blog.  Obama appears young and vibrant, charismatic and confident.  McCain appears the complete opposite.  He seems like a griping old man.  This campaign hasn’t brought out the best in McCain and Palin hasn’t lived up to the hopes people had in her improving McCain’s image.

Some months ago, I came up with a hypothesis.  Whichever candidate has the best presence is the one who will be elected.  Issues are important but they aren’t what gets a candiate eected, but certainly the economy is helping Obama.  Obama has both personality and the issues working in his favor.  This is why McCain has gone on the attack which is just making his poll numbers go down, but McCain has no other choice (besides simply giving up).

If personality wasn’t an issue, then it would be a fair fight between Obama and McCain.  I don’t know to what degree I would like an Obama presidency, but it would be nice to have a president who actually acts presidential.  McCain, on the other hand, is essentially no different than Bush except he has doesn’t have the easygoing friendliness and joking nature… which is the only good thing Bush has going for him.

By the way, I’m not necessarily for Obama.  But I’m definitely not for McCain.  My assessment of these two candidates isn’t as a voter.  I’m probably more likely to vote for a third party if I vote at all.  I strongly dislike the two party system.  My assessment is simply a matter of personality.  It isn’t about the best man winning but rather about the man with the best image.

Marina Warner on Rilke

Marina Warner on Rilke

Posted on May 20th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

“Every Angel is terrible.”
Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke

Phantasmagoria
By Marina  Warner

Pages 54-55:
In an essay about playing with dolls, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke describes the way imagination stirs to fill a void, to stop the love for a doll expiring on the blank slate of its response.  Rilke often throws an oblique light on Freud, as if engaged in a distant conversation with him (as in the case of his poems on Narcissus), and he also illuminates the uncanny when he describes the power of make-believe in children.  He writes:

“I know, I know it was necessary for us to have things of this kind, which acquiesced in everything.  The simplest love relationships were quite beyond our comprehension, we could not possibly have lived and had dealings with a person who was something; at most, we could only have entered into such a person and have lost ourselves there.  With the doll we were forced to assert ourselves, for, had we surrendered ourselves to it, there would then have been no one there at all…. it was so abysmally devoid of phantasy, that our imagination became inexaustible in dealing with it.”

(The Rilke quote is from ‘Some Reflections on Dolls—Occasioned by the Wax Dolls of Lotte Pritzel’, in Rodin and Other Pieces)

Page 170:
Sigmund Freud produced his controversial 1914 paper on the psycholgy of narcissism the year after Rainer Maria rilke wrote two of his many intense Narcissus poems.  The poet caught at Ovid’s underlying aesthetic concerns, and identified himself with the doomed lover in several highly wrought meditaitons on love, autononmy, self-annihalation, and creativity.  In one tight eight-line lyric of 1913 Rilke passionately describes Narcissus’ beauty, and his absorption and final disappaearance into the mirror of himself; in another, longer poem, his Narcissus imagines loving another or being loved by another, but rejects the possibility as damaging to the perfect unity of his twinned being for the making of beauty.  ‘On Narcissism’, Freud’s paper, ostensibly counters the views of his former colleague and friend C. G. Jung,  but it does seem to be replying, without aknowledgment, to Rilke’s poetic manifesto, Freud laying out his damaging argument that both the ego and the libido are deeply entangled from infancy in self-love(primary narcissism); and prescribing that this energy be healthily cathected towards another object, most often a lover and, especially in the case of women, a child.  The paper, and the concept of narcissism which it has defined and spread, have eclipsed some of the threads in Ovid’s fascinating originary story about the recognition and the self.  Before Freud’s essay placed the myth in the field of perverse sexuality, the motive of the imperilling mirror occurred widely, principally in tales defining primitves, saves: the instrument of revelation, a glass, could capture and subdue wild things and bring them within the compass of civility—usually disempowered.

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Nicole : wakingdreamer

8 minutes later

Nicole said

wow! how do you find this stuff, master of the search engine. i am fascinated…

Rilke was deeply conflicted in some ways, very wounded wrt childhood issues. His mother wanted him to be a girl and clothed him in dresses until a ridiculous age. His father was harsh and insisted on military school, completely inappropriate for such a sensitive and poetic boy.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

28 minutes later

Marmalade said

I own this book and I noticed the author mentioned Rilke twice(the two quotes above).  Since, I wanted to start a conversation with you about Rilke, this seemed like a nice place to start.  I wish I had found it in a search engine, but instead I typed it out.

What you said does me give more insight to Rilke.  I’d like to hear more about him if you’d like to share.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 3 hours later

Nicole said

here’s a brief biography

Writer and poet, Rilke was considered one of the greatest lyric poets of modern Germany. He created the “object poem” as an attempt to describe with utmost clarity physical objects, the “silence of their concentrated reality.” He became famous with such works as Duineser Elegien and Die Sonette an Orpheus . They both appeared in 1923. After these books, Rilke had published his major works, believing that he had done his best as a writer.

Rainer Maria Rilke was born in Prague as the son of Josef Rilke, a railway official and the former Sophie Entz. A crucial fact in Rilke’s life was that his mother called him Sophia. She forced him to wear girl’s clothes until he was aged five – thus compensating for the earlier loss of a baby daughter. Rilke’s parents separated when he was nine. His militarily inclined Father sent him at ten yesrs old to the military academies of St. Pölten and Mahrisch-Weisskirchenn. At the military academy Rilke did not enjoy his stay, and was sent to a business school in Linz. He also worked in his uncle’s law firm. Rilke continued his studies at the universities of Prague, Munich, and Berlin.

As a poet Rilke made his debut at the age of nineteen with Leben und Lieder (1894), written in the conventional style of Heinrich Heine. In Munich he met the Russian intellectual Lou Andreas-Salome, an older woman, who influenced him deeply. In Florence, where he spent some months in 1898, Rilke wrote: “… I felt at first so confused that I could scarcely separate my impressions, and thought I was drowning in the breaking waves of some foreign splendor.”

With Lou Andreas-Salome and her husband Rilke travelled in Russia in 1899, visiting among others Leo Tolstoy . Rilke was deeply impressed by what he learned of Russian mysticism. During this period he started to write The Book of Hours: The Book of Monastic Life , which appeared in 1905. He spent some time in Italy, Sweden, and Denmark, and joined an artists’ colony at Worpswede in 1903. In his letters to a young would-be poet, which he wrote from 1903 to 1908, Rilke explained, that “nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write.” (in Letters to a Young Poet, 1929 )

In 1901 Rilke married the young sculptress, Klara Westhoff, one of Auguste Rodin’s pupils. They had a daughter, Ruth, but marriage lasted only one year. During this period Rilke composed in rhymed, metered verse, the second part of The Book of Hours . The work expressed his spiritual yearning. After Rilke had separated from Klara, he settled in Paris to write a book about Rodin and to work for his secretary (1905-06).

In the Spring of 1906 the overworked poet left Rodin abruptly. Rilke revised Das Buch der Bilder and published it in an enlarged edition. He also wrote The Tale of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke , which became a great popular success. During his Paris years Rilke developed a new style of lyrical poetry. After Neue Gedighte (1907-08, New Poems) he wrote a notebook named Die Aufzechnungen des Malte Laurdis Brigge (1910), his most important prose work. It took the form of a series of semiautobiographical spiritual confessions but written by a Danish expatriate in Paris.

Rilke kept silent as a poet for twelve years before writing Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus , which are concerned with “the identity of terror and bliss” and “the oneness of life and death”. Duino Elegies was born in two bursts of inspiration separated by ten years. According to a story, Rilke heard in the wind the first lines of his elegies when he was walking on the rocks above the sea – “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies?”

Rilke visited his friend Princess Marie von Thurnun Taxis in 1910 at Duino, her remote castle on the coast of the Adriatic, and returned again next year. There he started to compose the poems, but the work did not proceed easily. After serving in the army, Rilke was afraid that he would never be able to finish it but finally in 1922 he completed Duineser Elegien (Duino Elegies) in a chateau in Muzot, Switzerland. He also wrote an addition, the Sonnets to Orpheus , which was a memorial for the young daughter of a friend. In the philosophical poems Rilke meditated on time and eternity, life and death, art versus ordinary things. The tone was melancholic. Rilke believed in the coexistence of the material and spiritual realms, but human beings were for him only spectators of life, grasping its beauties momentarily only to lose them again. With the power of creativity an artist can try to build a bridge between two worlds, although the task is almost too great for a man. The work influenced deeply such poets as Sidney Keyes, Stephen Spender, Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin, John Ashbery, and W.H. Auden, who had Rilkean angels appear in the collection In Times of War (1939).

In 1913 Rilke returned to Paris, but he was forced to return to Germany because of the First World War. Duino Castle was bombarded to ruins and Rilke’s personal property was confiscated in France. He served in the Austrian army and found another patron, Werner Reinhart, who owned the Castle Muzot at Valais. After 1919 he lived in Switzerland, occupied by his work and roses in his little garden. For time to time he went to Paris for a few months or to Italy. Rilke’s companion during his last years was the artist Baladine (Elisabeth Dorothea Spiro), whose son, Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski), become also an artist. Rilke wrote a foreword to a book illustrated by Balthus’s drawings of cats. Rilke died on December 29, in 1926.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 7 hours later

Marmalade said

Thanks Nicole!

Reading that bio makes me particularly curious to read Duino Elegies.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 10 hours later

Nicole said

I’d like to know what you think, Ben. I find it really helpful to have this background in mind when reading his poetry, especially his central work… especially when he talks about love, or mothers… I think I blogged all or most of the Elegies, but anyway I’m sure you have found online the link to read them all, you’re so good with that.