I Knew They Were Nuts

Monday, November 21, 2005
ShrinkWrapped has begun a new series with the easy to remember title of "Narcissism, Disintegration, Suicidality & the Fall of the West" which continues the investigation of the "root causes" of the self destructive thought and behavior exhibited by those sitting in the reserved seat section of life's short bus.

As usual, ShrinkWrapped is exhaustive in his analysis without ever being exhausting to the reader.


David Thomson notes:
On a similar note, Melanie Phillips links to the Ha’aretz interview with the noted French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut:

"‘But there's something in France - a kind of denial whose origin lies in the bobo, in the sociologists and social workers - and no one dares say anything else. This struggle is lost. I've been left behind.’"


Buddy Larsen said...

Good selection, Rick. In many ways, this is the topic which contains all others. As in, failure to cope with it in the years to come will simply make everything else moot.

Syl said...

I think this goes a bit too far, really. I mean, wouldn't the Islamists say the exact same thing about the West?

I don't have the credentials to analyze in psychological terms, but I think the West has only fallen prey to naivete and we've taken our freedoms for granted for so long that we don't yet see the need to defend them with force.

I also think it would be fair to say that the whole idea of multi-culturalism wasn't the West's invention (a certain Islamist named Said comes to mind) but it was accepted because it fit into a certain naive ideal about humanity.

The capitalist West, on the other hand, understands the nature of man. And that is why America is taking the lead in fighting this battle. Australia gets it as well.

terrye said...

Not long ago I read Perre Boulle"s Planet of of the Apes.

I thought it very strange, because the humans do not fight back.

A kind of lethargy seems to overcome them.

For some reason this seemed very French to me.

Syl said...

For some reason this seemed very French to me

I'm just coming to the realization myself that being too complacent and distracted by little things keeps one from gathering enough energy to fight the big things. Enough energy to even realize there are big things.

This has probably been true throughout history. Some gather their energy faster than others. Those who never do don't stand a chance.

truepeers said...

Thanks David T., I really like that Finkielkraut interview. His notion of this rioting being fundamentally anti-Republican strikes me as just right. It is anti-Republican because it is rooted in a hatred of those confident westerners who have gone first in various political, cultural, and scientific endeavors, leading the brothers and sisters of humanity in the name of glorious France, instead of deferring to more democratic, more strictly egalitarian, sensibilities. The Republic relies on someone breaking ranks and going first; the utopias the anti-Republicans desire are simply dreams of some steady-state equality. So, as Finkielkraut notes, many French Muslims and their liberal sympathizers are destroying the educational standards and hierarchies of the country in a fit, attempting to serve the downtrodden from the colonies in overcoming the history of white-led crimes and injustices. What is at the root of this is a religion of guilt.

Self-destructive behaviour, all-consuming desire, is rooted in a resentful relationship to the sacred. He who resents the sacred center, misreding it as the source or cause of injustice and inequality, and consequent guilt, cannot see the sacred for what it truly is: something to love because it creates for us the possibility of deferring our conflict over common objects of desire, through a common worship of sacred signs that we substitute for the material things that cause us conflict.

In other words, the sacred allows us to set up communal standards which must be achieved as a precondition for any distribution and access to the material things we desire and must first produce before desire can be satisfied. Instead of love for the sacred sign, what is going on in France right now is promotion of the utopian lie that you can have all the cool things you want and deserve, without particpating in the once sacralized communal standards by which producvitity could be maintained. This utopianism is a self-destructive path, one that may entail the Islamist and liberal taking many others with them to their inevitable deaths. Because it is a lie, one ends up burning objects of desire - e.g. cars - because if I can't have one, no one can.

Love God, or secular equivalents, or die. It comes down to this. And too many in France cannot love God or France anymore. But what about the Muslims you say? They love Allah, or so they say, and yet many are now self-destructive (and acting in ways, notes Finkielkraut, that Jews caught in poverty, or in a much more righteous anger for what France did to its Jews during the Holocaust, never would).

The most hopeful (yet unproven) answer is that many of these kids are not yet serious and skilled Muslims and so don't know what it means to love God. BUt some of their elders who should know better seem to be abetting this rioting. Here we have to turn to consider the nature of Islam's democratic and catholic submission to the word of god. Perhaps Islam is a democracy; and hence it cannot easily adapt to a Republic that allows for much meritocratic or political asymmetry along with the fundamental symmetry of all members in the national brother and sisterhood. One can't help but note that so many Muslim fundamentalists and even ordinary Muslim brothers, not to mention their western leftist sympathizers, have a rather hysterical nature, arguably rooted in an overvaluation of equality and a consequent sense of injustice at worldly differences, those practical differences that are necessary to our productive life.

Many people call Islam a patriarchal culture. But it still retains much of the matriarchal impulse to defend all the children as equals before their creator. The polygamy that is apparently common among French immigrants may reflect a dubious male privilege built on top of a culture in which women traditionally do most of the work and raise the children, at least until the young men reject the mother and get in the game of fighting other men for the right to live (and die) as beastly pseudo-patriarchs. THe universal submission of the faithful in Islam may be some kind of half-way house between a matriarchal and patriarchal culture as Salman Rusdie suggests:
The Koran was revealed at a time of great change in the Arab world, the seventh-century shift from a matriarchal nomadic culture to an urban patriarchal system. Muhammad, as an orphan, personally suffered the difficulties of this transformation, and it is possible to read the Koran as a plea for the old matriarchal values in the new patriarchal world, a conservative plea that became revolutionary because of its appeal to all those whom the new system disenfranchised, the poor, the powerless and, yes, the orphans.

The true patriarch is someone who can maintain (or, more to the point, who is imagined by his followers as the source of) order and productivity among his children amidst the most trying circumstances of poverty, war, inequality, etc. THis argument is in no way an attempt to deny the fundamental equality of men and women. It is rather to argue that this equality is best served by our common rejection of utopian democracy and religion, which I hypothesize is rooted in ancient matriarchal sensibilities. Equality and republican democracy does much better with a respect for the asymmetry within symmetry that is the hallmark of a free and open politics and meritocracy, and of a religious love of the father.

Rick Ballard said...

"One can't help but note that so many Muslim fundamentalists and even ordinary Muslim brothers, not to mention their western leftist sympathizers, have a rather hysterical nature, arguably rooted in an overvaluation of equality and a consequent sense of injustice at worldly differences, those practical differences that are necessary to our productive life."

If you substitute "self" for "equality" aren't you right back at ShrinWrapped (and Dr. Sanity's) evaluation of malignant narcissism? I see the societal structure that you are desribing with reference to polygamy and matriarchal attributes as reinforcement mechanisms that allow a toddlers inherent narcisisstic tendencies to go unchecked. A secondary negative attribute of polygamy is that a woman who is one of several wives will turn more affection on an infant/toddler than a woman who is the only wife of a man who does not share his affection with other wives.

Narcisissists are created through a surfeit of uncritical and undiscriminating love (IMO). Their ability to understand and deal with reality has been severely damaged before they can speak whole sentences. They are damaged before they can begin to comprehend the mysteries of the sacred to which you refer.

truepeers said...

Yes Rick, I think you can substitute self for equality. Without awareness of what it is doing, the narcissistic self wants what others have; it models its desire on others and considers satisfaction of this desire to be a right; in politics this often, not always, is expressed as a utopian egalitarianism, or a destructive, "if I can't have (or God forbids) no one can."

I agree with you that we are all born with narcissistic tendencies. I might differ with you on the degree they must be overcome when very young to save the child's future. But you are also right i think to suggest that there is an aspect of narcissism - that aspect dealing with eroticism and sexuality - that has little to do with those forms of the communal sacred whose guarantee lies not in the beautiful bodies of this world, but in a transcendent sphere, or divine Being.

Narcissistic tendencies in early adulthood are almost ubiquitous today, and probably always have been common, at least in matters of the erotic. And on this question, we need to remember that the sexual dynamic makes men and women into different kinds of narcissists. The young, sexually attractive woman is a narcissist as she sits before the mirror desiring the admiration of the rest of the world. She may get it as she walks the street and turns heads, but this comes at the risk of overvaluing a "sacred" image that has little to do with her individual soul or personhood, the soul that can only develop out of her relationship to God or the shared communal forms of the sacred.

Her erotic desire is for acknowledgment of the attractiveness of her own image. The male, on the other hand, desires the woman's sense of her own desirability. He is a narcissist in following this desire beyond the bounds of communal common sense (his friends may think she is not quite so hot as he thinks), in overvaluing his desire to share in the narcissistic desire of the woman for her own self-image. Perhaps the man is following a model of desire that was first figured for him by his mother (seeking fulfillment in her son's adoration). The young man risks losing track of the communal sacred that is modelled by God and if he doesn't watch out will start demonizing women's sexuality as a scapegoat for the problems that follow as he falls off the rails.

Rick Ballard said...


Thanks for reminding me of the beauty/sex component. I have had two very bad experiences with malignant narcisissists and neither involved those components.

The sadder of the two involves a boy who is now seventeen (ready to riot) whose parents effectively ruined him as a toddler by "talking & explaining" about acceptable behavior without ever getting to a penalty for misbehavior. I think his first complete sentences were negotiations and he has yet to stop. The kid is absolutley amoral with the highest level of unearned self-esteem I believe that I have ever seen.

He's absolutely ripe for getting involved in the egalitarian utopianism you describe.

I'll have to think about the balance of your reply regarding overvaluing a personal sacred image at the cost of the communal sacred image. There is definitely auite a bit to the description but I'm having translation problems (like that's news).

Buddy Larsen said...

"Freedom" includes the freedom to be angry over nature's unequal distribution of brains and talent--a condition almost a given in immigrant or 'other' groups within a larger group of 'natives' who by definition will value nature's distribution differently. An Algerian kid will never be a classic Frenchman and he knows it.

It looks like an either/or. Either channel the anger into upward economic mobility (subvert with toys, as bin Laden would sneer, hoping he doesn't draw laughter from Muslims who own some toys), or it will go to 'rule-or-ruin'--the levelling, do-over aspect of which offers a quite reasonable alternative to an entropy-sodden staus-quo. 'Quite reasonable' so long as it doesn't get your head busted or your ass deported.