This week's topic was broken into three steps. This is the first step, which was to revise a prior entry. I think my two most disappointing entries were on the topics "You're So Vain - You Probably Think This Topic Is About You" and "Current Events." In both cases, I believe it was because large portions of the text were taken from other sources, even though I stitched them together. So here's a new approach to both topics.
A-Rod makes out with his fine self in a mirror
We are a narcissistic nation, and at least according to Emily Yoffe, that is our tragic flaw. Yoffe wrote an article in Salon.com, "But Enough About You," that explores the topic through several celebrity and high-profile examples, as well as through speaking with psychologists and other experts. She suggests that the recent economic collapse was brought on by a sense of entitlement, both amongst Wall Street big wigs who thought they deserved greater and greater profits, and amongst everyday Americans, who felt that, by God, they needed the biggest house available, whether they could afford it or not. And we all know what happened afterwards: human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass chaos. But didn't we look pretty while London Bridge fell down, down, down?
I find this analysis a little simplistic, but no one can deny that narcissism is prevalent in contemporary American society. Just look at Nadya Suleman, the so-called Octomom, who recently gave birth to octuplets just because she wanted to. Now she's trying to make deals with whatever television networks or movie producers will have her. She's even had an offer to do a porn movie. She refused, not because it would be a bad example for her children, but because she still had all her baby fat. I am not making this up.
The sad thing is, in this age of reality television, Octomom is not alone. Why, for example, does anyone go on The Jerry Springer Show? These people clearly don't have much going on in their lives except for their twisted relationships. They are corralled onto the stage, where Jerry interviews them while the audience titters, and then he calls someone else on-stage to beat the living snot out of them (video here - NSFW due to adult language). Warning: If you are brought onto a bare stage with nothing but breakaway furniture and the host interviews you from a safe distance in the audience, you are in the smackdown zone.
So why do people do it? Because some defect in their brain keeps screaming, in an accent akin to the slow-witted buzzard (video here) in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons, "Ba-doop, ba-doop, ba-doop-doop, doop-doop-doop. I want to be famous!"
Lest I be mistaken for a hypocrite, let me put the facts on the table. I do, in fact, write a daily blog. I did just spend six months competing in a writing contest where the prize was a pretty banner and fame on teh Internets. I frequently post pictures of myself, and I write about things that happen in my life as if they're terribly interesting. Nowadays, my camera follows me to just about any event so that I can get pictures. You would think I was an anthropologist documenting myself. And yet, I still think that I'm superior to those Jerry Springer folk, because... hmm... narcissism? Surely I'm too good for that.
You see, there's a difference between narcissism and self-interest. Frankly, it's not that unusual to be self-interested. Here are some examples of self-interest that don't necessarily rise to the level of being narcissistic:
- Filling out your answers to an online quiz without even glancing at your friend's answers first.
- Insisting on going to a restaurant you enjoy, even when your companions complain that the food sucks.
- Refusing to leave the house before applying makeup, choosing the perfect outfit, shaving and whitening your teeth.
Basically, if your only crime is asking, "Does this make me look fat?" you're probably not the sort of narcissist who crashes world markets just because you wanted a gold-plated bidee.
A narcissist demonstrates a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, a lack of empathy, and is ultimately exploitative of anyone he or she knows. According to a checklist of narcissistic behavior, a narcissist believes anyone who criticizes him is motivated by jealousy, and he sees anything short of worship as rejection. This person reviews sports, art and literature by telling you what he or she would have done instead. This person is a name dropper who believes it's very important to live in the right place and associate with the right people. A narcissist believes he or she is the most talented, all-around best person in the world.
In other words, a narcissist looks and acts a lot like this:
Donald Trump, real-estate mogul and narcissist
To be sure, Donald Trump has achieved a good deal in his life: he's made a lot of money, and he's rubbed elbows with celebrities, and had three beautiful wives (not all at the same time). But he's also filed bankruptcy three times, which is almost unheard of in business. Though he loves to put his name on everything (including and I am not making this up bottled water called Trump Ice), he was quick to downplay his role in the latest bankruptcy filing: "Other than the fact that it has my name on it which I'm not thrilled about I have nothing to do with the company." Ummm.... right. Well, then maybe you should stop putting your name on everything that's shiny.
The problem is not ordinary self-interest: it's the psychic vampires out there who think they're entitled to, say, take millions of dollars in government aid and then blow it on staff retreats and fat bonuses. I'm reminded of the Lily Tomlin quote, "I resent losing the ozone layer just so we can have Pam." I resent seeing my country crash and burn just because some fat cats thought they had a right to make off with the cookie jar. Even if that is a mixed metaphor.
Maybe Yoffe's right. Maybe we are a self-serving nation. Maybe we need to pry our lips off our own reflections and be more reflective. Maybe we need to take some responsibility for our mistakes. Maybe we need to accept that we can learn from others. Maybe, just maybe we're not always the best.
Except for me, of course. I'm perfect.
Bonus video: Stephen Colbert interviews Emily Yoffee (interview starts at 7:21)
Only a narcissist really believes his combover looks fab.