Get Your Narcissism On

by MISSY BEATTIE

We meet weekly for Memoirs, which I’m now instructing. Gently critiquing, we examine sentences and inspect each other’s lives.

Last week at the end of class, someone mentioned the first debate. Several people lingered to express apprehension about Obama’s poor presentation. What to do?

They looked at me.

They know I write political op-eds.

“I’m not voting, I said. “The system’s corrupt. To vote is to participate in corruption.”

But you must. It’s even more important since Obama did so badly.  People will be sending in their absentee ballots. They’re deciding based on this one debate. I didn’t place quotation marks to the left of “But” and to the right of “ballots” because I’m paraphrasing.

“I’m not voting,” I said, again.

On the drive home, I thought about their concern, the urgency, and I went to a what-if area. What if Obama was scripted to incite the psyches of all those “liberals” who are disappointed but think he deserves four more years to deliver hope? What if his handlers strategized, knowing that so many who affiliate with the Democratic Party are frustrated but fearful?  Of the coiffed, Ken-like Republican who threatened Big Bird (GASP).  As if a Romney victory will be unlike what we have, what we’re enduring now. There’s just something a little too fowls of a feather for me, here.

Later, I read many articles about why Obama “lost” the debate. Debate—the word or concept that when aligned with “presidential” always is a debacle, regardless of whose hand is raised in the ring’s center after the bell tolls. In one piece, the author assessed whether or not Obama’s a narcissist.  The comments beneath his viewpoint were interesting. This example got my attention.

…This guy may have read a lot of poetry but he is not actually clear on the clinical profile of a narcissist. Obama’s an introvert, yes, that’s obvious. A narcissist–not as clear. All politicians    have some narcissism to them, as do all memoir-writers, but the core of what makes someone a narcissist is an inability to feel empathy or love; they have a fragile-to-non-existent sense of self that depends on the constant admiration of others to reflect them back to themselves (= “narcissistic supply”). I don’t see that in Obama, whereas Clinton-style charm *is* typical of narcissists, who need to always be drawing people in to soothe their egos.

You can bet I spent some time with those words. Not on the politicians-are-narcissistic nugget (a given), but, instead, that memoir writers are as well. I’m sure a level of egotism, an amount considered healthy, is a survival requirement for all human beings.

To write one’s memoir or memoirs may be the ultimate in self-absorption. My story. My life. My, my, my.  Me, me, me.  Even writing an op-ed may be narcissistic.  Peacock like, big birds, displaying the plumage of opinion. Let’s take it further—an offer of advice—isn’t this another example of ego stroking?  That those thoughts, expressed so generously, are exquisite gifts of persuasion?

Learning opportunities can be nudges, shoves, or planes flown into towers.  It’s what we do during and in the aftermath that’s life affirming and life altering. I’m going to work on myself, the only person I can change.

And I’ll take that reader’s comment to class.  See what the participants have to say about narcissism and the memoir writer. I can report on their reactions. Or do you want to hear more about me?

Missy Beattie is in Baltimore. Reach out, not for advice, but to criticize or comment:  missybeat@gmail.com.

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?