"Ordinary communication, like objective thinking in general, has no secrets; only a doubly reflected subjective thinking has them. That is to say, the entire essential content of subjective thought is essentially secret, because it cannot be directly communicated. This is the meaning of the secrecy. The fact that the knowledge in question does not lend itself to direct utterance, because its essential feature consists of the appropriation, makes it a secret for everyone who is not in the same way doubly reflected within himself."
--Johannes Climacus, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, p. 73
On Friday I pruned my Facebook contacts. If you are still here welcome. I dare say there is a little pruning left but that will emerge in the coming days. Another friend quoted this biblical passage for me and it made me think of the last week."For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive" I removed virtually everybody from my friends list who did not have a picture to identify themselves. There are exceptions but I grew tired of trolls hiding behind invisibility.
The narcissism of a tribe can be a wonderful, terrible, lovely, bloody, life-giving, life-taking thing—sometimes all at once. It's the Whigs versus the Tories, the Brexiteers versus the Remainers , the believers versus the non-believers. It's soldiers who race into the field risking death and ducking crossfire to save a wounded comrade and then, that job done, turn their fire outward and take other lives with the same resolve and pride with which they just saved one. I began this week writing about a thought I had.
Human beings are social creatures—a very important adaptation allowing soft, slow, fang less, clawless ground-dwellers like us to survive. But being social implies bands, and bands imply favouring your own above all others. And because we're rational creatures, too—creatures who like to feel good about ourselves and don't like to think we seize land and resources simply because we are greedy—we tell ourselves that we favour our own kind because we're smarter, prettier, better, more virtuous, more caring—a superior breed of people in a world filled with lesser ones. Those who oppose the Golden One, the new messiah , are demeaned and attempts are made to through them them out of the group. The anger is so great that people witnessing it are shocked, amazed and disturbed that they did not see it coming.
Those feelings may exist in us naturally and unavoidably, but they are also dangerously easy to manipulate—with an anthem, a chant, a little scrap of flag. The narcissism of the individual is a focal-point thing—growing from within to take control of only one mind, one personality. The narcissism of the tribe is a gravitational thing—the kind that gathers more and more individuals, its tug increasing along with its size and mass. Dictators and despots may ignite wars and bring down nations, but they are still merely borrowing their power. They are the engineers in the cab of a hundred ton locomotive. The people, the tribe, are the machine itself, and they generate a collective power that can all too easily go off the rails.
There's a reason that in Nazi propaganda films Jews were depicted as rats swarming up from sewer grates—and it's the same reason Rwanda's Hutu referred to the Tutsi as cockroaches during the 1994 slaughter . These are beasts, the seismography says—and they're vile beasts at that.
Invidious believes a dominant group needs to go through three stages to reach a state of mind that allows its members to slaughter: Dehumanisation of the other comes first; a sense of disgust, which the animal imagery helps turbocharger, comes second; and finally comes extreme fear or extreme anger. The anger part is often stoked by framing the out-group as an existential threat—and it must be a knowing, calculated threat. An out-group that unwittingly carried a virus that was lethal to the in-group would surely be rejected, and maybe even killed, but its members wouldn't be despised. An out-group that knows the harm it's doing and does it on purpose is an entirely different matter. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the fraudulent manifesto published in 1903 that purported to be the Jews' secret guidebook for world domination, trafficked in such an idea.
There's a reason that in Nazi propaganda films Jews were depicted as rats swarming up from sewer grates—and it's the same reason Rwanda's Hutu referred to the Tutsi as cockroaches during the 1994 slaughter and American propaganda posters during World War II depicted the Japanese as fang-toothed, claw-handed, yellow-faced monkeys. These are beasts, the seismography says—and they're vile beasts at that. When David Cameron described the refugees around Calais as swarm he was using the same methods. Its used when people condem benefit scroungers and we all talk about the person who is “is not one of us”
Invidious beliefs and a dominant group needs to go through three stages to reach a state of mind that allows its members to slaughter: dehumanisation of the other comes first; a sense of disgust, which the animal imagery helps turbo-charge, comes second; and finally comes extreme fear or extreme anger. The anger part is often stoked by framing the out-group as an existential threat—and it must be a knowing, calculated threat. An out-group that unwittingly carried a virus that was lethal to the in-group would surely be rejected, and maybe even killed, but its members wouldn't be despised. An out-group that knows the harm it's doing and does it on purpose is an entirely different matter. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the fraudulent manifesto published in 1903 that purported to be the Jews' secret guidebook for world domination, trafficked in such an idea.
The most macro expression of tribal narcissism is the one that gathers us all in—the narcissism of the human species itself, something that has made us the unquestioned masters of the planet. That the dinosaurs once thundered upon.., but the dinosaurs were an entire grouping—just like the group of mammals—and now they're all gone. Homo sapiens is a single species , and one that has been around for only 200,000 years.
It's hard to know how many other species there are on the planet that could, in theory, have competed for that crown, and the figure has variously been placed anywhere from 3 million to 100 million. One of the best studies, published in 2011 and conducted by a team led by marine biologist Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii, puts the figure at 8.7 million—and humans are chipping away at that record very fast.
In a typical year, we wipe out about 25,000 acres of forest, which comes out to a loss of 27,000 species at the same time. Clicking along at that rate, it's pretty easy to burn through the entire 8.7 million total in just under 325 years. Mora does not hesitate to label our willingness to wipe out other species to make room for our own as "narcissism," but be cautions that it's a characteristic of nearly all life forms. "If there were any species with the capability we have, it would very likely be taking all the resources too," he says. "But typically in nature there are automatic control mechanisms that stop the over exploitation. We became too smart, and now we're overcoming everything."
It is only in this one expression of narcissism that our me-first, self-adoring impulses might win. Narcissists in the workplace, in relationships, in political office eventually burn out and go away. Humanity as a whole, however, has little mediate its ego. We may indeed achieve the utter dominance at the expense of all else that every narcissist craves. Whether we'll like what's left of the planet we've won will be another matter entirely..
We are all potential narcissists, the trick to battling it is to understand ourselves, to see our limitations and to recognise that narcissism is a continuous not a discrete category. Its a bit like fascism its hard to get rid of it because it is within us all. The challenge is not to ignore it but to recognise it. All witch hunts begin in this way. Challenge the narcissist within and you will not be surprised what you see in the political world. From Trump to Farage the list is endless and exists within us all.