Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Long Spoons In Hell

Both the professional and personal literature on clinical narcissism mention the propensity of narcissists to project – that is, assign their own dark and evil qualities to the people they choose as scapegoats. For instance, if a narcissist is lazy, violent, thieving, murderous, addicted to mind-altering substances, and prone to petty crime, he is likely to find a scapegoat whom he can blame for being all the things he himself is – but in spades. Thus he soothes his conscience so that he can live with himself. Narcissistic projection is behind much of the present-day hatred and persecution by some white Americans of everyone who does not look like them or act like them.

An interesting question arises in the study of a narcissistic social unit, whether it be a family, a workplace, a school, or a nation's culture. The question is, what happens to a bunch of narcissists when they are deprived of their usual and customary scapegoats/dumping grounds/projection targets? History provides clues to the answer. I stumbled on one such clue last weekend as I was reading the comments to one of the excellent posts on ClubOrlov. A commenter with the handle “Larkin” mentioned a movie titled, “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden.” The movie documents the attempts of a collection of German expats to establish a tropical Eden on the uninhabited island of Floreana in the South Pacific.

According to a New York Times review of the movie, the expats were a very “special” bunch. They were also all “upper class.” The two who first arrived – a physician and his younger lover – were both married to others when they decided to travel to Floreana. The female half of this adulterous couple was infirm in body, but the male half was a hard taskmaster who was frustrated that living off the land left him too little time to write the philosophy books he wanted to author. This couple was joined by another couple who were legitimately married and expecting a child when they arrived, but who almost lost their baby when the physician refused to help them in the pregnancy. Three others joined them: a married woman and her two gigolos. This woman proclaimed herself the empress of the island shortly after her arrival. Needless to say, there was not enough room on the island for seven grandiose egos, and their utopian experiment did not end well. They disbanded after two droughts and (quite possibly) two murders.

From these people we can take three lessons. First, we see that a society whose most powerful, privileged and spoiled members scapegoat convenient targets will turn on itself once those targets are exhausted. Second, we see the outworkings of damnation which I wrote about in an earlier post, the consequences people reap in this life for choosing to be a certain kind of people. Third, we see the outcome of attempts of spoiled, self-identified “elites” to create a “utopian” society. They may think they'll end up with an Ayn Rand “Atlas Shrugged” ideal, but it's far more likely that they will end up as characters on the business end of a Flannery O'Connor novel. I expect a similar story to be played out in the U.S. as this nation's stock of unearned and undeserved privilege dwindles - starting from the top downward.

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