15 January 2010

Sectarianism = political narcissism?

Narcissism is a defense mechanism related to the splitting defense mechanism. The Narcissist fails to regard other people, situations, or entities (political parties, countries, races, his workplace) as a compound of good and bad elements. He either idealises his object - or devalues it. The object is either all good or all bad. The bad attributes are always projected, displaced, or otherwise externalised. The good ones are internalised in order to support the inflated (grandiose) self-concepts of the narcissist and his grandiose fantasies - and to avoid the pain of deflation and disillusionment.

The narcissist pursues narcissistic supply (attention, both positive and negative) and uses it to regulate his fragile and fluctuating sense of self-worth.

Compare this to the toytown-Leninist attitudes of "won't get out of bed for anything less than pure proletarian revolution / we are uniquely gifted with the correct insights"; or ways in which, say, the GOOD regime (eg Lenin's Russia) gets a free pass for things that the INFERIOR AND THEREFORE WORTHLESS regime (eg. Chávez's Venezuela) is roundly criticised for. In fact, in general, the attitude from any shade of opinion that "it's okay if we do it / pure-evil-on-a-stick if those guys over there do it" is pure grade-A narcissism. (Or its variant, "they did it first so we get a free pass to do it".)

Narcisstic politics are one way for narcissistic personalities to recruit the unwary around into propping up their pretend selves. But be warned that you can only make this judgement call on the basis of practice, rather than speech. Plenty of sect-warriors will happily admit "in abstract" that their organisation has faults and flaws - but if in practice they act like only they are allowed to say that, and if an outsider says that they must be motivated by sordid personal failings, that's also grade-A political narcissism.