Narcissism’s Brittle Identity: Shrinkwrapped on Self-Criticism

I have a series of posts on the issue of self-criticism, in which I argue that, while most people do not like self-criticism, Jews, by training and culture, are so drawn to self-criticism that outside observers may mistake their harsh comments about “themselves” (i.e., Jews, Jewish institutions, Israel) for reluctant admissions of the truth rather than prophetic rhetoric designed to “whip the object of the criticism into shape.”

Shrinkwrapped has two posts that explore the opposite, the fragile sense of self that leads many — individuals as well as groups — to reject any criticism, no matter how accurate. It’s important to understand the world of the kind of person who cannot tolerate any criticism. From The Rising Tide of Narcissism

…the Narcissist’s self esteem is actually quite fragile. Since it is based on an inflated sense of the self, ie it is not based on a realistic assessment of the self, the Narcissist needs constant affirmation by the environment that they are, indeed, the “special” person they have always been told they were. Such people have a noticeable lack of resiliency. When the Narcissist inevitably smacks up against an indifferent environment, as when the young person graduates college and enters the work force, reality intrudes in unmistakable fashion. Your boss does not consider you special unless you can actually do a good job. It is very easy to see how the Narcissist, who already tends to use projective defenses to avoid knowing of his own short comings, can very easily slip into a paranoid position with the real world.

“Since I know I am special, and have never really been challenged, when my boss tells me I have done a poor job, it can’t be true. ——> He must have something against me!”

Now, multiply that attitude to a much larger scale. Major societal problems arise when a large group of people with fragile self esteem and a poor sense of self collide with modern day tribalism, ie, identity politics. Then the problem becomes the system, or the man, or the ruling class, or the Jews, or Bush and the Rethuglicans, or racism; never does the person take responsibility for their own failures because to do so risks a psychological catastrophe. Suddenly, one’s always fragile self esteem, artificially buttressed all these years by a facile environment, crumbles. The result is devastating despair. Alternatively, reality can be denied and the despair defended against by externalizing the rage and directing it at those you believe now oppress you.

This dynamic can be applied to those who cry “racism” at every turn; it can describe the psychology of the Palestinians who have been taught they are special and held down by the “oppressive” Jews since 1948 and yet have failed so miserably in creating a functioning society; it appears wherever the toxicity of identity politics and aggrieved victims wield power.

The saddest aspect of this is that the “victims”, whether individuals or societies that have a distorted sense of self, have no hope of ever changing their circumstances until they find a way to deal with reality and tolerate the painful work of acknowledging that the world does not necessarily see them as “special.”

And here we get at one of the key “sins” of the “progressive left.” They have systematically given the Palestinians this sense of specialness, fed their sense of grievance, and encouraged their immediate recourse to conspiracy theory to explain anything that might undermine that sense of specialness. By making the Palestinians their “chosen people,” the “Left” has done their self-appointed job of countering the outrageous notion that the Jews are the “chosen people”.

How much better to be Palestinian, and chosen by the most morally evolved community on the planet, than Jewish and chosen by a non-existent God?

Except that the chosenness of the Palestinians derives from and reflects the narcissism of the Western generation (including that of the Western MSM), and the consequences of that “tutelage” have been catastrophic for everyone but the hate-mongers. The Palestinian refugees are a particularly vulnerable population. Despised (unfairly) by their own brethren for fleeing the fight with Israel in 1948, chosen to be the sacrificial victims on the altar of Arab honor, injected by their own “revolutionary leadership” with the worst elements of violent resolution of conflicts, this is a people born in victimization. By bathing the Palestinians in approval as part of their own self-indulgent moral heroics, Western “progressives” inside and outside the media, have joined together with an abusive patriarchal authoritarianism (terror strikes constantly at home), and created within Palestinian culture a toxic combination of resentment, violence, and paranoia. (Rachel Corrie comes to mind, but more broadly all the members of the ISM who live among the Palestinians but would never dream of challenging suicide terrorism.)

A recent example of the problem of Western apologia appears in an exchange between Timothy Furnish and David Slavin at History News Network. Furnish traces the origins of Muslim anti-Semitism to the origins and endtimes of the religion, arguing that the presence of Israel is not the cause of the current wave of paranoid apocalyptic hysteria about Jews. Slavin criticizes him with a sad and shallow litany of characteristic “politically correct” rhetorical maneuvers including chiding HNN for giving voice to such “puerile” commentators as Furnish and thereby harming HNN’s valuable reputation. Then he follows with the standard fare — including using Karen Armstrong as an authority. In the end, Slavin would have us read a classic piece of Muslim self-pity from the Guardian. With such friends, can we ever hope to see Muslims begin to acknowledge the hypocrisy of their demopathic rhetoric — “the imperialist Israelis have violated our rights and committed war crimes!” — by acknowledging the ferocious heritage of Islam — a history of imperialism and massacres, indeed genocide — that still carries so much weight in the present?

5 Responses to Narcissism’s Brittle Identity: Shrinkwrapped on Self-Criticism

  1. Web Reconnaissance for 03/12/2007

    A short recon of whats out there that might draw your attention.

  2. David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 03/12/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  3. ben says:

    I find it funny people call Israel an anachronism. If Israel is in the 1700′s or 1800′s, the neighboring countries are in the middle ages and earlier. The whole region has to change before Israel changes… It’s already ahead of the pack.

  4. Jeff B says:

    Who are the narcissists here? How exactly do the Palestinians think they are special? Are they psychoanalyzing people they have never met or lived with? Are the Palestinians asserting the right to decide which people or nation are worthy of self-determination? Are they proposing elaborate theories explaining that anti-Palestinian feelings arise from jealousy others feel over the unique and marvelous accomplishments of Palestinians?

    The only thing special about these folks is that after being driven from their ancestral homes and living under foreign military occupation for over 40 years, they still insist on justice.

  5. RL says:

    to Jeff:
    the problem with the Palestinians is how they define “justice.” if they identified the people who are genuinely screwing them, rather than scapegoating people who are trying hard not to, if they could recognize the “other” Israelis and respect their desires as they want their desires to be respected, if they could define what they want in terms that allow others to be free, then a) i’d call it a desire for justice; and b) i wouldn’t call it narcissistic. as it is, their very notion of justice (vengeance on the scapegoat) is self-referential in the most crass manner.

    what i’m curious about is, why do you take their “call for justice” at face value, as reflecting your values of justice? what if you’re being duped?

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