Can entire countries and cultures be narcissistic?

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I’m both a survivor of narcissistic abuse (diagnosed family members) and a well-travelled person who married abroad. Add to it the fact my family of origin is also made of recent immigrants who never fully adapted. That is to say although I’m no sociologist, I know a thing or two about culture shocks.

I’m not writing here to dwell on stereotypes or clichés, though. My focus is on asking open-ended questions, so they can hopefully be food for thought. Although it’s problematic to generalise too much and affirm things we can’t know, on the other hand, there’s benefit in wondering what needs to be explored more. And one of the areas that need to be explored, in my view, is the Sociology of narcissism.

Are we conditioned to enable people’s unwarranted sense of entitlement?

I have spent a long time entertaining the possibility that sometimes, the reason why most people don’t have strong enough boundaries against narcissists, is maybe due to their upbringing. And I’m not just talking about children OF narcissistic parents, but also children of healthy parents. I see this difficulty everywhere, and I cannot help but think it’s unfair to blame it on the individual. “You’re too permissive”, “you’re too nice”, “you need stronger boundaries”, say the self-help books. Okay, but who said this “you” is necessarily singular? Who said it’s always to blame on an individual person’s weak self esteem? What if it can also be influenced by the people we grow up around (extended family, school teachers, friends)?

I’m not simply asking these questions to be a pain in the arse or come off as woke or whatever. I’m genuinely concerned. In case there’s truth to the idea that we are literally conditioned, from childhood, to enable narcissism all around us… Then is there any use really in trying to remedy the problem on a case by case basis?

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See the picture above? It’s a tongue-in-cheek representation of a scapegoat. I put it there in order to remind you scapegoats are a thing, but they’re usually not ideal, so let’s try to avoid them.

I said the above, because I’m certain there will be people here who jump to the conclusion that I’ll talk about Capitalism next. Or perhaps Colonial bigotry. Or social justice in general.

Well, yes and no. I might end up mentioning these topics, but superficially here. I think they’re scapegoats. It’s all too easy to look at a worldwide problem and just jump to the conclusion it’s to blame on some kind of outdated system people love scapegoating. I mean, you can do it if you want, I’m not judging , it’s valid — I’m just saying it’s predictable. I beg to differ, and would rather make an effort beyond the automatic reaction. As I always say, I don’t write pieces of cake.

But why do I think social problems are just scapegoats when you’re discussing narcissism? Don’t I usually say these topics are super important?

Aye. They are. But we’re talking about narcissism here. A human trait. It’s a very broad thing, and it exists everywhere humans exist. I can confirm narcissism is also present within marginalised communities — we can’t just say today’s oppressors are the only narcissists, because that’s simplistic. Anyone can be a narcissist. Anyone. Even someone who has ZERO power.

Narcissism is borne out of delusion, not reality. Someone who has nothing can still fantasise about having something, and be narcissistic about it. Ain’t nothing stopping them.

Capitalism is an interesting scapegoat, because indeed this system rewards competition. But if it was the ONLY possible cause of narcissism, we wouldn’t see the problem in Socialist utopias like North Korea (and their leader displays some very strong traits).

Maybe we should keep in mind narcissism is part of human nature. And we don’t have any laws or unspoken social rules that tell us to keep it under control.

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Ya know, just like it’s human nature to shite, but we don’t shite on the streets because we know there will be (multiple!) consequences.

I don’t see any cannibals walking freely either, as we’ve also collectively decided that cannibalism is not cool — although, scientifically speaking, we’re able to dine on each other. It’s not poison. But certain things are a matter of “just because you could, it doesn’t mean you should”.

Human beings don’t collectively agree on things willy nilly. Usually there is a very good reason. Let’s keep in mind that we’re very arrogant animals and love disagreeing with each other all the time. So… What makes us suddenly agree on certain things regardless of personalities or cultures? Usually, it has to do with safety.

You see, we all acknowledge and understand that human waste carries a lot of parasites, which can be dangerous for our health. And even in ancient times, before we knew parasites were a thing, we were put off by the stink anyway. So, that was a strong enough reason to make everyone agree that we need a time and a place to take a dump, no matter how primitive. A similar thing is true for cannibalism. Sure, there are records of (very few!) cannibalistic tribes in the world, but they all seemed to agree that it was only allowed to dine on enemies, not companions. That’s probably because we all collectively understand that no-one would ever feel safe if cannibalism was freely and openly practised everywhere.

Therefore, if something makes us all feel unsafe, we ban it.

The above examples are also true for other animals. It’s an instinct a lot of animals have, to avoid cannibalism or excessive exposure to their own waste.

But here’s the thing: human beings aren’t all instinct. We also have a thing called intellect, don’t we?

Do any other animals have laws or a concept of morality? The answer is no. We’re not even in doubt, we’re dead sure. It’s entirely a human phenomenon. Some animals have social rules, largely based on immediate needs. Nothing resembling human ability to reflect and reason. We’re unique in that aspect.

This is why I always roll my eyes at the misanthropic uwu crowd when they feel woker-than-thou for hating on humanity. This tends to come with an inclination for Neopaganism, veganism, and all things Millennial. It’s ironic, because that kind of stance is rooted in willful ignorance. As much as you love and admire other animals, I’m not sure they nurture the same sentiment for you. I mean, sure, animals are capable of love and other wholesome feelings, but they’re also equally capable of psychopathic behaviour in case their instinct is telling them to do the thing. They aren’t capable of stopping themselves on their tracks and think, “wait a second, would it be moral to randomly attack this creature here?”, if you know what I’m saying. Meanwhile, misanthropic know-it-alls aspire to be like animals. Sure, keep relying solely on emotional thinking and stay under the illusion you know it all, Millennial. What do I know anyway?

And I’m writing this article, fully aware that some people who might end up agreeing with me could potentially take a very radical stance and start feeling EXTREMELY SUPERIOR to other animals, just like the conservative Christian do. Because for some people, there’s no concept of balance. Everything has to be all-or-nothing. I preach balance whenever I can, but of course they’ll cherrypick. I’m going off on a tangent, sorry. Back on topic:

Most animals have instinct. We are the only animals who have instinct AND intellect. You can speculate the reason “why” all you want; I’d rather be practical and just say that regardless of why we have an intellect, it’s there, and we should use it. It’s a useful tool.

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If we look at humanity solely through a lens of trauma, sure, we’re horrible and vile. But that kind of thinking is self-centered and not very helpful. It’s understandable, just not helpful. Do you want to find help, or stay in pain? You choose.

I’d rather simply acknowledge that life is made of ups and downs, highs and lows, and it would be impossible to live in a state of constant satisfaction with the world — regardless of the fantasies of heaven you read in the Bible. (Again, not a bad book, but very alienating and dreamy if I may say so). Cry and scream all you want that we live in a dystopia. My answer to that is, “was it ever different though?” Seriously, tell me. Was there ever a period in time when everyone was constantly happy, loving and singing kumbaya nonstop?

Yeah I didn’t think so either. I have Pictish friends who predate Christianity, or the Roman Empire, or your chosen doomsday from the past. They can confirm their lives weren’t totally happy. They fought wars constantly, but in periods of peace they fought wolves and bears and natural disasters, or occasionally died of unknown causes (which today we’d have technology to diagnose). Etc.

Today we’re safer, have a better understanding of medicine and hygiene, developed sophisticated systems of diplomacy, and should be “happier” than the Picts. But are we? No, as we still deal with existential crises, and climate disasters, and mental health stuff, inequality, and the list goes on. It’s a tradeoff, my friend. Sorry to break that to you. The world won’t EVER be perfect. Stop aiming for that. We solve a problem and create another. That’s called life. Should we stop trying? No. But manage your expectations.

In fact, manage your sense of entitlement to that idea of “heaven” that was promised to you. It doesn’t exist, it’s a fairytale. Let’s wake up. This is not an attack, it’s surgery. It only hurts in the beginning.

Meron, why the tangent? Is narcissism connected to nihilism?

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I don’t know, honestly. A philosopher would be better equipped to answer that question. All I know is there’s a very obvious connection between narcissism and entitlement, though. And a lot of nihilistic people have serious problems with their sense of entitlement. They become nihilistic in the first place because they cannot fathom to lower their standards. My way or the highway. Zero compromises. Disdain for anyone who is “below” them. But whether it’s coincidental or not, I’ve no idea.

So let’s talk about entitlement, especially the unwarranted kind.

I think we can all agree it’s bad. Why don’t we discipline entitled people, though? Why do we keep upholding totally twisted values such as “the customer is always right” (even when they’re just entitled brats), “calling people out is rude” (even when they’re just entitled brats), “it’s cute to spoil a child” (even when they’re just entitles brats)?

How do you expect people to grow up emotionally, if you (and I, and everyone) keep enabling their childish entitlement? Honestly. Tell me.

Why aren’t more people talking about this huge problem in our society? Sure, there’s a possibility that in some cultures it will be worse, and in other cultures it’s less worse… And that’s for you to debate in the comments… But have you EVER seen any nation enforcing any kind of rules of conduct (regardless of how small) against entitlement? And why NOT? That’s what we should be asking ourselves.

I’m not even talking about laws. You can breathe now, ancap. You’re welcome in the debate too. I’m talking about etiquette. Unspoken rules. The sort of thing we’re able to decide on because we have an intellect. The sort of rules that allow us to treat each other with dignity and respect as much as we can.

Some could say, “but that’s just the way we are, can’t help it, oh well”. If you’re one of them, first of all, I’m very sorry you’ve lost hope in humanity. It must hurt. Secondly, though, please think twice before dragging others into the same state of apathy. I won’t let you do that.

The mentality I just cited above is understandable — but no, it’s not excusable. If we all had it, we’d still have legal slavery everywhere. “Oh, that’s just the way we are, we need slaves, can’t help it”. NO. We absolutely DO NOT. Let’s figure out ways to automate work, Idk, work on that — that’s what the revolutionaries said. And that’s why today we all agree slavery is illegal. But, yeah, there was a time when we apparently “couldn’t see a way out” of it. This kind of apathy is dangerous and I will not tolerate it.

If you don’t feel capable to try and join those who want to improve the world, ok. But let’s please stop brainwashing everyone around us into apathy. That’s despicable. In fact, you could argue that’s a narcissistic trait. A collective narcissistic trait.

Anyway, the seed has been sown, the food for thought is on your hands. I hope we can all make good use of it.

Photo by imso gabriel on Unsplash

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Meron Nic Cruithne

Meron Nic Cruithne

Meron is a psychic and spirit worker based in Ireland. She talks to the dead around her, especially the Picts. Please read her pinned post before any other.