Nothing like a little Oswald Spengler to get your reality-testing gear tuned up. I remember trying to read the guy in college -- that is, during my several-month experiment in higher education -- and not being able to understand fuckall of what the words meant. I read the same paragraph five or six times and realized I just didn't have the intellectual capacity to grasp whateverthehell it was Ol' Oswald was trying to tell me. It took me years to realize that the potent weed I was concurrently toking in great greedy lungfuls might have had something to do with my state of utter incomprehension.
But that was just an aside about the title slug.
What I really meant to say here, was that earlier this evening I was reading about (it should come as no surprise if you've been tracking) self esteem. Specifically: The Myth of Self-Esteem: Finding Happiness and Solving Problems in America, which is quite good, if a bit dry and passionless. But what can you really expect from academics who never learned the value of an all-out frontal ad hominem ass ripping. Nonetheless, the history of the concept is well developed, and the bibliography superb. As you may know, I have a few problems with the whole bag of shit encompassed by the curiously paradoxical yet hyper-enthusiastic revival of self-esteem sloganeering. Paradoxical for at least two reasons. First, there is no empirical basis for all
the wonderfulness attributed to this essentially vacuous notion. If you won't swallow this on my say-so alone, check out Evil: Inside Human Cruelty and Violence
by megahoncho social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, wherein he documents in detail this lack of evidence, and spends some considerable time explaining why serial killers, for instance, are much more likely to have high self esteem than, say, your average merely pissed-off blogger. Second, it's odd, to say the least, that people who seemingly love to look down their nouveau riche trustafarian noses at the spiritual backwardness of ... ugh... "The West," preferring instead the "Eastern" path of egolessness would be so caught up in endlessly fascinated preoccupation with the Self. Doncha think? Not to mention that... can we talk here? I mean, this really blows me away. Not to mention that referring to the various and (very) sundry religions of Asia as "Eastern Spirituality" is just plain dumbfuck stupid. Hinduism, for instance, is as theistic as it gets, right in there with Christianity, Islam and Judaism in this respect. And of course, in the more "mystical" aspects of this kind of setup, the Soul is the perfect mirror of the Godhead. Scratch any of your basic Self Esteemers and that's what you'll find right below that level of profundity technically referred to as skin deep. To wit: the great masculine and feminine conjoined Maha-Mom-and-Dad. I'm tellin ya, it's fucking Jungian is what it is.
Let's see, do we need a paragraph here? I think we needed one a while ago, but who edits anymore? Point being that, contrariwise to the Hindoo mumbo jumbo -- from those terrific folks who brought you Tupak Chopra -- it is an essential tenet of Buddhism that any notion of God or Self is a major, nay an insurmountable, obstacle on The Path to Enlightenment, the goal of which is generally not described in any detail as there's no one home to experience it. At least not in the way our Inner Jamaican I-and-I think about being home. This is also downright fucking Jungian -- which is why I have a few problems with Jung and his oddball ideas about individuating toward an essentially inscrutable Self. As the Cars once said: It's all mixed up.
However, having said all that, and thrown in my patent-pending brand of off-the-cuff comparative religiosity to confuse you even further, you're probably wondering what that grafik up there has to do with any of this. If you're still reading, that is. The girls have likely all surfed away in a fine umbrageous huff, and the guys are jacking off. But the reason I put it there was to show that I'm, you know, flexible. I mean, self-esteem appears to me to be little more than an insider code word for closet narcissism. But self respect is a worthy, if lately seldom called upon, attitude. So dudes, if you tried to click on that one, you're really fucked up. And ladies, if you tried, you're just plain fucking sicko warped. Perception and reality... Perception and reality... It just keeps messin with your head, don't it?
But since it's already 6:30 and The Myth of Self Esteem's wonderful bibcites led me to Amazon, and Amazon led me to wonders of the intellect yet unimagined, and since I just sorta kinda en passant dropped a reference to narcissism -- did you catch me just workin it in there? -- let me share with you what über-shrink Theodore Millon has to say about the syndrome in his hugely fat and unfortunately way too expensive (hint-hint) Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond, 2nd Edition.
The label "narcissistic" connotes more than mere egocentricity, a characteristic found in all individuals who are driven primarily by their needs and anxieties. More particularly, narcissism signifies that these individuals overvalue their personal worth, direct their affections toward themselves rather than others, and expect that others will not only recognize but cater to the high esteem in which narcissists hold themselves. This form of self-confidence and self-assurance is conducive to success and the evocation of admiration in our "other directed" society. It falters as a lifestyle, however, if the person's illusion of specialness is poorly founded in fact or if the supercilious air is so exaggerated as to grate on and alienate significant others.
Perhaps the diagram (above right) will explain this better.
In contrast to the antisocial personality, the self-centeredness of the narcissist is not anchored to feelings of deep distrust and animosity. Narcissistic individuals are benignly arrogant. They exhibit a disdainful indifference to the standards of shared social behavior and feel themselves above the conventions of the cultural group, exempt from the responsibilities that govern and give order and reciprocity to social living. It is assumed that others will submerge their desires in favor of the narcissists' comfort and welfare; they operate on the fantastic assumption that their mere desire is justification for possessing whatever they seek. Thus, their disdainfulness is matched by their exploitiveness, their assumption that they are entitled to be served and have their own wishes take precedence over others without expending any effort to merit such favor. In short, narcissists possess illusions of an inherent superior self-worth and move through life with the belief that it is their inalienable right to receive special considerations.