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The Celebration of Ignorance

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One of the great joys of my life is watching speeches and interviews given by great intellectuals. It was in pursuing this pleasure that I happened upon an episode of the ABC’s panel discussion show, Question and Answers. Coming out of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, the four people on the panel – the traditional conservative, Peter Hitchens; the feminist writer, Germaine Greer; the American writer, Hanna Rosin; and the gay rights activist, Dan Savage – spent an hour discussing tops ranging from western civilisation to modern hook-up culture.

It became quickly apparent that the intellectual stature of the four panellists was not evenly matched. Hanna Rosin and Dan Savage were less rational, less mature, and more ignorant than Peter Hitchens and Germaine Greer. By comparison, Hitchens and Greer gave carefully considered answers to most of the questions asked. Hitchens, in particular, gave responses based on careful consideration, rational thought, fact, and wisdom. (This is not to say one is required to agree with him)

It was the behaviour of the audience that proved the most alarming, however. Like most Questions and Answers audiences, it was comprised mostly of idealistically left-wing youth. Their primary purpose for being there was to have their ideological presuppositions reinforced. With no apparent motivation to listen to the answers to their questions, these youngsters would clap and cheer like trained seals whenever someone makes an ideologically-correct statement.

How has our society become so stupid? Why do we no longer see being wise and knowledgeable as virtues in and of themselves? Part of the answer comes from a culture of self-hate and contempt promulgated by left-wing intellectuals. Accordingly, Christianity is regarded as archaic (unless, of course, it promotes left-wing beliefs), inequality is caused by capitalism, and the problems of women come as the result of the “patriarchy.” Even the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge are rather conveniently blamed on “trauma” emanating from the Vietnam War (rather than the actions of Pol Pot and his band of murderous, communist brutes).

This continuous, unrelenting assault on Western civilisation has led to a general estrangement from Western culture. The common people have been robbed of their inheritance because scholars and intellectuals have reduced their culture into a caricature to be dismantled at will. As a result, they are no longer exposed to the great works of art, architecture, literature, music, philosophy, poetry, sculpture, theology, and theatre that the Western world has produced.

The modern proclivity for ignorance and stupidity comes out of a very special kind of arrogance. It is the kind of arrogance that makes people believe that all those who came before them must be dumber than they are. It does not acknowledge that our modern “enlightenment” is built on the works of those who came before us. Our forebears would be dumbfounded to find a world where, despite having greater access to information than anyone else in history, people have closed their minds to learning.

What all this boils down to is a rejection of wisdom. If you believe that all those who came before you are dumber than yourself you are unlikely to believe they have anything worthwhile to contribute. As such, you are unlikely to believe in wisdom as a universal good. As Neel Burton over at Psychology Today pointed out: “in an age dominated by science and technology, by specialisation and compartmentalisation, it [wisdom] is too loose, too grand, and too mysterious a concept.”

We have made phenomenal advancements in all areas of human knowledge. Sadly, our successes have also made us arrogant and self-righteous. If we are to take full advantage of our potential, we need to reignite our cultural past and find the humility to learn from those who went before us.

WHAT ARCHER REVEALS ABOUT HUMAN GOODNESS

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There is great truth to the sentiment that what appears simple and childish on the surface often hides the most profound and universal ideas of human goodness.

A cultural example of this phenomenon comes in the guise of the animated show, Archer. A show centred around the trials and tribulations of the men and women of the fictional independent, New York-based spy agency, ISIS (International Secret Intelligence Service).

That the show is both popular and critically acclaimed is self-evident. It has received an audience score of ‘9’ on Metacritic (based on 375 ratings) and an audience score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critically, it has been nominated for fifteen Annie Awards, and has won the Prime-Time Emmy awards, four Critics’ Choice Awards, and two Gold Derby Awards.

Archer’s popularity comes from two places. First, it’s exemplary use of meta-comedy, referenced-based humour, and use of rapid-fire dialogue that creates comedic elements which are, at the same time, crude and witty, nihilistic and meaningful. And second, its ability to create well-rounded characters who, despite their insufficiencies, are always willing to help one another.

It is the second part of this equation that I would like to focus on.

The primary example of this is displayed in the show’s protagonist, Sterling Archer. A man who could accurately be described as an immature, self-centred, narcissistic, and egotistical man-child. Archer is clearly a man who suffers from an abundance of emotional deficiencies. His abandonment issues stem from the lack of love he received as a child. His constant need to overcompensate for his insufficiencies, typically through drink, women, and sheer stupidity, is the result of being bullied at school.

As a consequence, Archer is a socially inept alcoholic and sex addict. And when combined with his narcissism, results in the kind of man who behaves recklessly not because he is fearless, but because he genuinely believes himself to be impervious to harm.

This is actually the primary joke of the show. Archer is not the “world’s most dangerous secret agent” because he is highly competent. Rather, he is the “world’s most dangerous secret agent” because his ineptitude makes him a danger to everyone around him.

Then there’s Archer’s boss and mother, Mallory. In many ways, she is worse than her son. She is, like her son, narcissistic and self-centred, and perhaps a little too fond of the bottle. However, unlike her son, who is capable of showing some humanity in spite of his self-centredness, Mallory is an emotionally cold, unloving, and hypocritical woman. She berates her employees but frequently embezzles money from her own company (usually for one materialistic splurge or another), and she’s perfectly willing to exploit the talents of her staff for her own personal gain.

Finally, there is Cyril Figgis, the mild-mannered and softly-spoken accountant who is, perhaps, the worse of the lot. Crippled with self-doubt and frequently the target of Archer’s provocations, Figgis is a man brimming with hatred and resentment. He is a man who abuses power once he gets it and fails to accept either advice or help from

What makes Archer a compelling show is that these characters are willing to help and forgive one another in spite of all their insufficiencies. Even Mallory Archer and Cyril Figgis are prepared to help their colleagues when they get into trouble, albeit begrudgingly.  Sterling Archer may be a self-centred buffoon, but he’s the first person to come to his friend’s aid when they get in trouble. Heck, he even describes Pam Poovey, the overweight human resources manager, as his best friend.

This is why Archer is compelling to watch. It reminds us that human beings are not perfect, but they can still find it within themselves to help one another.

HILLARY CLINTON BLAMES EVERYONE BUT HERSELF FOR HER 2016 ELECTION DEFEAT

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Hillary Clinton has released her 2016 election memoir, What Happened. Throughout the five-hundred-and-twelve page book, Clinton manages to blame everyone and everything else but herself for her defeat at the 2016 Presidential election.

Of course, there are the chief left-wing villains: Clinton, like most feminists, blames ‘sexism’ and ‘misogyny’ for her defeat by a “flagrantly sexist candidate.” At one point, Clinton even claims that she cannot give “absolution” to young women who failed to vote in the election.

Next, there’s the alleged collusion between President Trump and the Russians, whom Clinton blames for “weaponising information, negative stories” about her. Not even former President Barack Obama escapes her ire: he committed the grave sin of not addressing the so-called Russia hacking in a national television address.

Then, there’s the email scandal. You know, the one where Clinton used a private server to handle thousands of confidential documents? Clinton told CBS News:

“I watched how analysts who I have a great deal of respect for, like Nate Silver, burrowed into all the data and said that ‘but for that Comey letter, she would have won’.”

White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has slammed Clinton’s book for being filled with “inaccuracies” and has accused Clinton of failing to accept the blame for her own election defeat. Huckabee commented:

“I think probably the biggest one is any place within the book where she lays the blame for the loss on anyone but herself.”

Huckabee went on to criticise Clinton for accusing  President Trump of not being a President for all Americans:

“That type of misunderstanding of who this President is, and frankly a misunderstanding of what he’s been doing, is exactly one of the reasons that Hillary Clinton is not the President and is instead pushing a book with a lot of false narratives and a lot of, I think, false accusations and placing blame on a lot of other people instead of accepting it herself.”

George Neumayr of The Spectator attributes Clinton’s election defeat to her status as a modern incarnation of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth:

“She is a failed Lady Macbeth, but a Lady Macbeth who wants us to feel sorry for her, what with her chardonnay-chugging and alternate nostril breathing after the election. She writes: ‘If you’ve never done alternate nostril breathing, it’s worth a try.… It may sound silly, but it works for me. It wasn’t all  yoga and breathing: I also drank my share of chardonnay’.”

If Hillary Clinton is looking for someone to blame she should start by taking a long, hard look at herself. Throughout her campaign, Clinton came across as cold, calculating, and malevolent. She showed signs of narcissism, an astounding incapability of self-reflection, and a proclivity to blame everyone else but herself for her problems. Her attitude was that of arrogance and entitlement, as though the Presidency was her birthright,  as though she was guaranteed to win.