Two myths about Trump Republicans.

Myth #1. Trump Republicans are Conservatives.

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No. Trump Republicans are not conservatives, and here is why:

Conservatives believe in conserving things, not tearing everything to shreds.  Trump Republicans are radical fascists and anarchists who seek to tear down “the establishment” and all the things that made America great (and held it together) before. They seek to  replace those things with new things that will hurt the vast majority of people and destroy the Constitution itself (conservatives believe in upholding and defending the Constitution).

Conservatives believe in traditional values. But Trump Republicans literally worship a president who is a serial adulterer, slept with a porn star (while his third wife was pregnant), had five children by three different wives, and bragged about grabbing women by the pussy because he’s a big star who can do anything he wants (and then he denied ever saying it).   And he’s never, ever repented or apologized for any of it — or anything else he’s ever done.   It seems to me that if God chose Trump to be president (as some evangelicals believe),  he would have chosen someone who is NOT a narcissistic psychopath and also  someone capable of empathy, remorse, and repentance.

The concept of traditional values goes far beyond just family values, though.   Having traditional values also means you believe in civility, kindness, generosity, being nice to strangers, and holding your tongue if you have something unkind to say out of respect for that person’s feelings (or broaching the subject in a sensitive, mature way).   It means being neighborly.  It means being concerned about people who are not as fortunate as you are.   It means not mocking or demeaning people you dislike or who are different from you,  not calling immigrants “animals,” and not treating people of color and women like slaves or second class citizens.

Conservatives believe in small government.    Trump does not believe in small government.  Sure, he and his minions like to talk about small government, but the huge windfall they just gave to the rich and corporations through their tax scam created the hugest deficit in history, which is now in the trillions (which will be paid for by us — through huge cuts to earned benefits like social security and Medicare).

Sure, they’re slashing those annoying regulations (most of which help keep us all safe and healthy) because they don’t believe corporations should be accountable or responsible for anything at all,  but they sure would like to put a lot of new laws and regulations on private citizens, including our sex lives and reproductive freedom.  They’re busy expanding the military and turning ICE into the American Gestapo.   The Trump GOP is pushing through all kinds of new laws and bills that will greatly restrict our civil rights and freedoms, especially if you’re in one of the groups they don’t like or respect (women, LGBTQ, POC, and non-white immigrants).  They are also pushing through legislation that blurs the line that has always separated church and state in the name of “religious freedom” (which it’s anything but).

The endgame is an oligarch-controlled, evangelical “Christian” theocracy that wouldn’t differ much from living in Saudi Arabia under Sharia law — or Europe during feudal times.

So tell me again how Trump supporters don’t want big government?

Hell, they want fucking Big Brother.

Please stop calling Trump Republicans conservatives.  They are conserving nothing.

Myth #2: Trump Republicans Want to Bring Back the 1950s.

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Perhaps Trump Republicans like the idea of the 1950s — doting housewives whose lives revolve around husband and kids,  husbands as the breadwinners, girls who look like girls and boys who look like boys, clearly defined sex roles, conformity, safe suburban neighborhoods, low crime; children’s books, movies, and TV shows that feature lily white protagonists; and little tolerance for cultural or racial diversity or “difference.”

The sexism and racism of the 1950s is well known, but was not really the result of oppressive policy, just the kind of culture we lived in at the time.  Most people just took for granted this was the way things worked so it wasn’t an issue for most people — at least not for a few more years.  Blacks were definitely discriminated against under Jim Crow, but women at the time for the most part welcomed the opportunity to marry and have “victory children” once their men returned from overseas in the Second World War.   There were no laws that women could not pursue traditionally male careers or a more independent life; it just wasn’t something most women considered.

But the 1950s are also known for strong labor unions, higher taxes on the wealthy (in fact they were quite high!), well paying jobs that enabled even working class people to buy homes and new cars, New Deal policies that made it possible for the elderly to live (and die) with dignity and independence rather than be a burden on their children who were trying to raise their own families; affordable healthcare, doctors who actually spent time with their patients and seemed to care about them personally, companies that cared about their employees and offered good benefits and even pensions, good public schools and a strong emphasis on public education, a recognition that science and scientific research trumped superstition and religious dogma, a healthy respect for education and intellectualism, an importance placed on treating others well, having a moral compass and a sense of responsibility to the community,  and a general acceptance by all that for the greater good, the rich should pay more taxes.

Hell, by today’s standards, the 1950s were downright socialist!

During the 1950s (and through the early 1970s), government worked for the people instead of the other way around.  Our checks and balances were intact and working well. Sure, there were always problems — rampant sexism and racism, communist “witch hunts,” etc — but the gap between the rich and poor was low (much of this due to the rich being taxed at a much higher rate) and most people lived pretty well and felt secure in their lives.  Even the less educated, working class could afford nice homes, cars, vacations, and were able to raise children who would later be able to attend college and live better than their parents.   The American Dream was a real thing almost anyone could achieve, not the huge lie it is today.

Life was pretty good in the 1950s because of the things Trump and his staff want to take away from us:  all the New Deal changes FDR made after the Great Depression, including Social Security and Medicare;  high taxes on the rich and corporations; corporate requirements to offer certain benefits to employees, such as health insurance, overtime pay (time and a half) and holiday pay;  a minimum wage that was actually a living wage that kept up with inflation; strong public schools, strong labor unions, federal grants for college, a GI bill that allowed veterans and military personnel to purchase inexpensive homes,  large public works projects, public libraries, and a public interstate highway system; and all sorts of other things that made life more enjoyable and less stressful and made advancement possible for most Americans.   In the 1950s, most people trusted the government, and the government believed that taking care of its people created a healthier and more productive society — as it does in all healthy democracies.  We were the envy of the free world.

While Trump Republicans appear to bemoan the “traditional values” of the 1950s, they never stop to think about the fact that much of what Americans enjoyed then was possible because of a government that actually served its people, instead of one that expects to be served by the people.

Trump Republicans do not want to bring back the 1950s, because that would require them to do all the things they hate: raise taxes on the rich,  offer more social programs, increase funding for public works projects, public schools, libraries, and infrastructure, raise pay for teachers; take care of the elderly, sick and veterans;  improve our national parks and monuments (instead of destroying them and selling them off), encourage and support labor unions, and stop gerrymandering and suppressing votes.   It would require the realization that enhancing the common good matters more in building a strong nation and a strong economy than rewarding and placing value on only wealth and power.

Trump Republicans may want to bring us back to the ’50s, but it isn’t the 1950s — it’s the 1850s right before the Civil War and the Gilded Age — or maybe even the 1350s, if the Christofascists ever get their way.

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The most chilling book I have ever read (book review: Democracy in Chains)

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I just finished reading Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy McLean.    This book was as creepy as anything Stephen King ever wrote, but it isn’t a horror novel or even fiction.   It’s a well-researched expose of how America lost its way — and it started a lot earlier than you thought.   It also wasn’t an accident.  Everything up to and including public attitudes about democracy and the rightward shift of both parties was planned down to the smallest detail decades ago.

It all started innocuously enough with an ultra-conservative economist named James McGill Buchanan in the early 1950s.    Buchanan was a libertarian who believed that the New Deal, labor unions, and the social safety net were assaults on true freedom  (to him and others like him, “freedom” meant the right of property owners to keep all their wealth) and who also believed the Gilded Age — a time of terrible inequality and suffering harrowingly described in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle) — was the last time America was on the right track.

Buchanan was relentless in his pursuit of the freedom of the wealthy and property-owning minority (who he saw as more deserving) over the masses of poor and middle class people who benefited from the social safety net, public education, labor unions, social security, and other programs put into place under the New Deal to alleviate the ravages of the Great Depression and improve life for almost everyone.   He also didn’t believe that people who didn’t own property should have the right to vote, because they would tend to favor democracy over true “freedom”  and therefore stood in the way of the growth of an unfettered free market.

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James McGill Buchanan

 

The cancer on democracy began, like all cancers, with a tiny cell (and a lot longer ago than I ever imagined):  Buchanan set off what would become a wholesale assault on democracy in his home state of Virginia in the early 1950s by attacking public education in his state.  He wanted it to be abolished and replaced with private schools and vouchers (sound familiar?)   But at the time, his ideas were so unpopular they had no chance of influencing the public and were dismissed as fringe or even crazy by both major political parties.  Buchanan, unfazed, realized that stealth measures would be necessary for his ideas to see the light of day.

Over time, he and others like him (such as the Koch Brothers, libertarian billionaires who have funded many right wing causes and played an important role in our march toward fascism) set up right wing think tanks and found insidious ways to infiltrate the economics departments of colleges and universities, thus influencing those who studied economics and the students who graduated from these schools.

In a seemingly unrelated chapter, McLean describes the hostile 1973 takeover of Chile’s formerly socialist and democratic government by a far right wing dictator who destroyed all social programs, gutted public education and healthcare, abolished free and fair elections, ended the free press, and made dissent illegal.   And not just illegal:  many dissenters were tortured horribly before being killed, or mysteriously “disappeared.”   The end justified the means — the end being total power of the few (the oligarchs) at the expense of the many.  McLean’s inclusion of this chapter about a little-known South American country is relevant because not only did the situation in Chile (which lasted for 16 years — democracy has been restored) closely mirror the regime that is trying to do the same here in America,  the Chilean coup was aided and abetted by Buchanan and his cronies — and funded by our government.

Realizing that his ideas would never be popular with the public, Buchanan (and later, the Koch Brothers and others) deliberately planned a stealth takeover, which included deliberate lying to the public,  manipulation of the press, the gradual demonization of democratic values and the social safety net, and normalization of the callous and unthinkable.   Although they hated Vladimir Lenin’s Marxist ideology, they loved his methods, and studied them to find out how they could use the same methods to destroy democracy and install an authoritarian oligarchy in its place (Steve Bannon is also a big fan of Lenin for the same reasons).

These men and their right wing think tanks came up with new ideas for indoctrinating the public through deceptive, incredibly Machiavellian measures that resulted in getting both parties to shift rightward, until eventually, their goals that would benefit the few and hurt many no longer seemed so unthinkable.   They were able, through their machinations and manipulations, to deceive people into voting against their own best interests and erroneously believing government and regulations (laws that protect people and the environment from corporate excess) were the greatest evil we faced.

These men were not stupid.  They were well aware how much human misery and suffering extreme unregulated capitalism and privatization, removal of the safety net, voter suppression, and oppression of dissenters would create.  They saw what happened in Chile — and approved in spite of the vast human misery the extreme capitalist regime caused there.   But to them, the end always justifies the means.   If people suffer, they are necessary casualties of a system they believe is the only one that would reward and benefit only the deserving.   Those who suffer deserve to suffer.

The changes, which had already been going on for over two decades, finally became noticeable in the late 1970s, as evangelical Christianity was co-opted by the far right, which began to infiltrate its theology.  Using religion as a tool to reach the middle and lower classes, most of the South and Midwest could be duped into voting against democratic values and for those that benefited only the oligarchs.    Shortly thereafter, Reagan was elected and the era of deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations began — and is still going on to this day.   But even Reagan proved to be a traitor to the cause when he refused to privatize Social Security, which is a long dreamed of goal and frighteningly close to success.     His refusal to cooperate caused a deep rift in the Republican party between the moderates and the hardline conservatives.  Reagan would be too liberal for today’s far right.

The most horrifying thing about Democracy in Chains is the last chapter, which describes our future if these sociopathic leaders have their way.   I won’t go into too much detail here, but prepare to be shocked by these “liberty first” hardliners’ callousness for human and for all life.   Such a future would make today’s seem like a paradise.   Conditions would rival developing countries (and they are aware they would be but they don’t care). There would be no funds for public health or sanitation, which would cause pandemics only seen in the third world.  The rich would live in gated palaces while the masses would be forced to try to survive in shantytowns and makeshift shelter, since housing would be priced out of their reach. No access to public education, transportation (roads would be privatized also), healthcare, or any basic services at all would create early death, brutality, despair and suffering, violent crime beyond anything we can imagine in America.   Naturally, the lack of access to public schooling (and the need for cheap and slave labor) would lead to the dismantling of child labor laws (which they see as anathema to “freedom”).   Private prisons with no laws against brutality would be the lot of many.    There’s also a reason for their climate change denial. It’s not because they are ignorant (they aren’t) and it’s not solely about greed either.  They actually see natural disasters as a way to weed out the “takers” (those who would not be able to prepare or escape) from the “makers.”  

We are almost there.  This coup is deliberate and well-organized and evil to the core — and is being carried out in the darkness and secrecy because there is no other way for them to force their diabolical plan on the rest of us.   It didn’t begin with Trump, or Bush, or Clinton, or even Reagan.  It’s been the stealth plan of the far right for almost 70 years.   These people do their evil work in darkness and secrecy and the intent is to rewrite our Constitution to suit only themselves.  They are determined to have their way no matter how antisocial or oppressive the means to get there might be.   They are no longer even trying to hide their nefarious (if not outright evil) motives.  This was evident during the recent healthcare bill fiasco, in which the GOP worked in secrecy, without input from any Democrats or progressives, and never even denied their lack of transparency.   Trump is a late stage symptom of this coup and this book is a last minute call to action before it’s too late and we lose even our right to vote or protest.    This is an unsettling but necessary book.

Democracy in Chains is incredibly well researched, with 60 pages of footnotes.  It’s not an easy read, but I recommend it to anyone who cares about democracy and wonders why America lost its soul.

Trump’s budget, repealing the ACA, the triumph of evil, and the rebirth of community spirit.

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I absolutely hate Trump’s projected budget, as well as Trump’s Obamacare replacement, which although is nearly universally hated  not only on the left but on the right too (albeit for different reasons), is likely to pass this Thursday when Congress votes on it.

This administration not only wants to repeal Obamacare and take from the poor and middle class to give more tax breaks to the rich, they also want to eliminate (not just cut) the EPA, as well as Meals on Wheels (which help many disabled elderly and half a million disabled VETERANS), after school programs that help single moms, free legal services that help the poor in civil cases, federal grant programs for colleges, the NEH and NEA (both which promote arts and culture to the masses for free or nearly free), NPR (the only place on the radio where I can get the factual news while I’m driving), PBS (how can anyone hate Sesame Street? Really?), and many,many other programs that help families, and the poor and middle class.  Not only that, but they want to privatize public education, making it impossible for the poor or those who live in rural areas to send their children to school at all.  A voucher just isn’t going to cut it for these people, many of whom voted for Trump.   Next I expect they’ll try to repeal the child labor laws.  “Send those kids whose parents can’t afford to send them to school to work to teach them about the value of hard labor,” they’ll say.   “Let’s make America great again — like it was in 1900.”

Let’s stop kidding ourselves by making excuses like “more jobs will be created” and “taking away entitlements will force people to be self reliant.”   Nearly 40 years of trickle down economics has shown it does not work.  It doesn’t create more jobs and the money funneled to the top doesn’t trickle down to the most vulnerable Americans whose poverty, illness, or advanced age is almost never their own fault.   It’s become popular to blame them though for all the nation’s ills, instead of the greedy corporations and billionaires who keep taking and taking and taking and seem to be voracious in their need for more and more tax breaks and perks.     This is typical “blame the victim” mentality on a national scale.  Their greed and narcissism is off the charts and is destroying our country. The destruction or privating of everything good about America, and destroying its people and the environment we live in is exactly what they plan to do.

It’s time to face the ugly truth about this presidency.  I believe this budget (and the repeal and “replacement” of Obamacare) is actually an intentional death sentence for the so called “nonproducers” — the most vulnerable members of society — the poor, old, disabled, and sick.   Remove their only hope for healthcare, then take away all the popular programs that fill in the gaps and help many of these vulnerable people have better lives, keep them alive, and keep them from becoming totally ignorant. Many will die.  Those who don’t die  or suffer with chronic medical or mental conditions will be faced with lives so difficult and painful they may be forced to suicide.  But this administration doesn’t care.   In fact, letting the vulnerable people kill themselves off is probably what they want.   They are evil.   They want people to suffer. They want “the little people” to have nothing.  They don’t even want us to have clean air or drinking water.  They don’t care.

Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be next.   What will happen to all the elderly, disabled, and sick who rely on these programs? What will happen to the nursing home residents who rely on Medicaid to cover their expenses?  Guess they’ll all be tossed out in the streets and be forced to move in with their adult children, whether those children have the means to take care of them or not.   If they don’t have adult children to care for them, they will die lonely, painful deaths with no one to care.

Yet these same far right conservatives wring their hands and shed tears over the unborn.  Once you’re born though, it’s “bootstraps, baby!”  Your child is sick?  You shouldn’t have gotten pregnant.   Don’t have the money to buy health insurance for your child?   It’s not our problem!

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It’s all because they want to keep everything for themselves.  They decry socialism as the ultimate evil and tell lies about long wait times in European countries who have universal healthcare and other social programs that help their people.  But I don’t know one European or Canadian who complains about having to pay higher taxes in exchange for having decent healthcare.   In fact, every one I know is very happy with their single payer healthcare, and feel very sorry for us that we don’t have it.   They wonder what is wrong with us that we still think healthcare should be for profit and don’t share their philosophy that “wer’re all in this together.”

I would be more than happy to pay higher taxes for single payer healthcare.  I sure as heck would rather pay taxes for programs that help people and cultural enrichment programs like the NEH and PBS and NPR  than I would for a ridiculous, unnecessary wall or for even further buildup of the military and nuclear weapons than we already have.

They say socialism is evil, but they are hypocrites.   They believe in socialism alright — socialism and welfare for the wealthy and for corporations (remember, corporations are people!); but rugged individualism for everyone else.   These people have no empathy.  They have no conscience.  They are morally bankrupt.  Their hearts are black and shriveled like prunes.  You can see it in their hard, cold, dead eyes and cruel smiles.

What they really are trying to do is thin the herd and create a banana republic that cares only about the wealthy 1% and f*ck you if you aren’t one of them.

But there’s a plus side to this.  People will be so outraged if this budget (and the ACA replacement) goes through and these programs are abolished that charitable giving and community spirit will increase to levels we have never seen. Many corporations, celebrities (almost all who are liberals), and other compassionate wealthy people (they do exist!) will set up funds to fill the vast hole left by the Republicans or to fund the dying programs so they stay in existence — or create new ones. Grass roots organizations and community organizations will spring up to help their neighbors and fellow citizens. There will also be backlash from the left the likes of which has never been seen before, and Republicans are nearly guaranteed not to win another election.

Within the ruins these hardline conservatives leave in their wake, emerging from the ashes they leave behind of a once great nation that cared about the common people both here and around the world–the proverbial phoenix will rise again.  People will start to take care of each other again, because we will have no other choice.

How did narcissism get so “popular”? (part two of two)

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Here is the second installment, as I promised–I apologize for the delay. In part one, I covered the way narcissism has increasingly infiltrated our society and become a near-virtue to be emulated, starting in the late 1940s and 1950s in a postwar America now regarded to be a world superpower. The babies born in this mood of can-do optimism, the Baby Boomers, were indulged by their parents, who believed anything was possible and showered their children with all the new toys, space-age technology, and new permissive child-rearing techniques that were suddenly popular.

In Part One of this article, I discussed how the indulged Boomer generation influenced western society at every stage of life, and (as a generation) grew into grandiose, entitled adults who demanded (and got) special treatment every step of the way. I covered the decades from the 1950s through the 1980s, and described how narcissism became increasingly regarded as a desireable quality. By the 1980s, narcissism came out of the closet, with the election of a president (Reagan) who encouraged greed, materialism, and entitlements for the wealthy with his “trickle down economics.” At the same time, empathy, neighborliness, and general goodwill toward others seemed to become almost quaint, a naive relic of the past. The juggernaut was the new “greed is good” philosophy, made popular by a 1987 hit movie, “Wall Street,” (which was of course the place to be). Narcissism was no longer something to be hidden; now it was something to aspire to.

In this next installment, I’ll be focusing less on the Boomers and more on the continued growth of narcissism in society, as well as the backlash against it–the narcissistic abuse and ACON community–which began as an Internet phenomenon during the mid 1990s due to one self-professed narcissist named Sam Vaknin. But actually, the seeds of the backlash had been planted as far back as 1983, with M. Scott Peck’s bestselling book, “People of the Lie.”

1990s.

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The greed worshipping culture begun in the 1980s continued during the 1990s, as Boomers rose to power and we elected our first Boomer president, Bill Clinton, in 1992. Under Clinton, the economy boomed, and a new breed of Yuppies, the Dot Com entrepreneurs (who were mostly Generation X), rode on the coattails of the newly born Internet, and they made money hand over fist until they went bust several years later. But people still went shopping and the culture at large was becoming increasingly exhibitionistic, obnoxious, and in-your-face (reality shows were born during this time), while corporations grew bigger and more unwieldy (unlimited growth, like a cancer, was encouraged, and smaller companies merged into megacorporations the size of small governments). Meanwhile, government institutions built in the more sedate and community-oriented 1950s and 1960s began to splinter and crumble. The government, especially the part of the government that tried to help its less fortunate citizens and attempted to even the playing field through fair taxation, became The Enemy.

But a backlash was beginning to silently bubble under all the glitz and bling of the ’90s. Back in 1983, a psychiatrist turned born-again Christian named M. Scott Peck published his groundbreaking book, “People of the Lie.” Here, for the first time, was a self help psychology book that focused on “evil”–specifically, people who were evil. The traits described in the book are exactly those of malignant narcissism. The book resonated with many, particularly with Gen-Xers and later born Boomers (Generation Jones), who had been raised by narcissistic parents. In some cases, especially for younger Boomers and early Gen-Xers, these kids had been betrayed by initially doting Silent generation parents who suddenly, during the 1960s or 1970s, seemed to suddenly care only about their own self-development at the expense of their confused and hurt adolescent and preteen children who they no longer seemed to even like much (this is exactly what my experience had been growing up in the 60s and 70s: my parents changed and no longer seemed to care).

But in the early 1980s, Peck’s “evil people” were not automatically equated with narcissists or people with other Cluster B disorders. Until the mid-90s, narcissism–or NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)–was simply a psychiatric label given to certain patients with a certain set of traits, who may or may not have been evil. NPD wasn’t demonized yet.

Then along came Sam Vaknin in 1995. Vaknin, a former white collar criminal and self-confessed narcissist, had written a tome about narcissism called “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.” Written initially to obtain supply and a guru-like status for himself, Vaknin’s book actually helped many of the narcissistic abuse victims who read it and recognized their abusers in its 600+ pages. Vaknin’s idea of NPD didn’t fit that described in the DSM: he mixed in with NPD several traits of psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and Borderline personality disorder (BPD), to describe a particularly dangerous type of malignant narcissist that made the toxic people described in M. Scott Peck’s book seem almost tame in comparison.

The book was successful, and soon Vaknin started his own website, and discussion groups, and abuse victims all over the world jumped on the bandwagon. Vaknin, exactly the sort of person they sought to avoid, had become their savior and guiding light out of darkness.

Until the 2000s, Vaknin’s was pretty much the only voice on the Internet about narcissistic abuse. But in the very late 90s, a few books were beginning to be published about this “new” type of abuse that didn’t necessary include physical violence (but could). Parents, particularly mothers, were the focus, and a subset of the narcissistic abuse community–one that focused on narcissistic mothers and the damage they had done to their now-adult children–formed the template for the explosive ACON (Adult Children of Narcissists) movement.

2000s.

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For a brief time, after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it looked like Americans just might start to care about each other again. There was an outpouring of support for the victims of the 9/11 disasters, and solidarity shown among all Americans. For the first time, regional differences and even racial differences didn’t seem to matter, and Americans were united by their flying of the flag. No one seemed all that concerned by the curtailment of certain freedoms and and increase in xenophobia–after all, it was for the protection of the country, right?

But as a result, the economy was suffering, so George W. Bush Jr. (“Dubya”) gave us all permission to “go shopping.” And so we did. It was back to the bread and circuses and the shallow, materialistic culture of the 1980s through pre-2001.

Reality shows rose in popularity and the badder the behavior, the more popular they got. New celebrities were famous only for “being famous,” having a famous parent, or just for acting badly. People aspired to be just like Snooki and The Situation from The Jersey Shore, or Tiffany “New York” Pollard from Flavor of Love. All of these characters were narcissists, or at least acted that way for the benefit of the camera. And people loved them for it.

During the 2000s, Millennials, the rising young adult generation, born in the 1980s and 1990s, started being being accused of being narcissistic, but if they are, you can blame their parents for having taught them these values. In addition, a lot of gaslighting is going on by older generations, who blame the Millennials for their inability to find jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits, forcing them to live at home and be dependent for longer than earlier generations–and accuse them of being “lazy,” “spoiled,” and “entitled.” But what about their mostly Boomer and Gen-X parents, who modeled this sort of behavior?

Politicians became more blatantly narcissistic and their lack of empathy sank to new lows. One politician said if you weren’t rich, you should blame yourself. Blaming the victim became increasingly popular, and was even seen by some conservative politicians as a “Christian” way to behave–for if you were favored by God, He would bless you with wealth and material comforts. Religion itself became a way for narcissists to rise to positions of great power, and use their “favored status” in God’s eyes as a way to abuse their flock of followers.

Meanwhile, the narcissistic abuse commmunity continued to grow, and blogs written by abuse survivors were beginning to pop up all over the Internet. The abuse community developed their own lingo, some of it borrowed from earlier movements such as 12-step programs (codependent, enabling, people-pleaser are examples), some from pioneers such as Sam Vaknin (narcissistic supply, confabulation), and some from mental health experts going all the way back to Freud. Some terms were taken from popular movies, such as “flying monkeys” (The Wizard of Oz), and “gaslighting” (Gaslight).

2010s.

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Being only 5 years into the 2010s, it’s hard to see any patterns yet, but it does seem that the problem of narcissism is finally being noticed by the general public. One of the Republican presidential candidates, Donald Trump, is well known for his “NPD” and called out for his grandiose antics constantly, even by people outside the narcissistic abuse community. Narcissism is a fashionable topic now–the fascination by it may only be a fad, but it’s making people pay attention. Lately I’ve noticed a number of Christians who are abandoning the fiscally conservative values held by groups such as the Tea Party, who are about as collectively entitled as you can get (they had better get their social security, but to hell with that child who needs special medical treatment but can’t get it because his parents are too poor). It’s probably too soon to tell whether the “social gospel” is making a return, but there does seem to be a greater call for an increase in empathy and caring for each other and building communities instead of just building up the Almighty Self.

It will be interesting to see what the rest of this decade holds.

How did narcissism get so “popular”? (part one of two)

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When I was compiling my lists of songs about narcissism, it didn’t pass my notice how few songs there were prior to the 1980s that focused on it. Oh sure, there have always been a few here and there (Carly Simon’s 1972 hit “You’re So Vain” immediately comes to mind) and there were always those “you/he/she done me wrong” love songs, but songs specifically about narcissism were pretty rare.

I think the reason for this is because it wasn’t until the 1980s that narcissism became so dominant in western (especially American) culture that it became a new virtue–something to aspire to if you wanted to be financially and professionally successful. And it wasn’t until the 1990s that narcissism became recognized as a real problem and websites, blogs and forums about narcissistic abuse began to spring up all over the Internet.

But I think the problem really started long before that, back in the post-WWII days when the Baby Boomers started being born. Of course there are exceptions, but as a generation, the Boomer generation was raised to be grandiose, entitled and lack a collective sense of empathy for others. As the Boomers aged, their collective sense of entitlement bled over into everything they touched–politics, business, and the culture at large. Today this narcissism affects all living generations, but generations older than the Boomers generally frowned on it.

1950s.

boomer_girl

After our WWII victory, America became very hubristic. We had become a superpower to be reckoned with the world over, and American life never seemed better. Life was very different than it had been even a decade earlier, and most newlyweds now had TVs, new kitchens with modern appliances that made a wife’s job much easier and left her more time to spend with her children, and often two cars. Employment was high and jobs paid well compared to the cost of living at the time. Young husbands were able to afford to buy tract homes and new cars on the GI bill, and could afford to support a wife and children. Of course, these were very conformist times too, and “keeping up with the Joneses” was a thing.

Enter the victory babies born in this national mood of optimism following the war: the Baby Boomers. Raised according to Dr. Benjamin Spock’s indulgent philosophy of “feeding on demand” and “Johnny will clean up his room when he feels like cleaning up his room,” Boomer infants and toddlers were pampered, indulged, and trained to be entitled. They were given anything they wanted and discipline tended to be light and consist of trying to “reason” with children. There was an endless array of new toys and snacks marketed to children, and mothers were made to feel like bad parents if they refused to comply with what advertisers told them to buy. The kids caught onto this attitude of entitlement, and if Sally got the new Barbie doll or Eric got the new battery operated toy truck, then Debbie and Paul had to have them too. The culture at the time was child-centered. It was a given that a child’s needs and wants always came before the parents’ and children were constantly told how “special” they were.

As they entered school, young Boomers’ attitude of entitlement and specialness carried over into the classroom. As a generation, they expected to be treated as little gods and goddesses, just as their parents had treated them.

1960s.

hippies

As the Boomers entered their teens, they began to rebel against the parents who had showered attention and material comforts on them. I believe this rebellion was due to a collective fear of engulfment by overindulgent parents. They were attempting to break away by reacting against the very lifestyle that had given them so much. Of course not every child had overindulgent parents, but teenagers always try to emulate what’s popular or cool. Rebelling against “the Establishment” or the Vietnam War (which also represented the values of their parents) became hip and cool. Adolescent Boomers, having been raised to believe they were unique and special (and most of those middle class and above were able to attend college and were often the first in their family to be able to do so) embraced causes that were anathema to the values of “the old fogies” and at first, really believed their causes were superior to those of their parents. They tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. They experimented with marijuana and LSD. They dressed in hippie clothing and wore their hair long, which horrified “The Establishment.” They listened to rock music, the louder and harder and more offensive to the older generation, the better. They protested the war, attended “love ins” and participated in campus sit-ins, and eventually riots. Young Boomers believed their values were exactly what the world needed, but their attitude was based on entitlement rather than realism. They were idealists who believed the world could be changed by smoking pot and listening to the right sort of music.

Due to the sheer size of the Boomer generation, anything they did got a lot of national attention. Besides the many disapproving and negative news stories about the Vietnam protests, communal living, and recreational drug use, others were also beginning to emulate them. The next-older generation (The Silents), who had been largely ignored as they came of age, tried to seem younger by emulating the Boomers in their dress, tastes, and general lifestyle. The Boomers were never short on collective narcissistic supply (both negative and positive), and this continued to feed their attention-getting behavior.

Parents wondered where they had gone wrong, and why the children they had raised so lovingly had turned so rebellious and so insistent on “doing their own thing.” They wondered why this new generation seemed to hate them so much.

By the end of the 1960s, the “hippie lifestyle,” like everything else the Boomers would ever start, had become a lucrative market. But by the time The Establishment caught on, the Boomers were beginning to move on to other things, including embracing what they had rejected.

The power was still in the hands of the older generation of course, so narcissism had not yet become a noticeable part of the culture (although hubris and conformity definitely still was). By the 1970s, the first signs of a growing narcissistic culture would begin to make themselves felt.

1970s.

disco_ball

Boomers, now entering their 20s, had by now largely abandoned their earlier hippie incarnation for a more subdued “back to the land” movement, in which they opted for whole foods, fresh air, and healthy living. Others began to infiltrate the job market, often with degrees in esoteric subjects. Having children was something to be avoided, as Boomers wanted to prolong their adolescence or make a mark on the world. The Pill and newly legal abortion made all this possible. Around the same time, women began to demand equal rights in society and the workplace. The 70s wave of feminism was very anti-child and pro-career. If you preferred to marry and raise children, you were looked upon as a throwback to the 1950s.

Around the same time, various forms of non-traditional, humanist psychotherapies (EST, Esalen, etc.), grassroots religions, and cults became popular. Collectively known as “the human potential movement,” self-improvement and self-development became a priority for Boomers. Putting your own needs before those of others was not only normal, it was considered healthy. New York Magazine dubbed the 1970s “The Me Decade” for this reason. Couples opted to cohabitate rather than marry(because it was easier to break a commitment), and divorce was becoming very common. Children raised during this time (Generation X) found themselves ignored, treated as second class citizens, or sometimes even abandoned by their self-involved Boomer parents who seemed to put their own needs ahead of theirs.

Around the middle of the 1970s, a new kind of music (disco) became associated with materialism, hedonism, and over the top sexuality. By now, Boomers had done a 180 from their emergence during the 1960s as hippies, and now embraced the crass materialism they had once rejected. They were ready for a President who would encourage their pursuit of luxury and material success.

At the same time, fundamentalist Christianity, which had been “rediscovered” by some Boomers as an outgrowth of the Jesus movement of the 1960s, was becoming increasingly popular, and the new conservatism was using it as a way to attract newly saved Christian voters.

The new narcissism wasn’t lost on Christopher Lasch, who published his book, “The Culture of Narcissism,” in 1979.

1980s.

yuppies

Ronald Reagan popularized trickle-down (or “supply side” economics), which basically meant allowing people to pay less taxes and keep more of what they earned. This played right into the hands of financially successful, entitled Boomers, who didn’t want to share their newfound wealth. The hippies had become the Yuppies–young urban professionals who had to “dress for success,” live to impress, and have the best of everything. Clothing wasn’t acceptable unless it had a designer’s logo on it. Housewares weren’t acceptable unless they were handmade in Outer Mongolia by native women. Food wasn’t acceptable unless it was “nouvelle cuisine.”

Having the perfect body was a priority, and Boomers started going to the gym or even personal trainers to tone and sculpt their bodies, sometimes to the point of unhealthy obsession. Boomers, mostly in their 30s by now, were finally deciding to have families, but children themselves became a status symbol, and getting your child into the “right” preschool or having the “right” designer clothing, or the “right” dance instructor became all-important. It was common for Boomer parents to watch other people’s children closely, to find out what they needed to do to “one up” each other as parents.

In 1987, a popular movie called “Wall Street” was released, in which its most famous quip, “greed is good,” became a national meme. While it was intended as a joke at first, “greed is good” quickly became a new philosophy of life, in which greed was not only good but became a virtue. Greed may have been one of the seven deadly sins, but even Christians made an exception for it, and we even had a Christian president who encouraged as much of it as possible. After all, it was the American way and America was a Christian nation, right?

Please continue reading Part Two of this article. 

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For further reading, see my articles:
1. Are Millennials Really the Most Narcissistic Generation Ever?
2. Why is Narcissism so Hot These Days?