Narcissism And The Culture Of Self-Righteousness
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Politics and Activism

Narcissism And The Culture Of Self-Righteousness

Why we can be all a little more forgiving of the world, and everyone else.

Narcissism And The Culture Of Self-Righteousness

We are raised in a society that teaches—demands—that each one of us is special. Look into a mirror: that reflection is the only one that will always reflect what you do and what you want.

Narcissism isn’t necessarily the belief that you are better than and deserve more than everyone else; it’s the loss of perception that can morph incidental misfortunes into deeply unfair and personal punishments. So that when I woke up twenty minutes late for registration because my alarm mysteriously disabled itself, the $50 late fee felt absolutely unjust because anyone that knew the situation would understand that none of it was my fault. Little things like this and others much worse, like losing jobs or family members destroy us because we don’t like seeing events that affect us as just things that happen in the world, but things that have happened to us.

We feel that only we understand the nuances of each situation, and that when rules don't take that into account, we feel slighted. It is this feeling that this shouldn’t happen because I don’t deserve it that arises. We don’t like to think that we are trapped within the indiscriminate matrix of rules and fortune that govern everyone else. We like to be special—this I can overcome, because I am different. Except statistics demand that exceptions are only that: exceptions, anomalies that are lucky enough to slip through the grasp of all-too-common reality: the reality that each of us have been raised to reject. And the more we believe that our individual circumstances necessitate some sort of cosmic justice, the more difficult it is when we fall into the eventual realization that we are almost never the exception the rule, whatever the rule happens to be.

It is so easy to be angry at everything wrong in the world: war, injustice, bureaucratic indifference. When we view the world according to our personal sense of what is right, we will have fundamentally misplaced the order in which everything operates. That is not to say we should be caustic to things that hurt us and hurt others, to be stoic in the face of all adversities; but I think it would do us good to realize that all of us have essentially different matrices and principles that endlessly haunt our view of the world. To completely give in to your own sense of justice is to assert a moral monopoly on the world that simply does not exist. To indulge in the vitality and sense of centrality that is your own mind is to create a false narrative that places you and your desires above the chaos of the world, and your own relative irrelevance. Take politics, for example: I have yet to meet a person who thought they were wrong on a given issue. We all think that we're right.

I think we should try and come closer to understanding the radical subjectivity of our personal desires, to understand that other people have as complex lives as our own, and realize that the world’s cruelty shouldn’t always be perceived as an unbearable personal injustice, but as a reality that all of us have to endure.

I know this writing may feel ironic, even hypocritical, on some levels. For me to be dictating my own evolving personal viewpoint may seem condescending, perhaps. But all I hope is that we can move closer to a more common sympathy by acknowledging that our isolated kingdoms of justice extend only as far as our own minds. The work of reconciling a deaf and indifferent world with a self that feels every slight and desire with burning urgency is a quiet solace that all of us must labor towards for the rest of our lives.
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