12 June 2010

Radical grandiose narcissism

The always readable Mark Steyn once again hits the nail on the head with a comparison in National Review of Michael Ignatieff (ex Harvard professor, ex BBC interleckshul and now leader of the opposition Liberal Party in Canada) and the blesséd Obama.
Obama’s postmodern detachment is feeble and parochial. It’s true that he hadn’t seen much of America until he ran for president, but he hadn’t seen much of anywhere else, either. Like most multiculturalists, he’s passed his entire adulthood in a very narrow unicultural environment where your ideological worldview doesn’t depend on anything so tedious as actually viewing the world. Ignatieff, who actually has viewed the world, gets close to the psychology in his response to criticisms of him for spending so much time abroad. Deploring such 'provincialism', he replied: 'They say it makes me less of a Canadian. It makes me more of a Canadian.'
As one who has lived in many countries, my own experience is that it makes you a permanent outsider, unable to 'read' the mood of whatever country you're in, especially the one you were born into. What you are left with are the feeble tools of pragmatic observation and deductive reasoning, which count for very little in the balance of how societies work.

Age also alienates, as the sheer repetitiousness of collective human folly becomes personal when you live long enough to witness a full turn of the wheel, and yesterday's discredited dogmas become the shiny new orthodoxy of the chattering class. And it is of that cohort, permanently seeking enlightenment up its own collective fundament, that Steyn writes in one of his signature conclusions:
In recent months, a lot of Americans have said to me that they had no idea the new president would feel so 'weird'. But, in fact, he’s not weird. True, he’s not, even in Democratic terms, a political figure - as, say, Clinton or Biden are. Instead, he’s the product of the broader culture: there are millions of people like Barack Obama, the eternal students of a vast lethargic transnational campus for whom global compassion and the multicultural pose are merely the modish gloss on a cult of radical grandiose narcissism.


  1. I find it a little difficult, reading his whole article, to get beyond Mark Steyn's own grandiose narcissism in order to view Obama's clearly. I once spent six winter weeks in Chicago in 1968 in a clergy seminar on Community Organisation for urban churches, black and white. Saul Alinsky spoke to us and we spent a lot of time checking out some of the shabbier neighborhoods of that huge city.

    Although the usual Wingnuts are engaged in demonizing Alinsky - and by association Obama - there is a lot of wisdom in his attitude towards
    community leadership. For one thing, he believes in a very disciplined and non-'charismatic' approach. You have to build consensus and work through shared leadership and experience. Alinsky talks about both involving yourself fully in the process of building community but also retaining a detached
    overall vision of what it is that you're about.
    Obama learned a lot from him.

    The American President is something of a gradualist. He is playing the hand he was dealt largely. He has started deep in the hole and fate has not exactly given him all the cards he would have liked. And if he seems not to identify wholly with the Democratic Party, well does that make him a narcissist? I think Steyn is just trying out his own brand of Obama-bashing, where,in this case as in many others of a similar nature, the main idea is to establish - through the rhetoric of 'post-modern' etc. that Obama is not really 'one of us.'

    Given the kind of target that public figures become for all sorts of dumping and projecting by the media, cranks, and competitors, it is a wonder to me that anyone would want to be President of the U.S.

  2. I voted for Obama because the Republicans badly needed a kicking. If I thought deficit spending and a messianic foreign policy were desirable, I'd have been a life-long Democrat. Likewise, I don't buy 'community leadership' because it has always, everywhere, transmuted into clientelism and the sort of 'machine' corruption for which Chicago is infamous. No matter how you dress it up, the state is a predator.