Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Narcissists: There’s a New Category Called “The Communal Narcissist”— Why Is That Something Library Defenders Would Want To Know More About?

Putting together a few thoughts about narcissism and those who sell libraries-  Clockwise from top, an article about "communal narcissists", work of Wendy Behary and her list of traits, Anand Giridharadas and his book about wealthy philanthropists, Dr. Ramani Durvasula's video about four kinds of narcissists.
Why would those defending the libraries want to know about what is supposed to be a particular kind of narcissist?  We will get to that. 

The subject of narcissism in the classic psychology sense can be fascinating, particularly when we now seem to be living in a culture that encourages traits that might easily be defined as problematic manifestations of the syndrome, even rewarding them by with positions of authority or high office.

This isn’t necessarily our area of expertise, and we note that, when you look into it, there are various psychologists who have gotten involved in making lists of the different kinds of narcissists into which they believe narcissists overall can be classified.  Those lists and categories frequently don’t seem to match, not in number or in category.  And then there are lists offering “sub-types”!

Reading about the traits assigned to some of these supposed categories it seems that many of those “differentiating” traits are actually all possessed together by many of the most pronounced narcissists. .  . Are they vain about their appearance and physical traits or vain about their brain– or vain about both?  Are they “High-Functioning, Exhibitionist, or Grandiose Narcissists” openly bragging and seeking attention, or are they sometimes surreptitiously operating with more or less the goals?  How much categorization makes sense?

Wendy Behary has a book out, “Disarming the Narcissist,” that offers a general list of traits associated with narcissists.  At a conference in Washington where she presented this year she said that the original title she liked for the book, rejected by her publisher or editor was, “Narcissist: A Nightmare in Shining Armor.”
Behry says narcissists typically display ten of the following thirteen traits:
1.   Self-absorbed – Acts like everything is all about him or her
2.    Entitled – Makes the rules; breaks the rules
3.    Demeaning – Puts you down, bullyish
4.    Demanding – of whatever he or she wants
5.    Distrustful  – Suspicious of your motives when you’re being nice to him or her
6.    Perfectionistic – Rigidly high standards – his or her way or no way
7.    Snobbish – Believes he or she is superior to you and others; gets bored easily
8.    Approval seeking – Craves constant praise and recognition
9.    Unempathic- Uninterested in understanding your inner experience or unable to do so
10.    Unremorseful – Cannot offer a genuine apology
11.    Compulsive – Gets overly consumed with details and minutiae
12.    Addictive – Cannot let go of bad habits; uses them to self soothe
13.    Emotionally detached – Steers clear of feeling
In other words, they spend a lot of time trying to make themselves look good and seeking praise and recognition, but they are dangerous to others because they lack empathy and feelings, feel entitled and break rules while putting themselves first.  Unable to apologize, they tend to be adept at, and focused on, shifting blame, deflecting truth to find other reasons for problems they are a source of, rather than acknowledge any failures in themselves.

We came across what is suggested to be a particular classification of narcissist that intrigued us as library defenders and got us thinking.  We watched a video of Dr. Ramani Durvasula: The 4 Types of Narcissism You Need To Know.  Per the title of that video, Dr. Durvasula offers a four “primary type” category division that includes the “malignant narcissist” (mean, almost psychopathic, likely to lie, cheat or steal, perfect material to make great criminals) the “covert narcissist” (seemingly put upon, really victimy, but still grandiose and passive aggressive).
The category that really caught our attention was the hard-to-spot“communal narcissist.”  The communal narcissist is always out at galas and benefits and wants attention for writing checks to charities.  They want to be seen as caring for those they are serving, while actually having a lack of empathy for those people they are “rescuing” and feel superior to.  They seek lots of “validation for all their good works” and are not about doing good quietly and unseen.

We found an article on this classification in Psychology Today: The Communal Narcissist: Another Wolf Wearing a Sheep Outfit, by Peg Streep, May 24, 2016.  The title of the article sounds a lot like Behary’s abandoned “Narcissist: A Nightmare in Shining Armor.”

The article is based on categories Dr. Craig Malkin used in his book “Rethinking Narcissism,” and says that the concept of the communal narcissist category “is a relative newcomer to the party; the designation is only a bit over a decade old.”

Malkin is quoted as explaining:
[T]hey regard themselves as especially nurturing, understanding, and empathic. They proudly announce how much they give to charity or how little they spend on themselves. . . . They believe themselves better than the rest of humanity, but cherish their status as givers, not takers.
But with grandiose notions that they are serving the world they lack “the ability to empathize” and are, according to the article “involved in community only as a validation of self.”   And finally, the article makes the point that they do not have the ability to self-recognize their traits.

If you are ahead of us on this then you already know why we were thinking about all of this.  We are thinking about it because it got us wondering about the library trustees and high level library administration officials who are consistently so self-congratulatory to themselves, and so self-assured about all the good things that they have done to transmogrify the libraries into something different.

There are also the related questions raised recently by Anand Giridharadas in his new book “Winners Take All- The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” and by others as to whether wealthy people dabbling in charities to "benefit" the rest of us want to help us or just help perpetuate a world and systems where they are always going to be on top, no matter if that’s problematic (i.e. asking them “to fix a system they are complicit in breaking”).  Plus, what the wealthy do is so frequently ensnared in the penchant for so-called “win-win solutions” where the wealthy who take the helm steering things are always looking for what’s in it (the “win”) for them.

Finally there is an overarching precept that Joseph Stiglitz, writing about Mr. Giridharadas’ book, offered by providing a quote from political scientist, Chiara Cordelli: “This right to speak for others, is simply illegitimate when exercised by a powerful citizen.”

Mr. Giridharadas doesn’t specifically mention the esoteric subject of the “communal narcissist” in his book, but in his book he does in fact, cite Ms. Cordelli’s words specifically in terms of good old-fashioned narcissism, saying that self-proclaimed “leaders” naming “themselves as the solvers of the most intractable social problems represents a worrisome way of erasing their role in causing them,” and the strangeness of placing “people with the most to lose from social reform” is:
marred by its own “narcissism.”  “It seems to me that these days everyone wants to change the world by themselves,” she said. “It’s about them; it’s about what they do.”  
Is that just a description of garden variety “narcissism,” or Ms. Cordelli zeroing in intuitively on the recently defined classification of “communal narcissist,” adopted by professional psychologists and counselors? 

(BTW: Another book covering similar territory with respect to the new “philanthropy” of the wealthy that we have also written about, David Callahan’s “The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age” neglects the subject of such narcissism entirely.)

Communal narcissists?  Maybe knowing that they exist and being alert for their traits will enable them to be spotted amongst the higher up library administrators and boards of library trustees that are congratulating themselves while they sell off and shrink, and commercialize with private partnerships, New York public libraries while eliminating books and eliminating librarians and their influence.  Such individuals are surely there, harbored in their ranks.   There is also their close kin, the inappropriately self-designated, self-prioritizing “problem solvers” for the rest of us identified by Giridharadas whose “charity” can do more harm than good.  They can no doubt be found in those ranks too.

The interesting thing, however, is that, whether or not particular individuals manifest these psychological traits personally, when the forces aligning to dismantle libraries aggregate individuals endowing them with authority to pursue the goal of dismantling libraries, those groups will inevitably engage in tactics and behaviors most suitable to pursue and validate such dismantling.  Engaging in those tactics and behaviors they are likely to collectively display the traits of communal narcissism: They will focus in a self-congratulatory, unquestioning way on how wonderful what they are doing is; they will be disengaged from and unfeeling and unemphatic about the people they are supposed to be serving while displaying delusional beliefs that they not only do care, but are superior in this regard; they will seek congratulation and good press for what they are doing; they will see themselves as “givers,” not “takers”

– Like other narcissists they will lack remorse for the harm they cause, steering clear of feelings, snobbishly keeping to themselves; they are apt to be bullyish or demeaning to others; and in an entitled fashion they will arrogantly want to make the rules and be in charge while breaking whatever rules they want, and they will avoid truth and accountability (wanting to be in charge of “fixing” what “they are complicit in breaking”).  . .

 .  And they will make a point of looking good, perfectly coifed and decked out when they go to their galas and benefits.

No comments:

Post a Comment