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The Politics of Narcissism in the age of Trump: the End of History?

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In this essay, based on hearing the word narcissist used as a replacement for words such as "commie," "fascist," and other derogatory kill the messenger terms, I examine the original meaning of the term and seek to understand why it has replaced political discourse as the means of invalidating, through an ancient logical fallacy of guilt by association, as well as what it reveals about the arc of history and our chances to survive.

This does not make invalid the correct historical use of such terms as communist and fascist but suggests that personal smears, based on individual psychopathology, have replaced traditional ideological smears, as well as descriptions. The question I raise is: why has this transition from the realm of the idea to the realm of the psyche taken place? What are the underlying reasons and what are the effects?

From flickr.com: [ L ] Francois Lemoyne - Narcissus (1725) {MID-72659}
[ L ] Francois Lemoyne - Narcissus (1725)
(Image by Cea.)
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Let us begin by understanding the origins of the term and its original application. In Greek mythology, the figure of Narcissus was a hunter famous for his great beauty. He was filled with hubris in disdaining them who loved him. He could love only himself.

Nemesis was a goddess who punished those who suffered from pride viewed as arrogance before the gods. She attracted Narcissus to a pool where he fell in love with his own image. Karma is a b*tch!

Nemesis, in origin, refers to getting what is due. The goddess is often depicted with a weapon of retribution, a dagger or whip. She is associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In a word, nemesis means justice, which combines punishment with mercy, retribution with love.

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To connect the dots, it seems likely that the term narcissist caught fire when Donald Trump took the public stage to announced his candidacy for President based on the claim that he, and only he, could be trusted (because he said he was self-funded, a claim refuted by the fact that 90% of the financing for his run against Clinton was outside money) and only he could fix things. This arrogance, amplified by his frequent flights of self-promotion (I am very rich, I have a good memory, I know more than the generals, I am the only one who can clean the swamp, etc), naturally led many people to begin seeing him as a blatant narcissist, a man in love with his own image, which itself was a manufactured product of branding. His motto is: I alone. He is not only the man in the mirror; he is the man in the bubble of his own self-intoxication.

This excessive sense of pride in his own superiority led him to many outrageous claims, including earlier in his career when he bragged about grabbing p*ssy because he was a rock star and even saying if he daughter Ivanka were a little older, he would be dating her. At this point, the story of Narcissus and Nemesis gets juicy and reveals something about the overreach of those who fall in love with themselves.

Nemisis and Echo

An early Greek writer wrote of the background of Nemesis:

""Rich-haired Nemesis gave birth to her [Helene (Helen)] when she had been joined in love with Zeus the king of the gods by harsh violence. For Nemesis tried to escape him and liked not to lie in love with her father Zeus the son of Kronos (Cronus); for shame and indignation vexed her heart: therefore she fled him over the land and fruitless dark sea. But Zeus ever pursued and longed in his heart to catch her. Now she took the form of a fish and sped over the waves of the loud-roaring sea, and now over Okeanos' (Oceanus') stream and the furthest bounds of Earth, and now she sped over the furrowed land, always turning into such dread creatures as the dry land nurtures, that she might escape him."

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It is not unfair to recall the obvious lust that Trump, the modern Narcissus, has expressed for his daughter. But the story gets more sordid. In the words of a later Greek author, "Nemesis, as she fled from Zeus' embrace, took the form of a goose; whereupon Zeus as a swan had intercourse with her. From this union, she laid an egg, which some herdsman found among the trees and handed over to Lede (Leda). She kept it in a box, and when Helene was hatched after the proper length of time, she reared her as her own."


Helene, of course, was the famous Helen of Troy whose beauty "launched a thousand ships" in the attack on Troy. Thus beauty and war are connected, and we are reminded of the report that Trump launched not a thousand but 49 Tomahawk missiles on Syria at the behest of his daughter, the beautiful Ivanka,who urged him to respond to the "beautiful babies" who had been killed by nerve gas by attacking Syria.

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