April 19, 2009


Generation Me: A new book says we're in a narcissism epidemic. Why you're not so special. (Raina Kelley, 4/18/09, NEWSWEEK)

Growing up, my literary heroines were those who, like me, struggled to be good: Jo from "Little Women," Harriet the spy, Laura Ingalls and Pippi Longstocking. A strong-willed (and loud) child, I craved examples of unruly knuckleheads tethered to a loving family that encouraged us to be our best selves despite our natural inclinations. Precocious but naive, I thought of myself as an ugly duckling—misunderstood in my youth but destined for a beauty and stature completely impossible for my loved ones to comprehend. I shudder to think what a monster I would have become in the modern child-rearing era. Gorged on a diet of grade inflation, constant praise and materialistic entitlement, I probably would have succumbed to a life of heedless self- indulgence. [...]

But no matter how you were raised, the handiest cure for narcissism used to be life. Whether through fate, circumstances or moral imperative, our culture kept hubris in check. Now, we encourage it. Pastors preach of a Jesus that wants us to be rich. The famously egocentric wide receiver Terrell Owens declares at a press conference that being labeled selfish is fine with him. Donald Trump names everything he owns after himself and calls his detractors "losers." We live in a world where everyone can be a star—if only on YouTube.

Were we not so narcissistic we'd recognize that life is too easy nowadays to teach many tough lessons. Just consider how comfortable the current "Second Great Depression" is. If you transported your great grandparents to today and showed them that you have it tough too they'd dope-slap you into next Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2009 7:59 AM
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