Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Least Great Generation

…a better title for us would be the Least Great Generation, because that’s what we were.
-        Roger Simon

Roger Simon is author of I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already.  Simon describes the defining characteristic of this generation not just as narcissistic, but something far more dangerous and pervasive:

That form is moral narcissism—a pathology that underlies the whole liberal left ethic today and some of the right as well.

The Pathology

The short form is this: What you believe, or claim to believe or say you believe—not what you do or how you act or what the results of your actions may be—defines you as a person and makes you “good.”

If your intentions are good, if they conform to the general received values of your friends, family, and co-workers, what a person of your class and social milieu is supposed to think, everything is fine.

It doesn’t matter that they misfire completely, cause terror attacks, illness, death, riots in the inner city, or national bankruptcy.

The pathology is even worse: it includes the certainty of being right…about everything.

The Founding Fathers and Mothers

Simon names names of this Least Great Generation:

We were pre-boomers. I, only a foot soldier in this cohort army, was born in November 1943, but look at the icons: John Lennon, born in 1940; Tom Hayden, in 1939; Abbie Hoffman, in 1936; Gloria Steinem, in 1934; Allen Ginsberg, 1926; and Timothy Leary—apostle of “turn on, tune in, drop out” and virtual patron saint of hippie culture—born in, wait for it, 1920.

The baby boomers merely followed along.

The One

Morpheus: You are the One, Neo. You see, you may have spent the last few years looking for me, but I have spent my entire life looking for you.

This least great generation found their One, also:

The election of Barack Obama was the apotheosis of this melding of lifestyle with political worldview….The “me” generation had found its perfect leader. Hope and change were never specified, because we all knew what he meant.

Peter Berkowitz expands: Symptoms of those afflicted with this most terrible pathology include “intellectual rigidity, self-righteousness, and disdain for those who disagree.”  Climate change; racism and sexism are to be found everywhere; progressive policies on gun control and affirmative action.

Berkowitz, like Simon, also points to Obama:

Citizens, it turns out, do not like to be regarded as “bitter” individuals who “cling to guns or religion or an antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” as Barack Obama, speaking on the 2008 campaign trail, characterized working-class residents of the Rust Belt.

Obama’s defining acts as president offer no benefits to sizeable segments of the American population:

…the Affordable Care Act; a path to legalization for people in the country unlawfully; costly measures to reduce the country’s carbon footprint; and the Iran nuclear deal.

Worse than no benefits…only costs (although I am OK with the Iran nuclear deal).


The reaction is growing throughout the West: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, Brexit and the many nationalist movements in Europe.  Yet, Berkowitz offers hope to those afflicted with this pathology:

The establishment is not without options. By listening to the people’s concerns, understanding their anxieties, and grasping the reasons for their choices, elites could take a significant step in reestablishing that democratic debate on which constitutional self-government depends.

This would require introspection and self-examination; it would require the ability to feel empathy.  Is there any chance of this?

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a long term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of others' feelings.  People affected often spend a lot of time thinking about achieving power, success, or their appearance. They often take advantage of the people around them.

Therapy is often difficult as people frequently do not consider themselves to have a problem.

Nope, not a chance.  It is easier for them to believe that the fault lies with the rest of us, with those of us who are “too stupid” to know better.  Even more so when, like many of their fellow leading lights, they have made their billions and can buy their safety.

We are left to clean up their mess.


  1. Sums it up perfectly. It's amazing how easily the public is suckered by vague rhetoric. Democratic politics is about Causes - fighting poverty, ending gun violence, fighting income inequality, protecting immigrants' rights. On the surface they sound like noble Causes, so nobody asks questions. They know their friends and coworkers would judge them if they appeared not to wholeheartedly support something as moral-sounding as "social justice," so they blindly vote for whatever candidate is most passionate about these Causes. It's Gottfried's Politics of Guilt, plain and simple.

  2. "This would require introspection and self-examination; it would require the ability to feel empathy. Is there any chance of this?"

    "Nope. Not a chance."

    asked and answered correctly, with an explanation:

    "Therapy is often difficult as people frequently do not consider themselves to have a problem."

    it is NOT they who have started, nursed and fed all the difficulties we find ourselves in. who, then, is responsible? the 'other guy', or, if not, it is we, the people.

    we are blessed with being lead by the omniscient (written with tongue firmly placed in cheek).

  3. Very interesting write up, thank you. I more so associated the current political state with Baby Boomers, so I appreciate your perspective/insight on some of it's roots also being associated with the prior generation.

    For what it's worth, I was very close to a person diagnosed with NPD(though my understanding is that the DSM may toss that designation out) for years- to say it was a difficult relationship is an understatement- but for whatever it's worth I find Donald Trump's public personae to be very similar.

    That being said, I agree that Obama also has similar qualities, as does Hillary and much of the political class in general.

    Laying the state of politics on any generation in particular is probably a bit of a simplification, but like any stereotype there's usually some elements of truth even if the PC crowd doesn't care to hear it.

    Regardless, when I think about your insight, that Boomer really just "followed" the trend, I suppose you might have a point...but it could be Boomers represent the "NPD" generation(to some) only because they more fully embraced their progenitors en masse on a per capita basis. (obviously it's just my opinion and anecdotal)

    It's also interesting that the slap the millennial generation with the "me generation" designation.

    Anyway, excellent piece for thought provocation- kudos.

  4. "Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a long term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of others' feelings. "

    This appears to be what the great Harry Browne called "Dictator Syndrome", or at the very least, closely related to it:

    "Government grows also because well-meaning people like you and me believe it should do certain things that seem beyond controversy -- find a cure for cancer, stop air pollution, keep violence off television, hold back an aggressor in the Middle East -- something that everyone seems to agree should be done. Whatever the goal, it's easy to imagine that a single-minded government could achieve it.

    I call this The Dictator Syndrome. You see suffering or danger, and in your imagination you see a government program eliminating it. But in the real world the program would operate as you expect only if you were an absolute dictator -- having at your disposal all of government's power to compel everyone to do things your way."

    Dictator syndrome is very wide-spread and suffered from both by politicians, and all the people who vote for them.

    Given that that is probably never going to change, as you appear to conclude [ correctly, imho], then questions for the freedom-seeking individual might be :

    1] in light of this fact [ the unchanging existence of NPD / Dictator Syndrome among the people of the world], how can I best live my life and escape/protect myself from this idiotic majority belief system ?

    2] More importantly perhaps, do I need to make the world a better place [e.g. by trying to "get rid of " NPD/Dictator syndrome], before I can enjoy my life and be freer, or could I just accept the world as is, complete with NPD/ Dictator Syndrome etc. etc. ?

    regards, onebornfree.

  5. I think many, if not all, are not only narcissists but narcissistic psychopaths. It's little understood, unless you've dealt with one. PTSD. A Ted Bundy is an anomaly. Most wear a mask of sanity and people see them as charismatic, charming, and confident. They're monsters in sheep clothing.

    2 free PDF's are online. Harvey Cleckley "The Mask of Sanity" and "Political Ponerology".

    A brain scan for these ailments and IQ test should be required for high office. The good of the many outweighs the good of the few.

    Traits: pathological lying, lack of conscience, deceitful, manipulative, controlling, abusive, aggressive, glib, smug, grandiose self worth, lack of guilt or remorse, callousness, no empathy, shallow effect (cold as ice), superficial, selfish, enjoy hurting others, egotistical, messianic view of politics, deficient impulse control, not trustworthy, influence peddling, unmitigated greed, excessive pride, self-confident, fearless, charming, charasmatic, cool under pressure, carefree, irresponsible, cannot love another, bored, drama queens, fake empathy.

  6. Great essay. I also find this kind of thinking prevalent in libertarian circles, and Jacob Hornberger as seen here on this blog is an excellent representative of it. As long as the intentions are good, actual consequences be damned.

    If an ideology does not work in practice, then it must be bad ideology.

    1. Matt, I think it is found primarily in what is regularly described as "left-libertarian" circles; the connection being the "left" part.

      Nevertheless, a really good point.