By T.B. Knight

We live in a society that obsesses over sex, uses profanity in everyday  conversation,  and people  jump ahead in lines at the supermarket or theatre.  Athletes pound their chests when scoring or making a good play, reveling in their moment of glory as they perform before  the TV cameras,  while spectators with painted bodies high five each other in the viewing stands.  Being the center of attention is today’s behavioral norm regardless  of how  dangerous or dumb the action is.  This particularly includes ill- mannered behavior such as belching and passing gas in public without so much as an “excuse me”.  It can be safely said we live in a narcissistic society but not the one that Christopher Lasch’s described in his book The Culture of Narcissism  published in 1991, which described the narcissist  as someone who stares into a mirror for validation.  Today’s narcissist  isn’t concerned  so much with his  appearance as he is in finding ways to grab  attention; always  clamoring for center stage.  The world, for those who crave the spotlight, is but a stage, literally,  and we are the actors, as Shakespeare so eloquently wrote in  As You Like It.  Camera phones have given us the capability of taking photos  and videos that can make us famous or infamous in real time, as the case may be. There is no humility or modesty, only vanity and egotism.  Society today, especially in the West, has reduced humility to a weakness of character.  In fact, being humble today is almost an oxymoron.  It seems that society not only condones egotism but actually promotes it, as evidenced by the attention that the media gives to those who do the most daring,  dangerous and  stupid stunts or commit horrific crimes to solicit luminary status.  What is it about human beings that so many have this inordinate need to seek public acclaim and how far will they go to achieve their quest for acknowledgement  and glory?

Society’s solution to problems associated with living together is the development of rules, some of which  are written as laws, and others inculcated through early child- rearing practices coupled with an  environment  that fosters  development  of values.  The corner stone comprising the framework of these practices is respect for others.  Narcissistic personalities  devalue  respect for others, treating them as objects to be taken for granted.  What matters most to these individuals is being famous. They have no qualms in stealing the spotlight whenever they can. Their attitudes and demeanor shout “Look at me!”  and  they will do anything to seize the limelight without regard to the sensitivities of others . If we relax vigilance over the morals and values that emphasize civility and proper etiquette toward others, the fabric of our society will eventually unravel  and what will be left is man in his basic nature where  life is, as  Thomas Hobbes described , “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”  When all we want is to be adored, worshipped and exalted  we are treading the fine line separating  reality and fantasy which, under certain circumstances, can cause considerable harm. This is particularly true in our relationships, be they romantic, familial, or platonic.   Narcissism  desensitizes us to the other person’s existence; they don’t matter. All that really matters for those who crave attention is for someone to pay heed to them, notice them,  so their own existence may be validated,  no matter what the cost. A little humility would go a long way in leveling the playing field within our relationships and in society, as a whole.

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