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A New Reality for Workers

March 5, 2011


I am writing my second book. It is on the subject of socially reinforced narcissism and its damaging consequences. Everyday American’s well-being, prosperity, and pursuit of happiness is being impaired by collective narcissistic forces within our business and banking industries. Here is a preview of some notes that will be included in my book.

We are on the road to serious social instability, which could be extremely dangerous in some countries to democracy itself.

– Guy Ryder, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Jan 2009

In the award winning documentary, The Corporation, experts gauged corporate behavior as sociopathic, meaning unhealthy narcissism is at the core of many of these businesses. The negative impact of this paradigm has created a new reality for workers.

Unfortunately, the new reality looks very similar to the old reality. The root causes of the crisis remain largely unaddressed. Significant portions of global financial markets remain unregulated. Indeed, not long after being bailed out by governments, financial markets are again dictating government policy. A new reality should include a re-regulation of international finance to limit purely speculative activity and facilitate its only reasonable function: the intermediation of real economic activity.

– Sharan Burrow, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, January 2011

Unhealthy Narcissism In Modern Societies
I have been nearly all my life a live and let live kind of person. I am of the persuasion that if you do nothing to hurt me or interfere with my life – and vice-versa – we can co-exist. Unfortunately, that is a mindset that does not work with people who are unhealthy narcissists who interact with others in exploitative ways. It also is a mindset that mistakenly assumes certain things: (i) most people are like me and think along the same lines; (ii) most people do not want to do harm to others; (iii) most people are not self-centered or exploitative. The fact is, I cannot know with any certainty what people think – I can only gauge their mindset by their behavior. The importance of this conclusion became very clear to me while doing research for my book, It Has A Name! about unhealthy narcissism. I cautioned in my book that when dealing with narcissists: Do not believe what they say – Believe what they do. The problem we experience with an unhealthy narcissist or sociopath, is they are very deceptive. They say one thing and do another. They are consummate manipulators and they lie. They do what they do for two reasons: (i) they require a constant flow of attention, particularly high quality attention; and (ii) they seek to dominate others to satisfy their grandiosity – their deep and mostly unconscious need to feel superior.

Domination, the Win-Lose Dynamic
Domination versus Satiation. Looking at the pathological need to dominate, we find the unhealthy narcissist is in a constant state of reinforcing the Win-Lose dynamic. They place themselves in situations where they are most likely to win and will manipulate circumstances and people in order to win. They are not interested in simple ‘wins’ where they achieve a level of satisfaction in their endeavors; they not interested in satiation – they are looking to dominate. They pursue situations and people they can influence, control, and otherwise dominate. Often characterized as predators, the word pursuit is the correct operative term. As far as Win-Win propositions, they are something they are not interested in for it results in parity, a state of being equal, and that is the polar opposite of Win-Lose. The unhealthy narcissist does not want to be equal to others. In fact, the N-person will become angry at others for bringing them down to their level. They do not want to be like everybody else, they want to be seen as special, superior, and above all, dominant.

Attention: Notorious and High Quality
Me, me, me – it’s all about me. That is the mantra of the unhealthy narcissist: My needs, my way, my ideas, my priorities predominate. The other part of that equation is the infantile cry: Look at me, look at what I am doing!. There are plenty of examples of this obsessive need for attention; two come to mind lately: Charlie Sheen (I am on a drug called Charlie Sheen) and Lindsay Lohan, the young actress who cannot stay out of the limelight, or courtroom which is basically just another stage for her to perform on and receive highly focused attention. Literally, everyone is there because of her. Both engage in creating situations that garner plenty of high quality focused attention through notorious behavior. The greater the need, the more they act in ways to fill their attention quota. It makes no difference to these folks that what they do is seen as notorious, actually so much the better for it assures the focus is on them. Remember, they make up their own rules and they will do whatever it takes to get attention. They are the unadulterated authors of their own dramas.

The unhealthy narcissist is also an unapologetic person due to their very strong feelings of entitlement. After-all, why should they apologize for being what they are – superior, right? Combine all these traits together along with their lack of empathy and inability to self-reflect to correct their behavior, and we have very dangerous and destructive people in our society.

The Allure of Ideology
Many unhealthy narcissists will align themselves with ideologies that encourage the me-factor. When I was researching my first book, I was surprised how many show up in charity work. This is actually a perfect place for them to show off their magnanimity, I am so wonderful, look at all I do for those LESS fortunate. Or, look at all I do, look at the sacrifices I make working for others betterment. That’s the martyr syndrome. Either way, they elevate themselves over people they purport to care about – when in fact, they do not care because they cannot express empathy. It is almost funny, except these are the same people who show up in nursing homes and child services to exploit those who cannot defend themselves. The bottom line is, they are control freaks and will place themselves in situations where they are in control. And nothing is better than controlling other people for the unhealthy narcissist. Control is their drug of choice. The irony is most unhealthy narcissists are very much out of control in their lives. They are spinning tops always turning and burning, seeking attention and ways to dominate.

Unhealthy narcissists are commonly found in politics, entertainment, and organized religion as these are all about the limelight. Then there are the cult figures, like Jim Jones and David Koresh, who have the full-blown Messiah, i.e. God-complex. Unhealthy narcissism was referred to as the God-complex for many years by psychologists. Common slang includes Napoleon-complex and Little Hitler-complex. Which leads us back to ideology.

Socially Reinforced Narcissism through Ideology
Cults, gangs, organized crime, sports teams, political groups, religious sects, are all places where you will find unhealthy narcissists. These groups promote cultural collective narcissism – also called socially reinforced narcissism. The group identifies itself with some ideology that sets them apart from the greater society; but not only apart, but above. The ideology reinforces the group identity of being superior, elite, in-the-know, blessed, chosen, you name it, and in every way supports their entitlement to be what they are, and do what they do. The ideology also does one more very important thing: it gives them psychological license to engage in anti-social, abusive, or unethical behavior. Whether personal or social narcissism, both exploit others to get what they want through manipulative means which again reinforces their feelings of entitlement which is rooted in their drive for attention and need to dominate. The inner dialog goes like this: I am entitled to treat you as I see fit. I am entitled to lie, abuse, steal, exploit, hurt, or otherwise treat you unfairly.

The unhealthy narcissist harbors deep seated feelings of inadequacy, thus they overcompensate by behaving in superior ways, often arrogant. Many mistake this for confidence, BUT, it is merely their false-self projecting its grandiosity. Another common mistake is to think their behavior is simply a bad habit or something easily changed through behavior modification. Experts state unhealthy narcissists rarely admit they even have a problem and usually show up at the psychologists’ office for depression. Behavior modification does not work because narcissism is part of the personality and the narcissist is not motivated to change

The Costs to Society
The case of Bernie Madoff, the Ponzi-scheme criminal, who ripped off billions from family, friends, banks, charities, and whole countries for decades is a classic case of gross narcissistic entitlement behavior. This past week Madoff started offloading his shame onto other banks “because they had to have known what he was doing.” Shame is an emotion that unhealthy narcissists have great difficulty with and because they cannot tolerate the emotion of shame and never apologize for their bad behavior – they offload their shame onto others. When they do something wrong, they either blame others, or the situation. It’s not me, it’s them. They will not own up to their flaws or bad decisions or bad behavior because they cannot handle shame. In our society, if we cannot get unhealthy narcissists or collective narcissists to own up to their bad behavior, we have a serious problem. And in business and corporations where we find this behavior deeply embedded in the corporate culture we find the most damage, for what happens in our businesses directly affects the well-being of our society and its people.

The captains of industry who allow their companies to pollute are fouling waterways, the ground where we plant our food, and the air we breathe causing illness, deforestation, species loss, and biosphere breakdown (Think BP, Exxon-Mobile, Georgia-Pacific). The owners and managers who exploit workers are lending to financial hardship, high divorce rates, abuse within families, depression and suicide ( Think Wall-Mart and overseas sweat shops). The financial traders and bankers who speculate and do nothing but trade all day in the commodities and derivatives markets are not thinking what the effects of their actions are, but in fact are driving up world food prices (Think 2008 Global Financial Collapse, and the too-big-to-fail banks). ALL of these have serious ramifications for societies and lend to destabilization. Societies depend on responsible ethical behavior by individuals and by groups of individuals for stability. Mutual cooperation, mutual respect, and collective mutual interest lead to beneficial results for the greater society and supports stability and prosperity. It is this win-win proposition in society that makes for peaceful, thriving populations.

Corporatism and Privatization
When we have groups of individuals who through the veil of corporate entities play outside societies norms, who engage in the win-lose proposition, we all pay a price for their self-interested behavior. The mega multi-national corporations of today serves no one except itself. It’s goal is to create profit. It’s corporate drive is to get ahead. Employees are worker bees providing a means to an end. Workers of today are garnered from anywhere in the world, wherever cheap labor can be had. Workers have become expendable. The environment, expendable. Society’s rules, non-applicable. Corporations want no regulation so they cannot be held accountable for their actions. They want to side step labor laws, children’s rights, and workplace safety. The bottomline is they set their own agenda and they answer to no one. They act in arrogant ways bullying their own workers, threatening them if they take time off, complain, or whistle-blow for ethics violations. They intimidate and denigrate others who challenge them. Thus, we cannot measure the behavior of unhealthy narcissists or sociopaths by the same yardstick we use to measure healthy people. And these same people will use the justice system, the laws of society to shield themselves from prosecution for prosecution is one of the only ways to rein in their behavior.

Just like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, whose behavior has caught up with each of them and who now face serious legal challenges, the only way to combat corporations who exploit society and the environment is through legal channels. This is a challenge in and of itself for many corporations have deep pockets and expert legal counsel. The other way is to through activism and media exposure. Political solutions are shown to be ineffective as our political system has become infected with lobbyists who do the bidding of the corporations. The Julian Assange’s of the world are also exposing the nefarious dealings of the uber-wealthy and corporate elite, but he is being framed and facing legal action to shut him down as we speak. The stakes are high. Pretty much the game is about world domination, not by tyrannical governments, but by tyrannical corporations. Corporations are pursuing an aggressive agenda to patent everything. They want people to pay for access to information in any form. They want whole nations to be beholding to them for food, water, energy, healthcare, and anything else people need.

The trap for any person is to think we can continue to believe in a live and let live paradigm when it comes to corporations, for that thinking is exploited by corporations to leverage their own interests. The consequences have been well laid out and we are witnessing these right now in the Middle East.

World Instability

In January 2009 the World Economic Forum at Davos received some very harsh criticism.

Sharan Burrow, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said that the world was now witnessing the human cost of “casino capitalism” as the impacts of rising unemployment and home repossessions and of plunges in savings and pension funds hit millions of families.

Ms Burrow said: “Why shouldn’t working people be angry? Their money is being used to stabilise the financial system, but it is their wealth, their jobs and the welfare of their children that is being stripped away.”

The ITUC said that it was calling on business and political leaders in Davos to agree on a comprehensive recovery-and-reform package to protect jobs and kick-start a recovery, including a coordinated fiscal stimulus, a strengthening of unemployment and social security schemes and emergency IMF loans for developing countries without austerity conditions.

This year at Davis 2011 we hear Ms Burrow state: We need to stop the axis of austerity comprised of conservative politicians, business commentators, and the bond markets,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow, who is leading the trade union delegation in Davos.

The statement also advocates:

– upholding labour rights and expanding collective bargaining;

– raising minimum wages and enhancing social protection;

– reregulating international finance and creating a financial transactions tax;

– investing in physical and social infrastructure;

– creating green jobs by combating climate change;

– returning the G-20 to an agenda of jobs and growth;

*end quote

But, what do we see instead? The opposite: union busting, anemic job investment and job growth, social protections under siege, and continued opposition to alternative energy development through conservative forces here in the United States.

Read the full January 2011 report: A New Reality for Workers:

In the New Reality we read: The overarching theme of this year’s World Economic Forum is Shared Norms for the New Reality. To promote inclusive growth, perhaps the most important shared norms are international labour rights and social-protection standards. Labour rights allow workers to increase wages along with productivity, ensuring sufficient consumer demand to sustain economic growth. Social protection ensures that people can live with dignity, supports additional consumer demand, and provides an automatic stabilizer against future downturns.

So, you see what is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, and across our country is more than saving budgets. It is an all out attack on workers, unions, collectivism, Social Security, Medicare, and “shared norms”.

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