The Apex Narcissist

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  • Collective Presencing w/ Ria Baeck. Every Friday @ 8:00 AM ET. RSVP here. 90 mins.

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January 7th, 2021

I had a hard time sleeping last night, as the images from the news yesterday would not leave me.

In America, Capitol Hill was stormed, by a mob of Trump supporters, who believe the election was stolen. The House and Senate, along with Nancy Pelosi’s office—the Speaker of the House—were temporarily occupied by his supporters.

A few images in particular stayed with me. One being a note on the Speaker’s desk, that read “we will not back down,” and the other was a guy who looked like he was from the movie Braveheart, who apparently goes by the name “QAnon Shaman,” wildly shouting in the Senate chamber. It seems implausible to me that something like this happened, in one of the most important buildings in America.

I have not written about Trump much in these journals, except for passing mentions. My original working theory when he got elected is that he is our “apex narcissist,” meaning he is the most successful at being a narcissist. His name was on everyone's lips when he got elected, and much has not changed in that regard. In terms of the success metrics of narcissism, attention is the name of the game, and that attention can be positive or negative

Some say we in North America are now the most narcissistic population, but as Hanzi Freinacht wrote about in Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two, calling out people's narcissism has become very fashionable:

Many have observed that narcissism indeed has be­come more widespread, but most fail to see that society at large has become in­creasingly obsessed with the imagined (correctly or not) self-image of other peo­ple; that we’ve collectively become obsessed with the perceived nar­cissism of others.

An industry of “ego mathematicians” are emerging because of this, calling out the egoic machinations of others, with unfalsifiable confidence. Perhaps this is a case of covert narcissism, or a “crabs in a bucket” strategy used when the ego mathematician perceives somebody is doing narcissism better than they can. I think there is truth to this, and I think this is one reason why many people lose their shit when talking about Trump, because he does narcissism better than they do.

I also think it is useful to drop terms such as ego and narcissism, and look at things through a more primal lens. Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes, from primatologist Frans de Waal, who I’ve spoken to on my podcast before, is useful here. The book speaks to the political machinations of chimps, vying for the alpha spot, through odd alliances, “sneaky fucker” behaviour, and mate guarding. You can reduce this to ego, and use the narcissistic lens on the chimps, but this strikes me as unnecessary. 

I find it more useful to apply chimp politics to understand those active in the spectacle, and witness the rivalrous dynamics that occur, in the competition of winning the attention of others. Trump is really fucking good at this, probably one of the best. He has become the alpha chimp of the spectacle.

I recall reading somewhere, or hearing from a documentary, that for years his morning ritual at Trump Tower was to read newspaper clippings that mentioned him from the day before, which his staff provided for him. If true, this is quite the practice to get good at improving one’s sensitivity on how they influence the spectacle. I imagine by June 16, 2015, when he announced his candidacy for President, his intuition was finely tuned, and he had enough competency to bend reality in his favour, via the spectacle game he possessed.

Because of this, he is very dangerous. I am writing early in the day, and I have no idea what will unfold. I do not follow the news much, and I am largely politically aporic about electoral politics, as the majority of it is above my pay-grade, but I am interested in observing power, and how those in power are wielding it. 

I always wondered why a guy like Trump wanted to be President. I have heard a lot of perspectives on this. If you believe conspiracies on the right, he is part of an attempted top-secret coup from military intelligence. If you believe conspiracies on the left, he is working for Putin and the Russians. Or maybe you think his mob ties have something to do with his running, or all of this is an attempt at a long-game grift for his business ventures. For the ego mathematicians out there, perhaps you reduce his motives to his ego-structure, as nothing gets more eyeballs than being the fucking President of the United States of America.

Regardless of what is true, he has achieved power within the last four years, and it is not solely allocated to his formal Presidential authority, which people are now attempting to strip-away from him. He wields an intersubjective power, and this is partly why he has not conceded, and may never concede. A good portion of America thinks he is the rightful president, and if he does not concede, they will think this long after January 20th. If people attempt to touch him, either now or later, we need to be prepared to experience Capitol Hill again, but on a larger scale. 

Trump knows this, at least intuitively, and others do as well. This is why most social media companies have removed him from their platforms. I will not be surprised if a great censorship is on the horizon, or what John Robb calls “the long night.” Those who are invested in maintaining order in what Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri call Empire, cannot allow those with good spectacle game to be able to spark a civil war that will undermine it.

The images from Capitol Hill cannot be undone though. They have opened up the possibility space in many minds. In my body, seeing the photos and watching the videos, I felt a sense of an aggressive aliveness, and a perverse excitement, which of course I witness with a Stoic calmness. If I felt this, many others are feeling this, and if they have certain memes occupying their mind, they will run with those memes, then riot with them.

This could be my Stoic bias talking again, but emoting into tweets, or Facebook feeds, or to friends and family, with your hot takes of the situation, whatever your thoughts of the situation are, is not going to move the needle towards a heavenly direction. Things are already well in motion, and getting into the right relationship with the apex narcissist, and the unfolding drama, is probably not going to be what our motivated and emotional reasoning is initially directing us towards.

It is probably best for us to breathe in the here and now, and feel into our activated bodies, then go for a walk, ideally in nature, with someone we love.