The always-on technology which has fuelled culture of narcissistic anger
“The de-throning of King Narcissus is fundamentally more important than the demoting of the hapless Mrs May. Discuss
Well now we know. Government cuts to the police “may have encouraged” violent offenders and have “likely contributed” to a rise in serious violent crime on the streets of London.
The news was contained in leaked Home Office documents. The tidings are hardly surprising.
But while more police patrolling neighbourhoods might help, it would be a mistake to think that that is the answer to the societal problems we are witnessing right now.
As I suggested in last week’s column, the issues we are currently encountering are much more deeply rooted than that.
There are, of course, some serious offenders who need to be taken off the streets for public safety reasons; but we need to move away from simplistic, knee-jerk reactions and examine the deeper, longer-term factors in play.
Here’s one trend that needs examination: why is there so much rage around?
Some of it springs from a sense of injustice about the state of the world.
When disadvantaged people look around and see how those at the top of the economic heap manage to reward themselves for failure, it’s little wonder that the response is anger.
But this business about rage goes even deeper. You see, it’s not just deprived people who are angry. Most of us aren’t starving – though too many people still depend on food banks.
We aren’t currently at war, and many of us have a reasonable standard of living.
Compared to other eras, we are privileged beings. We have better health, and we live longer.
Yet hardly a day goes by without some alleged celebrity being not just angry, but “incandescent” with rage – particularly if some other alleged celebrity has slighted them. The souls. So what lies behind all this? Follow the footprints and they will come to a shrine. It is a shrine to a god, one who demands incessant worship.
His name is King Narcissus.
The pervasive narcissism of our times is killing us. It is turning us into “me” people – perpetually self-absorbed, obsessed with our self-image and in constant need of affirmation.
The perfect tool for promoting this hyperindividualism is the mobile phone. The endless need for affirmation is satisfied by the beeps which indicate that yet another message has come through.
The incoming message has the power to make the recipient either very glad or utterly depressed. The mental health implications of this modern phenomenon are incalculable.
Now, am I exaggerating? Probably – that’s what columnists do.
Is this a rant by an old curmudgeon who cannot cope with brilliant new technologies? There’s at least some truth in this accusation.
Nevertheless, there are contemporary issues here that must be faced. Addictive social media is by no means unrelated to the current spike in mental health issues and the rising rate of suicides among young people in the north of Scotland. This is a major crisis of our times. It is staring us in the face every time we look in the mirror (which is another essential narcissistic tool). Our tendency nowadays when facing existential crises is to blame it all on the government of the day.
But governments can’t fix this problem. Of course, they have a role to play; the provision of much more adequate mental health care is an obvious need.
But dumping these inter-related issues on the government is an abdication of responsibility on the part of the wider electorate.
So is the expectation that the groaning NHS has the capacity to put right the abuse of our bodies.
There was a perfect example of this last week. BBC Radio Scotland ran a programme about the health dangers of fizzy drinks full of sugar.
The evidence about the sharp rise in cases of diabetes has been around for quite some time.
Some of the responses were depressing. Many of the reactions seemed to run along this track: “This is all about choices, and nobody is going to tell me what to do.” What was patently missing was any reference to the common good.
In other words, even though we know that certain lifestyles lead to obesity, diabetes and other illnesses that can kill us, we demand that the NHS sort out the problems we have created. As an electorate, we have become infantilised. Now all this might seem far away from violence on the streets of London. It’s not really.
The revolution we need is cultural and spiritual, as well as political.
The de-throning of King Narcissus is fundamentally more important than the demoting of the hapless Mrs May. Discuss.