And at the rate we’re going, our time will be up soon! Think the climate emergency is a huge threat? It certainly is. Plastic pollution? Slowly poisoning us. Ocean acidification? Killing not only the fish we eat but the plankton that make the very oxygen we breathe. Putin’s wars? Russia’s and China’s espionage and cyber warfare and suborning of African countries?
Who is causing all this and blocking action to stop it? Narcissists.
If you don’t believe me, here is a sampling of narcissists in positions of power:
- Vladimir Putin – Invaded Ukraine, destroyed Syria and other countries
- Donald Trump – Recently attempted to seize power in the USA; still trying
- Jair Bolsonaro – Currently razing the rainforest
- Narenda Modi – Described as Trump with brains
- Recep Erdogan – Attempting to suborn Turkey’s democracy
- All modern dictators – Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.
- Elon Musk – Recently came out in favour of autocracy in the USA
- Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle – “The difference between Larry Ellison and God is that God doesn’t think he’s Larry Ellison“
- Boris Johnson – Has likely ended the United Kingdom as an entity
- Justin Trudeau – Countless photos of him photobombing weddings shirtless or dressed up in blackface or other costumes
- Many health officers – All those who have been minimizing COVID in face of all the evidence because they are so much smarter…
All of these are serious threats to civilization and to our lives – and are all happening right now, are causing damage and killing people, and are only going to get much, much worse on our current path. And therein lies the problem: Most of the people in charge are narcissists and will they not let us off that path. Not now, not ever, not even as things come crashing down.
Narcissism is not a Disease
Narcissism is not a disease, it is a type of brain that is different from the normal human brain. It is missing the pieces necessary for empathy, love, humanity. Narcissists lack humanity – they do not and cannot care about other people. You could say they are not fully formed humans. You could say that they have no soul.
Boards of Directors have been known to seek out narcissists to lead the company – because they have unshakable confidence in their grand vision and drive everyone toward it. Elon Musk is a great example today: He is hailed by many as a genius for building several large corporations, yet he also damages those companies with some of his actions.
Is Tesla the Next Blackberry?
Blackberry was wildly popular – everyone had one, including President Obama. Then the iPhone came out and Blackberry very quickly died. Is Tesla following a similar arc – shooting high and then crashing?
The problem with narcissistic CEOs is that they usually end up having to be removed or they wreck the company. They cannot tolerate dissent or being made to look wrong or foolish, so they surround themselves with Yes Men. Innovation dies, because only the Big Man’s ideas are allowed. Elon Musk has a long history of firing employees who embarrass him in any way, even when they are trying to help him and his companies.
That sort of behaviour screams Narcissist, and there are plenty of reports out of Musk’s companies that he has created companies full of people afraid to speak up. He has laid a poor foundation and it is unlikely his companies will succeed in the long-term with him as the boss. He recently ordered everyone back to working in the office, stating that working from home was pretending to work. There is plenty of evidence saying that people have been more productive working from home than the office, but no amount of evidence will convince a narcissist when they have their own “very good brain.”
Tesla has quality issues and someone like Musk is unlikely to be able to solve them. Japanese cars developed a well-deserved reputation for quality because the manufacturers followed Edward Deming’s continuous improvement methodology. One of Deming’s important rules is to eliminate fear so that employees can contribute ideas freely.
But narcissists rule first through charm and charisma, and when that begins to fail, and it always does, they revert to fear and intimidation. Fearful employees are not innovative employees – they are not going to take necessary risks and nobody dares contradict Emperor Elon even when he’s clearly wrong. The inevitable result will be a struggling company.
The Limits of Narcissists
Narcissists are stalled at a much lower level of maturity than you would expect from their age. It’s why Musk tweets out poop emojis to the CEO of Twitter, and other juvenile nonsense. He will never grow up.
Narcissists dwell in alternative realities constructed out of their sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, and drive to get what they want at any cost.
Such inconsistent behavior needs to be recognized for what it is — a childlike, fantasy-world approach to manipulating others.13 Ways Narcissists Behave Like Children: How narcissists’ tactics can be eerily similar to kids in their ‘Terrible Twos’
If this inability to mature only meant that narcissists would squander their money on near-space flights and other vanity projects, it would be tolerable. However, their massive egos demand that they dominate virtually everything and everyone, so they block – or destroy – anyone and anything in their way.
It also means narcissists can never be wise. When smart people do stupid things, that doesn’t make them stupid, it makes them unwise. They can learn and grow and make better decisions. Wisdom is the gaining of knowledge and using that to make smarter, wiser decisions. Decisions that are not based on emotion, but on deep knowledge.
It should be fairly obvious that narcissists will not be able to achieve this. They will always be slaves to their emotions and drives, and they will never care about anyone but themselves. A toxically selfish person cannot be a mature one. But now consider that they dominate political and business leadership…and this is why we have no action on climate change, why wars keep raging, and so on.
Narcissists are Everywhere
Musk is far from the only narcissistic CEO. Larry Ellison of Oracle had a whole book written about him called The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: *God Doesn’t Think He’s Larry Ellison.” The leaders of many countries are narcissists, too.
Our narcissistic leaders will say whatever it takes to get elected and then do whatever they want once in power. Narcissists are a type of sociopath and all are liars – they lie to get what they want or even for fun – they live in a fantasy world that is real to them. Some are smarter about it than others, and know to be careful with their lies. Others, like Donald Trump, are so delusional that they probably don’t even realize they are lying or even see it as lying. It’s just what they happen to want to believe in that moment.
How the Narcissists are Killing Us
They are literally deadly for the rest of us in many ways. Let us count the ways the narcissists are killing us.
War, Civil or Otherwise
There is no such thing as a patriotic narcissist. They have no loyalty to any country or people, only to themselves. Trump did not and does not care about the USA except as it is instrumental to him getting what he wants. He couldn’t care less about America or Americans because he is physiologically incapable of caring about anyone but himself. He called dead American soldiers “suckers” because he simply cannot imagine the idea of sacrificing himself for his country, or for anything, really.
Putin does not care about Russia or Russians in the least. They are tools, pawns. He has a grand vision of himself as the new Tsar over an imperial Russia, and he will happily sacrifice anyone in his way. Same with Modi in India, Erdogan in Turkey, Bolsonaro in Brazil, and so one. To them, the country is an extension of themselves, not something separate. It is theirs to use as they choose. Putin routinely chooses war. Erdogan, Modi, and Bolsonaro are working to subvert their countries’ democracies. Modi is stirring trouble with Pakistan and China.
War is a common outlet for narcissists, either as part of their glory-seeking or to distract from their criminal activities. Trump wanted to use nuclear weapons on someone. If he gets back in power, he probably will. Why? Because he can, because he’ll get a thrill from exercising so much power, because it will excite him to be responsible for killing so many people, because it will intimidate his enemies. That’s the narcissist brain.
We will never be free of war as long as narcissists can gain power.
Realistically, climate change is a far greater threat than war. Even a temperature rise of 3C is enough to end agriculture and therefore civilization and therefore most people, and we’re rocketing toward that. But narcissists do not care about ‘the future.’ They cannot even love their own children, as they are incapable of love. (Do not mistake spawning many children as a sign that a narcissist loves them – it is the opposite. Because narcissists are so…narcissistic, they think they should ‘spread their seed’ far and wide. Musk is up to nine children so far and spends almost no time with any of them. Musk’s 76-year-old father stated that “The only thing we are on Earth for is to reproduce.” He said this after announcing he had a second child – with his stepdaughter. The late, unlamented Jeffrey Epstein “hoped to develop super-race of humans with his DNA.“)
Someone who can’t love his own children can hardly love anyone else, and they don’t (except themselves, of course). And if they don’t care about their own children, never mind anyone else’s, they won’t care about things that affect them like climate change. Narcissists don’t care if your future or your children’s life is awful.
So while many narcissists say the right things about the climate emergency, in reality they just keep doing what they want. Musk gets lots of fawning attention for pushing electric cars and solar panels – he wants to save the world from the climate crisis, he says. But his space tourism business will wreck the atmosphere and cause massive global warming. Musk is lying.
Narcissists believe themselves superior beings and several leaders laughed at COVID, minimized it, and even turned it into a test of their superiority. That’s where we are now: narcissistic leaders and their followers attack anyone using or recommending COVID protections, because they see them as a sign of inferiority. This has been described as America’s “narcissism pandemic.” (Though the speaker seems to think America’s narcissism is simply due to having it good, or basically being spoiled. Other nations where things are good do not have the same problem with rampant narcissism.)
Both Trump and Bolsonaro made getting and surviving COVID a point of superiority, and the whole cult of toxic masculinity arising in the US is a result of such idiocy. Trump survived because he got the best medical treatment the world had to offer, treatment available only to a select few elites.
As a result of this sort of leadership, pretty much the entire Western world adopted a ‘let ‘er rip’ policy for COVID and it has not gone well. Excess deaths are much higher than previous years and Long COVID is predicted to disable millions and millions of people. Narcissists don’t care because in their worldview the strong deservedly survive and who cares about the weak?
Narcissists live for inequality. They hate an equal world and despise the very idea. What person who believes himself inherently superior to all others would want to live an a society where he’s told he’s no better than everyone else? Narcissists must be on top, must dominate. As a result, they create a very unequal world of winners and losers, and have no interest in helping the ‘losers.’
While researching his latest book, Falter, Bill McKibben discovered that most executives are Ayn Rand-worshipping libertarians. Such people have a very toxic view of humanity and the world. Rand regarded average humans as possibly useful to elite industrialists, but otherwise she seemed to regard us as subhumans. Now imagine that most of the political and economic elite in the United States shares this worldview.
We will never get more representative political systems because they want all the power. We will never get fairer tax systems because they want all the money. There will always be a growing underclass as they siphon off money from society.
Directly related to inequality is exploitation. Those with power exploit those without and call it the way of the world. That is false – it is the way of the world we have recently created, but has not always been this way and does not need to be.
All the divisions between people in the world are mostly bogus, dreamed up by sociopaths to help them divide and conquer the normal people – us. Race, class, social status, nationality – all artificial divisions created by evil people to set us against each other.
However, narcissists simply cannot see or want any other kind of world. They believe some people are meant to dominate – them – and others are meant to be dominated – us. They will not create a more equal world and in fact are driving us in the opposite direction. Inequality is getting steadily worse within countries are there are ever more billionaires and poor people both.
Where there is no vision, the people perish
Finally, narcissists have their own grand vision that allows no others. They don’t have to take advice from anyone, because as Donald Trump said in true, extreme narcissistic fashion: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.“
That means at least two very important things:
- Whatever you or I or anyone else wants or thinks or believes is completely and utterly irrelevant. Your dreams and goals in life are nothing to a narcissist, and he may even take pleasure in stamping them out. You and I are pawns, tools, that’s it.
- The big problems of the world, like climate change, will continue to get worse until it all comes crashing down. Things are starting to crash already. Narcissists are simply incapable of responding to reality if it conflicts with their desires – they will try to bend reality to their vision. This will fail, of course, and take us all down with them.
The Way Home
What’s the solution? As the book and song go, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We normal humans seem wired to follow narcissistic leaders who exhibit supreme confidence – regardless of their actual competence. We must break this pattern and learn to follow wise people, not simply confident ones, before it’s too late.
We actually do a decent job of this given two conditions: stable economic times and a democracy that provides a real choice. This is why sociopaths (I consider narcissists as a type of sociopath) seek to destabilize the economy and limit democratic choice. This is happening right now in the USA, as the Republican Party works hard to seize power through gerrymandering and other types of election fixing. They are also happy to wreck the economy if it means damaging the other party. Two-party systems eventually produce threats to democracy: it is too easy to corrupt one or both parties when new parties cannot arise to replace them.
Voting is Not Enough
How to get out of this mess is a whole other topic. Countries that have proportional representation, for example the Scandinavian and many European countries, are well ahead. If a political party gets too out of touch with voters, they lose votes and seats and the other parties gain. Countries with first-past-the-post electoral systems tend to have two parties and be corrupt, because there is no competition. Examples include the USA, the U.K, and Brazil.
[Then there are countries with one party, or dictatorships. How well they are doing with emergencies like climate change and COVID is entirely dependent upon the leader. China is leading the world in building solar and wind power, for example, and has adopted a Zero COVID policy. North Korea is so secretive that it’s impossible to tell exactly what and how they are doing with COVID or climate.]
In the two-party democracies, voting is necessary but insufficient. The purpose of elections in countries that have become dominated by narcissists is simply this: Elect leaders less likely to call out the military during mass protests. That’s it. Expecting a leader in one of these countries to take the necessary action on climate change is an obvious waste of time.
Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau provide great examples.
- Biden: Made big climate promises, has since doubled down on oil and gas
- Trudeau: Declared a climate emergency, then bought a pipeline; has since doubled down by spending billions on oil and gas versus millions on climate change
These people will not do the right thing unless forced. There is a near zero chance of electing anyone honourable under first past the post systems. The system that chooses the leaders of parties makes it virtually impossible for decent humans beings to reach the top positions. This is, in fact, another ploy by sociopathic individuals: by making politics toxic, only toxic people will participate. They eliminate the threat from decent, honest people by ensuring that such people never want to get near the filth of politics.
These leaders have also learned that they can safely ignore mass protests, and they are busy criminalizing even peaceful protest in, for example, the USA, the U.K., and Canada. The only way to reclaim our power, the power of the people versus the narcissists, is to join together in solidarity against them.
How to do that…is another subject for another day. But until we do, the narcissists will continue to rule us, and to wreck us.