This isn’t as obvious as it used to be.
Before words were the weaponized tool in battleground of pathologic Western Narcissism this sickness was concerned primarily with affects, with specific feelings – guilt and shame.1 In the third generation there was a shift from emotion to (in)action, from feeling less to doing nothing. Before the attack on words came there were some emotional Math problems to (re)solve2: Failure to want = Failing to act and Knowing = Doing.
It may be in that second equation that the seeds were sewn for Gen Z’s latest iteration of Narcissism. Let’s look at this together. Knowing is now the same as Doing for the modern Narcissistic Millennial. I can endlessly defer action, including that most radical of actions (the action of Change) by becoming better read, smarter, wiser. All without putting the iphone down (I feel like Alone might take a potshot here at you the Reader as you’d laugh at the working class Android folks being ignored in that sentence, but we all know no one in the Aspirational 14% has a green texting google Phone). Web 2.0 has inflamed our inertia.
Guilt requires action, right? You have to actually fuck your coworker to feel guilty afterwards when you come home to your wife. Same idea with shame, though shame is even easier (you don’t even have to leave the kitchen table). For all we’ve lambasted them the Boomers and Gen X could still do stuff. We all know the story now with Millennials, they just stay at home in their rented apartments and complain (from behind their phones on the couch in pyjamas at 4:30pm) about having it worse than anybody.
It’s the staying at home doing nothing part that interests me in the analysis of How the Hell Did It Get to Be This Way Today? There’s a connection between the sophistry and sleight of hand required to change the definition of Knowing to be interpreted (not mean, but be commonly understood in the parlance of the times) as the equivalent of Doing. Of course it takes work to read WaPo or WSJ or to watch TikTok because “work” these days is the same as “time spent dissociating.” Working = my eyeballs actively watched the teleprompter3 in my hand while my soul left my body because Hell is better than Earth these days and hot damn, that’s 4 hours passed. I worked! I did that shit! I sat there burning calories at my BMR and no one will take that away from me. And now I get to tell you about it.
This flippant disregard by Millennial Narcissists is quite probably how we’ve degenerated to what we’re seeing in Gen Z. The emotional math equation is no longer limited to Knowing = Doing. There’s no containment on this applied principle now, it’s everywhere and in everything.
Most simply put (and most importantly) Gen Z 4G New Math has reduced to Person = Persona, aka Self = Partial Object. We are what we say we are, and the words we use to tell you what we are no longer mean what the book once told you, and you don’t need to go to Urban Dictionary to look it up because you already knew. It’s the zeitgeist.
The obvious meaning-bending words here which are all the rage are ‘Gender’ and ‘Sexual Identity’ as Branded ConceptsTM, but just as in psychoanalysis the manifest content is not the latent content. We’re being lied to by ourselves. Gen Z Narcissism offers you a hundred new prefixes to put in front of –sexual on your hinge profile but this isn’t remotely useful. Do you know any average, decent men who are successfully meeting women on the apps? No? Do you know any women who are finding stable, steady relationships from the apps? No? Me neither, maybe I’m not interesting enough to be non-binary.4
Gen Z struggles with gender and identity because it hasn’t seen a Real Man in 60 years. There are so few Kings amongst us. Forget Kings, where are the role models in our careers or our personal lives? Where are the Heroes? Role models might be asking too much- not a lot of humility out there, not a lot of folks giving wisdom (and their time) away for free in this economy, but we don’t even Aspire to the perfect wish of Heroes.5 The first half of the Millennial Generation still grew up with them in 1980s; Barbie and GI Joe may have been corrupting 22 minute ads on TV but those girls and boys could at least still pretend, still dream. That’s gone now. Do you think Gen Z dreams? Do you think Gen Z aspires?
I’m skeptical because I see what they do with their words. It’s everywhere. It’s inescapable. When you casually and causally change definitions the way we do now we lose our grip on what is important, on what is meaningful. Gen Z Narcissism is slicing the tethers of both the Abstract (symbols, metaphors, dreams) and the Absolute (words have specific meanings that cannot be changed because Language and communication are ruined if this is violated, there is a world of Forms or utility in such an idea, etc). Alone made a wisecrack to the reader in one of the dream interpretation passages in Sadly,Porn, mocking their subconscious for not even bothering to disguise the latent content, it was all in the manifest.
It’s the same with these genital-reducing operations – why should You live with the symbolic shame of being an impotent Man and the guilt of Failing Your Family when you can just literally cut that dick off and be done with it. You’ll find increasingly large corners of not just the Internet but the Culture to praise and validate you when you do. Their praise is reflexive, empty, and means nothing, but you already felt nothing. Is that why you cut your dick off? “Perhaps that will stir my loins.” Perhaps. Maybe you can sue the bastards in 15 or 20 years, so you’ve got that coming to you. Don’t forget to include the social worker.
And now that words mean nothing to what is left for us? What has been left for you? It’s a Good Thing you already felt nothing before the anesthesia hit, but the rest of us still have to live here (and live with you). Somebody is changing those postop bandages. Does that count as Doing?
Let’s return to Alone’s 3G Narcissism again: We do not act. We only want to know. We cannot say anything meaningful because the meaning in our Language has been annihilated. Without action we do not dream. We aspire reflexively, like the Gen Xers did, but at least they went out and bought shit. Do not forget that they did things that made them feel shame. Are you ashamed?
Today (4G Zoomer), you, me, we, just absorb content- the 2020s version of the Matrix Battery (I didn’t watch the new one but I’m sure she made this point in there somewhere). You sit there, passive, dissociated, and lost. Of course you are lost. Nothing has value anymore. You removed Cardinality from Direction and now You lack direction. You can create a new identity out of whole cloth with your words on your phone. Those words, the cheap free endless words, they mean nothing. Their definitions can be a quicksand, changing overnight. Where is the acknowledgement of what has been lost because of this? Where is the outrage? Seven different streaming networks to choose from and none of them are covering this.
There is so much Humanity and Life that is utterly destroyed when Person becomes equivalent to persona. We are content to be less than fully human. Everyone is, even the non-Zoomers; we are compelled to live this way, the way Gen Z does. Why? Because there are no Kings. I’d even settle for a boy Hero but there aren’t any of them around either. There certainly aren’t any role models to be found in the more senior generations. And that is the only way out of this, friends. Find your King. Be a role model, or at least dream about a fantastical hero you can Do the Verb of Admiration if you can’t make it that far as a first place to begin changing.
I’ll repeat myself: “If we abolish all the rules of identity we can’t define identity. If we can’t define identity we can’t debate identity. If we can’t debate identity then we’ve added a further layer of defense upon the work of the three generations prior against change.” Consider what is being taken from you, what is lost, when words are used differently than they once were AND NO ONE TODAY THINKS THIS IS UNUSUAL.
1 This is the main theme of thelastpsychiatrist.com
2 This is one of the primary themes of Alone’s book Sadly,Porn
3 Alone’s term for smartphones in Sadly,Porn. Hilarious.
4 It still wouldn’t change anything.
5 Heroes are even easier to come by than role models. Role models are real people in meatspace, and they are often mature adults emotionally (agreeing to take on the task of mentorship demonstrates the mature defense mechanism of Altruism). in Jungian analysis the Boy Hero dies and is reborn as the Adult Warrior, there are no Heroes that are grown Men. Again, that’s good news for today’s suffering narcissist- You don’t have to lift a finger to change yourself to start to dream Heroically