Narcissism: Unclean Energy (with Michael Shellenberger, November 2022)

Uploaded 1/4/2024, approx. 2 hour 4 minute read

And thank you so much.

I'm so excited to talk to you.

I've been thinking about it all night.

Thank you.

Thank you for having me.

Kind of you.

And thanks for the plugs in the last few weeks.

Yes, I'm your greatest promoter now.

Would you just-- can you just make sure your screen's a little bit lower?

I want your head a little square.

That's perfect.


It's OK now.


Yeah, it's perfect.

Well, I want to-- I have so many questions for you.

And hopefully, we'll be able to get to them all.

But I just think we need to start with some definition of terms.

I think there's-- for me, there's a lot of confusion.

And so I have a bunch of specific questions.

But I think it's easier for me to just ask them all in one question.

So you can disentangle and unpack what we mean by narcissism.

How is it different from being selfish?

How is it different from having a big ego or being egocentric?

How are all those things different from psychopathy or sociopathy?

What else do I want to disentangle?

Is there a difference between narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder?

Can somebody behave in narcissistic ways but not be a narcissist?

Can I be a narcissist in some interaction but then not really be a narcissist or vice versa?

And then I think as long as we're there-- and take as long as you need to answer this question, because I'm asking so many questions.

Take as long as you need to unpack it.

It sort of gets to this-- I think you had sort of argued that-- and by the way, I haven't read the book yet.

I did order it though.

So I will read the book.

And maybe we can talk again afterwards.

But I'm not going to do that for the business.

But I think you argue that narcissistic personality disorder is a response to stress, similarly to post-traumatic stress disorder, rather than a psychiatric disorder or than a personality disorder.

So I think if you just unpack all of that for me and for others, that would be enormously helpful.

Well, you have a six-month syllabus right there.


Well, I'll do my best.

First of all, narcissism starts off in early childhood.

And then it is healthy.

It's an integral part of the evolution of the self.

And it underlies the regulation of self-esteem and self-confidence later in life, the setting of boundaries, separating from your parents, becoming an individual.

They all rely critically on healthy narcissism, also known as primary narcissism.

But narcissism, like everything else in life, or in psychology at least, evolves, should evolve, should transmute and transform, should shape shift.

And if it doesn't, if it remains infantile well into adulthood, then it becomes secondary narcissism, AKA, pathological narcissism.

Now, pathological narcissism is a clinical entity.

Put differently, it's a diagnosis.

It's a set of traits, behaviors, beliefs, cognitions, or rather cognitive distortions, emotions, or rather suppressed emotions.

And when you put all of these together, you get a syndrome in effect.

And that's pathological narcissism.

And so it's a hyper-complex phenomenon.

It is, on the one hand, a clinical entity, but it had emerged very similar to allegedly the COVID-19 virus.

It had escaped the laboratory.

And now, narcissism is an organizing principle and a hermeneutic principle, an explanatory principle.

We use narcissism to make sense of the world.

We look at show business.

We dissect politics and the business world and academe.

And we say, oh, well, he's a narcissist.

She's a narcissist.

So narcissism helps us to imbue the senseless and the random with patterns and meaning.

And this is an organizing principle.

Narcissism, therefore, is no longer merely a psychopathological clinical phenomenon, but it is part and parcel of the social fabric.

It also underlies many technologies, for example, social media.

So it's not possible to discuss narcissism only in the settings of therapy or clinic or it's all over.

It's ubiquitous.

It had come to define many social interactions, numerous social institutions, social movements, activism, et cetera, et cetera.

It's all over the place.

I would say that narcissism is the color of postmodern life.

On the one hand, and a new religion, a new private distributed networked religion, where everyone is a god and everyone is one's worshipper.

So this is in a nutshell.

Now, pathological narcissism includes behaviors which many people find obnoxious or repellent, and behaviors which are abrasive, and behaviors which are abrasive or antisocial or reckless, and behaviors that are dangerous and risky.

The whole monopoly.

Narcissistic personality disorder, and especially a variant of narcissistic personality disorder known as malignant narcissism, is when these behaviors and traits and proclivities and emotions and cognitions are taken to extreme.

So yes, the answer to a part of your question, you could have a narcissistic style.

It was first described by Lynn Sperry and later by Theodore Millon.

You could have a narcissistic style, but you would still not be a narcissist.

It's a question of gradations.

It's a kind of spectrum or dimensional approach to narcissism.

Many people are a-holes, excuse the expression.

And yet they do not qualify for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.

Someone with NPD is someone who has only cold empathy.

In other words, he's able to scan and absorb data regarding other people, but he has no emotional reactions or resonance to these data.

It is someone who has severe cognitive distortions, for example, grandiosity.

It's someone who is divorced from reality.

Here's what we call impaired reality testing.

It is someone who is exploitative, envious, externalizing in the sense that he uses aggression to try to manipulate the environment.

Someone whose agency depends on utilizing or abusing other people.

And so pathological narcissism taken to extreme, NPD and then malignant narcissism, is very difficult to distinguish from psychopathy or psychopathy.

And even psychopathy is not a clinical term, actually.

It's not been accepted.

It's been rejected by many DSM committees, by many committees of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

It's a brainchild, essentially, of Harvey Leckie and Robert Hare.

And Robert Hare is the guru of psychopathy.

But I think psychopathy is a valid clinical entity.

I think there is such a thing.

Now, psychopathy to antisocial personality disorder is what malignant narcissist is to narcissistic personality disorder.

And that's when the two diagnoses intermeshed.

It's like a Venn diagram.

There's an area in common.

And that area in common is the psychopathic narcissist.

Psychopathic narcissists tend to rise to the top.

They tend to become chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies.

We found that 5% of them are actually malignant narcissists, psychopathic narcissists, and pure, purebred psychopaths.

That's five times the average in the population.

And these are the ones we were able to interview, actually, Hare and Babiak were able to interview.

Many of them declined to be interviewed.

I suspect the number is much higher.

We find a propensity, we find a prevalence of these disorders in certain professions.

These people gravitate to certain professions.

For example, surgeons, medical surgeons, many of them are psychopaths.

We find the narcissist in show business, of course, in the media.

And lately, in the last two years, there has been a slew, an avalanche actually, of academic studies demonstrating pretty conclusively to my mind that social movements, activism, activist movements, and what I call victimhood, or what you call as well, victimhood movements have been hijacked by narcissists and psychopaths who have become the public face of these movements.

This is academic.

This is not a conspiracy theory, and it doesn't mean that I adhere to your politics, or it's simply we agree on something because it happens to be a fact.

It happens to be a fact.

So there has been an infestation and infiltration of various social institutions, dynamic institutions, such as social activism movements, and static institutions, such as the church or politics.

There has been an infestation of narcissists and psychopaths.

They've taken over because the incentive structure of modern civilization is pro-narcissistic and pro-psychopathic.

Put differently, if you're a narcissist or a psychopath, or a victim whose grandiosity is his victimhood or her victimhood, it pays.

It simply pays.

You are rewarded, there's a reward system in place, of course, constructed by previous narcissists and psychopaths.

It's a self-perpetuating, self-reinforcing cycle.

That's in the notion.

I hope I've answered more of those questions.

We find the narcissist in show business, of course, in the media.

And lately, in the last two years, there has been a slew, an avalanche actually, of academic studies demonstrating pretty conclusively tomy mind that social movements, activism, activist movements, and what I call victimhood, or what you call as well, victimhood movements have been hijacked by narcissists and psychopaths who have become the public face of these movements.

This is academic.

This is not a conspiracy theory, and it doesn't mean thatI adhere to your politics, or it's simply we agree onsomething because it happens to be a fact.

It happens to be a fact.

So there has been an infestation and infiltration of various social institutions, dynamic institutions, such as social activism movements, and static institutions, such as the church orpolitics.

There has been an infestation of narcissists and psychopaths.

They've taken over because the incentive structure of modern civilization is pro-narcissistic and pro-psychopathic.

Put differently, if you're a narcissist or a psychopath, or a victim whose grandiosity is his victimhood or her victimhood, it pays.

It simply pays.

You are rewarded, there's a reward system in place, of course, only in mental health and psychology.

I am the father of the field of narcissistic abuse.

I coined the phrase narcissistic abuse in most of the language in use today, et cetera, et cetera.

I mean, I can go on and on and on.

I can go on and on andon.

And one of the main methods for consolation is spreading rumors and counterfactual and fake news in effect, fake information.

Well, and when I say that I genuinely, in other words, if you genuinely were super self-taught and had none of those qualifications, everything you said would still have landed with the power that it lands.

I fully agree with you by the way.

And I will tell you, I'll give you a fact.

Seven out of the 10 most important psychologists in history never studied psychology and did not have a degree in psychology.

That would include the likes of Sigmund Freud, Donald Winnicott, Melanie Klein.

They never studied psychology.

Well, Winnicott studied psychology later.

He was a pediatrician.

Melanie Klein never studied psychology.

Sigmund Freud never studied psychology.

And seven out of 10, the developer of dialectical behavioral therapy, which is the main treatment modality for borderline personality disorder, was actually a borderline patient.

She was mentally ill in an asylum.

This is nonsense.

You don't need an academic degree and you don't need the imprimatur of academe to contribute to any field, by the way, not only psychology.

Well, and I have to say, so I, as you might imagine, have also been regularly attacked for my lack of credentials.

And then what made me feel better is when I started to see that it was happening to people that were much more qualified in formal traditional standards than I was.

But so let's unpack that a bit.

Is it itself a symptom of a narcissistic culture that people are, is it a symptom of someone's own narcissism that they're challenging the credentials of people they disagree with?-

It's legitimate to challenge credentials if it's factual.

It's of course not legitimate if it's based on lies and obfuscations or lack of research.

And yes, in this case, it would be what we call devaluation.

It's a classic narcissistic strategy of reducing the opponent and thereby aggrandizing yourself or doubting the opponent's morality, thereby elevating yourself to the high moral ground.

Now, there is a major misconception about the concept of grandiosity.

Narcissists don't want to be the best.

They don't want to be the most.

It's not true that the narcissist wants to be the richest man on earth, the most powerful person or whatever.

Narcissists just want to be unique.

They want to be special.

So a narcissist's grandiosity has a locus and narcissist's grandiosity resides in a claim.

And the claim could be, I'm the greatest victim ever.

The claim could be, I'm the biggest loser.

No one is a bigger loser than I am.

The claim could be, my failure is so spectacular that it's the biggest failure in the history of the United States.

My bankruptcy was the greatest.

You don't understand this.

This is narcissism.

This is grandiosity.

So similarly, when you devalue your opponent by doubting his credentials counterfactually, against the facts, what you're doing actually is you elevate yourself to the high moral ground and reduce him essentially as a person, as a human being.

That's definitely a narcissistic strategy, but it could be also the opposite.

A narcissist could be very proud of being a con man's con man.

An activist, activist, a loser's loser.

You know, just the uniqueness matters.

The locus is utterly irrelevant and this is why narcissists shape shift all the time.

They start off as communists and then they become Joseph Gables.

====become Joseph Gables.

Wow. They start off as communists and they become Mussolini. It doesn't matter what you do, you have no beliefs, you have no affiliations, no allegiance, no loyalty to anything. The only thing is to maintain your delusional self-perception as unique. It is uniqueness that matters, not supremacy.

That's a major misconception of narcissism.

And is that the same difference then between narcissists and psychopaths?

The main differences between narcissists and psychopaths are the following.

Narcissists depend on other people in order to regulate internal processes.

For example, their sense of self-worth critically relies on what is called narcissistic supply.

So they need the attention of other people, the approbation, the affirmation of other people, or they need to be feared and hated by other people.

As long as they are attended to, as long as there is attention involved, they can regulate their moods, their emotions, negative emotions, and their sense of self-worth.

So they are actually dependent, they are co-dependent in many ways.

Psychopaths are not.

Psychopaths couldn't care less about other people.

They regard other people as objects, stepping stones.

They have a goal, they're goal-oriented.

Narcissists have no goals.

Their only goal is supply.

A narcissist is an actor today, a politician tomorrow, and a martyr the third day, whatever it takes to obtain supply, the narcissist is there.

Whatever claim needs to be made, however contradictory is made.

I mean, it's just about supply.

It's an addiction.

The narcissist is an addict, he's addicted to supply, to attention.

The psychopath is called calculated, skimming, Machiavellian, and goal-oriented.

Now, mind you, many psychopaths are primitive, so they also tend to be ruthless and reckless.

They don't regard well, or they don't analyze well the consequences of their own actions.

They have a very limited horizon, and therefore they become criminals.

But the truth is that the vast majority of psychopaths are not criminals.

That is a beef, that is a problem that the profession has with Robert Herr's work.

Robert Herr's work is the father of psychopathy, yes?

Robert Herr's work is based exclusively on his experience as a prison psychologist.

So he had a very non-representative sample.

The majority of psychopaths are not criminals.

They are very, very flexible and transient when it comes to social functioning.

They become pillars of the community.

They rise to the top.

They manage, they're activists, they are in the limelight.

They rule.

So psychopaths rule.

Narcissists also rule, but psychopaths rule over them.

The hierarchy is psychopaths, narcissists, the rest of us.


So when someone is both a narcissist and a psychopath, how do the differences get resolved?

We distinguish between primary and secondary disorders in comorbidities.

Comorbidity means that you're diagnosed with two mental health issues simultaneously.

Comorbidities are very common, and there are strong indications that our classification of mental illnesses must be wrong somehow.

But leave that aside, in the case of comorbidity of psychopaths and narcissists, the dominant disorder is narcissism.

The psychopathy, the psychopathic side is at the service of the narcissistic side.

So the narcissist needs to obtain supply.

He will use psychopathic methods to attain the goal.

The goal would become supply, and he would act psychopathically, anti-socially to obtain the goal.

So for example, he would not hesitate to break the law, or he would not hesitate to abuse and exploit people egregiously.

He would not hesitate to steal from people, to deceive people, and so on and so forth, but with the aim of obtaining supply.

While a typical psychopath would do it for sex or money or power, a narcissistic psychopath would do it for the sake of obtaining attention.

Now, altruistic charitable behaviors can easily become narcissized, can easily be put at the service of buttressing grandiosity.

So it's like ostentatious altruism.

Watch me charity.

The kind of social activism that is intended to promote attention rather than to accomplish goals.

These are all prime indicators of the infiltration of narcissism into all these operations.

So we tend to conflate morality with these mental health issues.

We say, for example, the narcissist cannot be moral.

That is absolutely not true.

If the locus of grandiosity of the narcissist is in his religiosity or morality, then this kind of narcissist would be strictly moral, harshly religious, and that would be his grandiosity.

Similarly, a psychopath definitely can be moral if morality would help in securing the goal.

So he could be, for example, extremely moral in order to have sex.

Or he could be very moral because he makes money.

He's a fundamentalist evangelist and he makes a lot of money.

He's very moral, but he pays.

So yes, morality is not the hallmark of mentally healthy people.

Morality is a cognitive dimension.

And like everything else, it can be put to ill use.

One of the, so there's so much there to unpack, but one of the things that was struck by in making this video of the climate activists was how many of them said, "I don't wanna be here.

"I'm here because it's my duty to be here, but it's actually, I'm suffering to be here right now.

"In fact, I'm angry that climate change is making me be here right now.

And they cry and their faces turn into child faces.

You know, I actually found their photo.

They get, they, I don't know if you call that regression, if that's still a word you use, but they look like children when they say it.

It's unfair that I have to be here doing these things.

What is that?-

Depends, personally, I wouldn't blanket doubt everyone.

I think each case needs to be studied separately.

And we need a preponderance of evidence to reach a conclusion regarding mental health or mental illness.

So I wouldn't, I would be very reluctant to blanket case the whole group.

However, if there is a repeated, if there's repeated behavior of ostentatious virtual signaling, what you describe is called virtual signaling, as you well know, because I think you mentioned it in some of your writings.

So if there is ostentatious virtual signaling and exclusively in public settings, almost never in private, then you could safely assume that it's a manifestation of grandiosity, or at least in the service of grandiosity, intended to garner narcissistic supply, attention.

So what matters are the ostentatiousness, the public setting, because if this is done privately, it may be authentic, the public setting and the virtual signaling.

In other words, when it's done among peers and like-minded people, the echo chamber thing.

So this is common, not only on the left and not only among climate change activists.

It's typical, it's on the alt right.

I mean, all social movements, all social movements attract these kind of people, who are conspicuously moral and self-sacrificial.

This is a Messiah complex.

A good Messiah gets crucified.

I mean, if you don't get crucified, you don't qualify.

So there is this martyrdom of self-sacrificial stance.

And it's very typical, not only in public setting, but also in private settings.

For example, many mothers or even parents, black male children, by telling them, I've sacrificed so much for you.

You know, I didn't want to be here, but here I am for you, et cetera, et cetera, you owe me.

In other words, the phenomenon you've just described is part of a larger phenomenon known as entitlement.

Entitlement requires, on the one hand, virtue signaling, because if you're not virtuous, you should not be entitled, you're not entitled.

So entitlement requires virtue signaling, on the one hand, and the assumption that there are rights and commensurate obligations.

Like, if you're entitled, you have rights, and these rights create in others obligations.

So this is part and parcel of ethics.

I'm a philosopher among my other scenes.

It's part and parcel of ethics, and in ethics, we know that there is a rights and obligations calculus.

And this ostentatious virtue signaling is a way of telling wider society, you owe me.

You owe me because I'm sacrificing.

I have a right to your time, resources, attention.

I don't know what else.

I have a right, and because I have this right, you have an obligation, because every right creates an obligation.

And so, and I have this right, because I am virtuous and you're not.

This is implicit devaluation.

Every form of virtue signaling involves devaluation.

Because if I'm virtuous, it means you're not.

Because if we were both equally virtuous, why would I need to signal it to you?

Like, for example, we both breathe.

We breathe oxygen and not signaling to you that I'm breathing oxygen, who would be theotic.

But if I think I'm more virtuous than you, I would signal to you that I'm virtuous.

So there is an implicit devaluated or devaluating message in virtue signaling.

We are the climate change activists.

We are virtuous because we are trying to save the planet and we're trying to save you despite yourself.

And because we are sacrificing our time and God knows what else, this creates a right.

And this right imposes on you an obligation.

And this is the sequence of virtue signaling.

And of course, it's grandiose.

Professor, one change very quickly in the climate change movement, which I've been a part of for 25 years, more than 25 years.

One huge change that's occurred very quickly is, 10 years ago, and maybe even less than that, nobody said, I'm here because my future is at risk.

It was, I'm worried about future generations.

So there's temporal and then there was spatial.

I'm worried about Africans.

Now they still do the other, they still do those things, but then they go, I'm here because I won't have a future, me, upper middle class British citizen who is gonna be absolutely fine.

What is that about?

Is that an evidence of rising narcissism?

Is it a particular form of it?

I just said that virtue signaling creates a calculus of rights and obligations, but it's much less effective to claim rights on behalf of third parties.

Even when you go to court, the court tells you, you have no standing.

You can't sue on behalf of someone else.

That guy should come and sue, that girl should come and sue.

You can sue on their behalf.

You don't have standing.

So if you personalize it and you say it's affecting me, it's affecting my future, it's affecting my life, the strength of your argument is much more profound because it's about me.

And of course this is narcissistic, but it's narcissistic in the sense that everything has been atomized.

The social fabric has been torn asunder not only with regards to climate activism, politics is polarized.

I mean, we are falling apart in the sense that we are drifting apart.

We are atomized.

This process is called atomization.

And so this reflects atomization.

The minute you atomize, it means that there is no solidarity and there are no common denominators.

When you look at, for example, at the institution of family or the institution of marriage or the institution of intergender relations, or even the institution of gender roles, you see that everything had become fluid and negotiable.

And because everything now is fluid and negotiable, even sex, fluid sex, fluid gender, everything is negotiable and fluid.

It means that each one to his own, we are all atomized.

And today we don't have what used to be called social screens.

We don't even have what used to be called sexual screens.

So if you date someone today, you have to negotiate from scratch.

There is no script that dictates to you how to behave, but you have to negotiate every aspect of the date.

Where you're gonna go, what you're gonna drink, how much you're gonna drink, what are you going to do afterwards?

Are you gonna have sex or not?

What kind of sex you're gonna have, etc, etc.

It looks a lot like a corporate merger and acquisition or takeover, sometimes hostile takeover.

So, of course we have all devolved and it's a devolution.

It's not an evolution.

We've all devolved into self-interested narratives and self-directed ethical calculus.

While in the past ethics, even schools of ethics, such as utilitarianism, which were very, very, in a way immoral, schools of ethics were always about the other.

But as we became less and less tolerant of the other, and as the other had receded from our field of view to the point of vanishing, as we have created a world of solipsism, where it's us, Netflix and the cat, more or less, if we're lucky.

Well, in such a world, of course, then there would be what we call pronoun density.

Pronoun density is a measure of narcissism in speech, in speech acts.

How many times do you use the words, I, my, myself and mine?

So, the pronoun density, first pronoun density had exploded in the last 20, 30 years.

And that's really one example.

Everything is embedded in these huge, long social trends.

In 1968, there was a French philosopher and sociologist, Guillebore.

And Guillebore wrote a book called "The Society of the Spectacle." And then later there was another guy, Louis Althusser, who was a neo-Marxist, post-Marxist philosopher.

And Louis Althusser said that society, that we are interpolated, we are kind of brainwashed and made to act, via advertising and corporate messaging and so on and so forth.

And when you put the two together, you see that the world of business had imposed on us a spectacle and rendering all of us Shakespearean actors.

We don't live anymore, there's no life anymore.

There's only an act.

A role play, we all play roles.

And because we all play roles, we are interpolated.

In other words, we are treated as objects.

For example, our eyeballs are monetized.

That's a tricky metaphor, monetizing eyeballs.

It's a horror, a Bela Lugosi horror movie.

So the interpolation of the corporate world, it started in the '50s and the '60s with consumerism and so on, and late stage capitalism, which is pretty malignant, rendered all of us objects.

And from the moment we became, from the moment we were made into objects, we became first of all passive recipients.

And the second thing is we were unable to discern or to interact with others.

It made it extremely difficult for us to interact with others.

In other words, we prefer to interact with the overall script with a narrative than with each other, which would explain the rise in activism movements and social movements and so on.

Because activists, socially active, social movements and so on, they're not about people, they're about narratives.

They are close cousins of ideologies in the worst sense of the word.

And we live in a death cult.

It's a death cult because we value objects over people.

We value object, even the planet is an object.

I mean, we treat the planet and nature as if it were an object, subject to manipulation, subject to fixing, subject to alteration, subject to modification, totally passive out there, waiting for us to act.

It's an objectification of this hyper complex system in which we're seamlessly integrated.

It's a Descartian view of, Cartesian view of, you know, us versus the world, observer versus reality.

It's very sick, forget narcissism for a minute.

It's even much worse than narcissism because it's a total loss of touch with reality, total loss.

When you start to treat other people as objects, when you fit into a narrative, when you regard, when you objectify everything, including your own planet and so on, this is an excellent description of the matrix.

That's the matrix.

The matrix is a narrative reified in machinery.

That's amatrix, the matrix, the moment, yes?

It's a narrative, it's a story, reified in machinery, built into machinery, embedded in machinery.

And everyone in the matrix is isolated, solipsistic, but experiencing a delusion of connectivity, a delusion of life.

The matrix is a death count, of course.

Everyone there is dead, they just don't know it.

We are not very far from this.

Social activism in all its form in the '60s was benevolent because it was about the other.

There were big arguments about narrative, even in the civil rights movement.

There were numerous strands and threads.

There was a lot of argument.

So it was a very fertile intellectual ground and so on.

This is not the shape of social activism today.

Social activism today is ideological, authoritarian, narcissistic, sick to the core, not concerned with people, but concerned with objects.

That's a death count.

Sim, and by the way, do you have a hard stop at the top of the hour?

Can we keep going a little bit longer?

My audience is used to being inflicted with one of our things.

I have more time too.

I want to, sometimes in these conversations, we wait until the end to get to a positive story or a positive vision or a vision of health, but I wanna do it a little bit earlier because I wanna, I think it provides a nice contrast.

And you started to go there with the '60s.

I loved what you said about redirecting pathological narcissism into a healthy narcissism in a story of overcoming victimhood, overcoming oppression.

So I wanna spend some time there.

And let's get specific.

We're in Britain, so you may know, I believe climate change is real.

I don't think it's a catastrophe, but I do think it's something we should do something about.

I think it's important for people to have clean, cheap, reliable energy.

And so, and I'm friends with, I have friends in Britain and Britain is experiencing the worst of an energy crisis, part of it created by, not entirely, but part of it created by people that are opposed to cheap and reliable clean energy, even nuclear and natural gas.

What would, what is a positive, if you say we want cheap, abundant natural gas and nuclear for Britain, for the people to lift up out of poverty, for climate change, for all these positive reasons, how can you go about positive, healthy altruism, including a social movement, without succumbing to pathological narcissism or psychopathy?

What would you, how would you describe, can you paint a little bit of a vision for what that positive public engagement would look like?

And part of the reason I ask is I think that, I think there's sometimes people here, will hear this critique that you're making, which is super persuasive and I agree with 100%.

And I think a lot of people hear it and they go, well, and they lapse into a kind of libertarianism.

You know, that's why you shouldn't engage in altruism.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness and complexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness and complexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness and complexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness and complexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness and complexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness and complexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness and complexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness and complexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness andcomplexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness and complexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulate more with the same level of depth and robustness and complexity that you do on the unhealthy pathological side, the healthy side of public and social engagement.

That's why governments shouldn't try to help people.

You end up with a kind of, and Rand, nobody should help anybody because that's always pathological.

I don't hear you saying that, but I think it'd be great if you could articulatethere, but the obstacle that I see and why I'm probably a lot less optimistic than you, the obstacle that I see is the fact that there is a general obsession with being seen, a general obsession with attention.

Attention had become commoditized.

It's a commodity.

It also underlines the bottom lines of all the major corporations in the world, at least in technology.

So attention today is the way that you define or regulate your self-esteem, your relative positioning compared to other people, your progress in life, your ambitions, your career milestones, your integration into social structures.

People interact much more via social media, for example, than face-to-face, and so on and so forth.

In other words, narcissism is baked into technological tools and emergent social institutions so inextricably that I fail to see how we can reverse this.

So I think we need to succumb.

We need to succumb to climate change, in my view.

We need to stop this, frankly, idiotic attempt to reverse climate change.

It's not gonna work.

No one is committed to it.

I mean, forget the cops.

The cops are copouts.

Cop 27 is copout 27.

Nothing is happening there.

Nothing will ever happen.

So we need to succumb to climate change and begin to design our lives, anything from architecture, coastal architecture, to heating, I don't know.

We need to design everything to take into account the inevitability of climate change.

Similarly, narcissism is ineluctable.

We need to design everything, social activism included, climate change activism included, to take into account narcissism.

Non-narcissism revolves around one cognitive distortion, a misperception of reality known as grandiosity.

We need to rechannel grandiosity.

We need to social engineer grandiosity.

If you come to people and say, "You should work anonymously and humbly to further the interests of other people, to do good, to be altruistic and charitable," they will tell you to f off.

Not use the short version.

You need to come to people and say, "If you do ABC, you're gonna be great.

I'm gonna make you great again." And here's some alluding to Trump.

So, but you need to define the goals and the agendas in a way that is socially beneficial, viable, sustainable, to all, to everyone involved.

And of course, to the template that we subsist on, which happens to be the planet.

So, I give an example in my interview with Atlantico.

If you come to someone and say, "You're a victim, you've been victimized like no one before, your abuser has been the worst abuser since Adolf Hitler," this would become her locus of grandiosity.

She would go around bragging about being the greatest victim ever.

But if you were to come to her and say, "Listen, if you are truly strong and truly great and truly amazingly intelligent and drop dead gorgeous and everything, then you would overcome your victimhood.

That would be proof of your superiority and uniqueness.

Then that's what she's gonna do, overcome her victimhood.

We need to motivate people to be great, unique, special and noticed via socially beneficial agendas and platforms.

We need to reach out like in spiritualism, we need to reach out this ghost of narcissism.

Now it can be done, of course, it can be done.

There are political movements which subsist of narcissism, I mean, literally built on narcissism, founded on narcissism.

You may disagree or agree with the political aims but they still, they got to where they, I mean, they realized their goals and agendas via narcissism.

And I think Brexit is an excellent example.

And so it is possible to harness narcissism as a form of natural energy.

The narcissist is obsessed with narcissistic supply and concentrates all his energy on obtaining supply.

It's a huge source of power, equal I bet to nuclear power.

And we need to somehow leverage it.

We need to be wise about it, not to castigate it and chastise it, it's too late for this.

Hey, it's too late, narcissism is here, climate change is here, wake up.

There is a confluence, a pernicious confluence of denial and displacement.

These are the modern coping strategies, the coping mechanisms.

We first deny and then we displace.

So take for example, climate change.

We deny that it is irreversible and then we displace and we say, okay, if we invest in renewable energy we're gonna solve the problem.

So this is called displacement because you direct your energies into something which is manageable in order to avoid something that is not manageable.

You have a fight with your boss, you can't tell him that he's an a-hole, so you come back home and you beat up your wife.

That's displacement.

You can't deal with climate change. It's too strong, it's too systemic, it's here to stay and it's ever growing.

You can't cope with it, you can't manage this.

So you build a wind farm.

Because now there's a guy, his name was Parkinson, and there's Parkinson's law.

Parkinson said, the different committee is faced with two decisions.

One is to construct a nuclear plant and the other is to construct a bicycle shed.

They will dedicate 10 minutes to the nuclear plant and 10 hours to the bicycle shed because they know a hell of a lot about bicycle sheds and nothing about nuclear plants.

Same with climate change. Same, exactly the same.

We focus on things that we can manage the bicycle sheds because we can't cope with climate change.

This is called displacement, but it also involves denial.

Same with all other forms of social activism that I'm aware of.

The relationships between men and women are millennia old.

What am I talking about? Millions of years old.

By denying that biological realities and psycho biological realities, we're not gonna make anything go away.

We're only gonna get things worse.

So what are we focusing on? Consent, how to define consent.

That's something we can cope with, something we can discuss. We have talking heads.

They make themselves look important and intelligent by discussing it, all for the better.

And so everyone is focusing on this kind of issues, you know, consent, first date, second date, this, that.

That's not the issue, of course. The issue is the abrogation and breakdown of inter-gender relationship, the gender wars, the emergence of a single gender, unigenter, where men are women and men are men and women are men.

Now, I'm not saying it's good, I'm not saying it's bad, but it should not be denied and ignored and refrained and displaced, which is exactly what we're doing.

Definitely feminism is doing.

So this is the way we cope with modernity or postmodernity.

We deny and displace, we create a spectacle, a state show, and then we pretend that this theater plays reality.

It doesn't lead us anywhere.

I think we can, if we harness and channel the narcissism of social activists, we can accomplish.

We can accomplish many of the goals we want to accomplish. - Sam, this is so fascinating.

And I wanna come back to this part where you just went, but let me, I wanna take for a minute and go back to the '60s.

There's this really interesting- - You were, I'm sorry, you were disrupted, the connection is big. - Oh, I said, I wanna go back to the '60s for a minute. - Sure. 1964, the United States passes the Civil Rights Act and it's really, it's much more comprehensive than really people had imagined. It included women, it created girls' sports. It's this incredible achievement. I think it made people very proud. Within one year, however, the president of the United States at the urging of the civil rights leaders says, we're not done, how could we be done? We've had race oppression for 400 years. We owe a debt to African Americans.

And so we created this thing we call affirmative action.

And everybody, everybody said, okay, I mean, the elites, they said, that sounds great.

We did that.

That then very quickly, here we are in 1965, that very quickly you go from that to the late '60s and you get what we call today identity movements.

You get victim-based movements.

You get the weathermen, which is, I mean, I'll leave it to you to figure out how to describe it. - Domestic terrorism.

Domestic terrorism. - You know it, yeah.

And like when I did some research on it for my last book, I was surprised to learn that they were all doing cocaine.

They were, there was an alliance between the white rich kids and black and African American activists who were involved in the cocaine trade.

They robbed the bank in part to buy cocaine to sell. - Not only blacks, you had the Simbaionese army if you were with Patricia Harris and so on. - Yeah, yeah, so you had, so you just, narcissistic, I mean, it's really, when you look at it, you go, wow, it's like a festival of narcissism.

In your previous talk with Atlantico, I think you said that something that really resonated with the people, it was like, you need, at that moment, there needed to be somebody to really push back on the victim, on the trend, and to really affirm, no, no, we've leveled the playing field.

Where we shall overcome is enough, you know, stop, let's stick with what we shall overcome.

None of this victimhood identity movements.

I'm assuming you still believe that, 'cause you just gave that interview recently, and it seems though, how does that fit into, it seems like there's both, it seems like, I guess, I'm trying, if I have to simplify it, if I hear you correctly, you're saying that those of us that wanna be engaged in healthy political engagement, we need to do two things.

On the negative side, you need to push back against the victim, narcissistic, psychopathology.

And on the positive side, you need to redirect it, you need to be able to follow up. - You're being cut off because the connection is bad, I'm sorry. - Oh no, it's okay.

I'm just saying there's a-- - On the positive side, I heard all the other ways.

On the positive side? - Yeah, so it seems like if I'm understanding you correctly, can you, I think it's really interesting, because it does, I think there's sometimes people go, I think people make mistakes.

On the one hand, people are just negative towards the victim movements.

And I think on the other side, people that are more conflict diverse wanna just be positive and redirect.

I'll give you an example.

I'm friendly with a psychologist in the United States named Jonathan Haidt.

You may know his work, moral psychology.

And there's a movement, there's just a big 60 minutes television program on this question of how do you change social media, to make it so it's not so anger driven, it's not so fear driven, and it's not so negative emotions.

And I'm very sympathetic to that argument.

On the other hand, as I was listening to it, I also thought this could be a way to allow greater censorship of one's opponents.

But nonetheless, it seems like there's sort of, on the one hand, I see Jonathan Haidt is trying to address this question too, which is how do you both challenge and stop the really bad victim movements, but also redirect?

And I wonder if you could speak a little bit to that.

It seems like there's some complexity there.

It's a challenge. - Victimhood movements, victimhood movements go awry when they are appropriated by the elites and become integrated into existing power structures, including profit motivated power structures, in other words, the corporate environment.

When victimhood movements or rather social activism movements get compromised by aligning themselves or affiliating themselves with vested establishment interests, then things go awry.

That's point number one.

Point number two, when victimhood begins to be monetized, that leads to commodification of suffering.

Suffering becomes a commodity.

And one thing we know about commodities, I used to be a commodity trader when I was very young, in my 20s.

One thing we know about commodities-- - Of course you were.-

I did everything.

I really name it, I didn't.

So one thing we know about commodities, it's a paradigm of economic growth.

You produce more and more and more.

The minute you monetize suffering, you have a vested interest.

You have an inbuilt incentive not to decrease suffering, but to perpetuate it, if not to increase.

At least to perpetuate.

If that's your currency, that's your currency.

That's what you're selling, that's your product.-


Think of it as a product.

I mean, the minute money enters the game, you're done, that's it.

I mean, victimhood becomes a permanent fixture because that's your product line.

You're gonna produce victims and suffering.

So you're gonna, for example, you're gonna cast an ever-growing circle of people and institutions as victimizers, as abusers.

You're gonna reframe everything in terms of victim.

So you have, the minute you get integrated with the elites, the minute you begin to monetize suffering, the minute you become part of the bottom line, you are in a production line of suffering and victimhood.

And that's irreversible.

And you can ever, never extricate yourself.

Too many interests are involved, including political interests.

Lyndon Johnson, in 1964, was not the same Lyndon Johnson of '65 and not the same Lyndon Johnson of 1968.

I urge you to read the famous biography of Lyndon Johnson.

Three volumes, wonderful.

He was not the same man.

In 1965, he has already been compromised.

Now, I'm a Jew, I'm a Jew.

And the Jewish elites in the '60s made a strategic decision to latch onto the bandwagon of the Black Civil Rights Movement.

Suddenly, Jewish activists proliferated in all civil rights parades and voter registration, and I mean, you name it.

That was a strategic decision by Jews, because Jews are the quintessential eternal victims.

That is not an anti-Semitic statement.

That's a fact.

Victimhood is the defining determinant of Jewish identity.

I know, because I grew up in Israel, and I've been a Jew all my life.

It's a defining determinant of Jewish identity.

We define ourselves by our martyrhood, by our undeniable victimhood.

I'm not a Holocaust denier, and I'm not a climate change denier.

Only idiots would deny either of those.

The two are real.

Holocaust did happen.

We have been victimized as Jews.

But Jews are the, as I said, the quintessence and the epitome of victimhood, and the benefits that victimhood confers.

I'm sorry to say that sounds very anti-Semitic, but it's very true.

There's a Holocaust industry, there has been a Holocaust industry for decades now, on the individual level, collective level, state level.

And so the institutionalization of victimhood movement, their integration into elite narratives, their penetration of academe, their monetization spells the doom and the end of their agenda, ironically.

It is when they triumph that they lose the battle.

Because when victimhood becomes mainstream, it becomes permanent.

That's, I think, was the huge failure of these victimhood movements in the 1960s.

They allowed themselves to be compromised by the establishment, by the mainstream, byin the 1960s.

They allowed themselves to be compromised by the establishment, by the mainstream, by the elites, by money, ultimately, and by attention, media attention.

Martin Luther King wasn't averse to media attention, shall I put it gently?

And he was a showman, a great showman.

And so was he a narcissist between you and me and the books behind you?

Yes, of course he was.

He is an example of how these movements are hijacked by narcissists and psychopaths.

So this process, is it inexorable?

It is inexorable.

Victimhood movements garner attention.

Attention attracts psychopaths and narcissists.

Is it the end of the story?

No, it could be the beginning of the story.

We just need to reframe everything.

We need to offer the narcissist what he wants, the narcissist's supply, by doing the right thing.

Do the right thing and it will get supply.

The psychopath, what do you want?

You want power, sex, money, you get all of this.

Just do the right thing.

So society and institutions have the power to dictate the reward and incentive system and thereby control individual and collective behavior.

We've been doing it for millennia.

It's called the criminal law.

Had there not been a criminal code, we would all be criminals, all according to Dana-Relli and others.

All of us would be criminals.

But we have a criminal code.

The criminal code channels our energies in socially acceptable ways.

Zygmunt Freud called it sublimation.

We need to sublimate narcissism and psychopathy.

Do we need to fight narcissism and psychopathy?

No, it's too late, it's a waste of time.

No, same thing.

No, same thing.

The Jewish example is so interesting because of course you also have the state of Israel, which I, when I'm, as you know, I'm an environmentalist.

And so when I look around the world for desalination technologies, farming in the desert, it's just, nobody does it better.

Israeli technological ingenuity, Israelis are incredible at all sorts of venture capital, technological innovation.

And so the story is not, so Israel is not Haiti.

Haiti, or it's not some basket case, which is sort of like, well, we are all victims, give us foreign aid.

No, I mean, Israel actually produces things.

I mean, it's a story of overcoming.

It's a story of success.

Israel has been constructed almost entirely on reparations from Germany following the Holocaust.

And three to $5 billion annually from the United States for 40 years almost.

That would prevent most locations from becoming Haiti.

There's also a debate regarding the environmental impacts of desalination projects in Israel because they dump the salt back into the ocean.

They dump the salt back into the sea.

They're raising the salinity level of the sea actually.

But let's not go into details.

There is no debate even among Jews that Jews are very victim-oriented, victim-hood oriented, that we define our identity via victim-hood.

A typical textbook, history textbook in Israel, in high school, is simply a list of pilgrims and Holocaust and genocides and blood labels and what have you.

That's our Haggadah in Passover, the famous book that we read every Passover.

It's about how we were slaves and so on.

So, and it's not unique to the Jews.

The Germans are the same, the Serbs are the same, the Russians are the same.

I've lived in all these countries.

But Sam, the difference is that Jews win some significant larger percentage of Nobel Prizes.

Jews are outperforming.

So, with the victim narrative, Jews outperform Gentiles pretty significantly.

So is that an argument?

Intellectually, yeah.


I mean, you could even kind of go, okay, so Israel gets a lot of aid, but it provides a national security service.

Oh, I'm not discerning that at all.

And it was not the thrust of my argument.

What I was trying to say is that the fact that Jews collaborated with the civil rights movement starting in the mid-60s was a way of creating identity politics and integrating the civil rights movement into the mainstream because the Jews constituted the intellectual elite of the time and still do to a large extent.

So it was like an intellectual imprimatur.

It was like saying civil rights movement is intellectually rigorous.

In other words, it's moral, it's right, it's ethical.

We are the people of the Bible.

I'm not joking.

I mean, we are the chosen people in this sense.

We are the keepers of the flame, of the flame of ethics and what's right and what's wrong and so on and so forth.

And so I gave it as an example of collaboration, but of course I can talk about, for example, the integration of the civil rights movement with sports associations in the United States, how sports leveraged the civil rights movement.

There was a confluence of the civil rights movements with multiple institutions and establishments.

It went mainstream.

It started to monetize suffering.

The minute you monetize suffering, suffering never ends because it becomes product.

That's what they said.

It's a death cult.

It's a death cult.

It's objectifying people.

They become merely production units for suffering.

And you don't have an incentive to end all suffering.

Imagine, for example, if medicine were to end all disease, what would happen to doctors?

People don't realize that there is a perverse incentive structure in many of the helping professions, in many of the altruistic movements and charitable movements.

There is a perverse incentive structure.

If you don't perpetuate suffering and illness, you're dead, you're gone.

You're rendered obsolete.

Why would you do that?

You're human after all.

I mean, even with the lab coat, you're still human.

This is the dynamic I read about in my last book, which is the Homelessness Industrial Complex, Perpetuating Addiction, Mental Illness and Homelessness.

I'm awaiting your book.

Yeah, no, I'm gonna send it.

But okay, Sam, let's come back to this issue of a healthy culture.

One of the countries I'm obsessed with is the Netherlands.

Talk about a country that does not have a victim narrative.

In fact, one of the most famous books ever written on the Netherlands is called Embarrassment of Riches, about how when the Dutch grew rich, 'cause of course the Dutch grew rich before anybody else, it was like embarrassing to them.

They don't have a victim narrative.

They have a narrative, well, it's starting to come.

It's starting to show up.

But we've been giving, we come up with so many examples of pathology.

When you come up with examples of healthy culture, healthy movements, healthy individuals, spend some more time there with me of what you come up with, 'cause I think there's so much pathology we can point to.

What else comes to mind for you?

Like when you look around and you go, that's a model for healthy behavior, healthy engagement and collective or individual as a nation or as a culture, what comes to mind for you?

I've traveled all over the world.

I've lived in 13 countries, 14 actually, and I've worked in 51.

So I have an unusually vast exposure to societies and cultures, anything from South Korea to Nigeria, to Russia, to, I mean, you name it, I worked in all these places.

And so I really have a panoramic overview, a synoptic overview of humanity in effect, not because I'm so special, but because I traveled a lot and lived many places.

And so there are, first of all, Campbell, the sociologist, suggested that we are transitioning from the age of dignity to the age of victimhood.

It's not my say, I mean, Atlantico misattributed it to me, I think, but it wasn't my say, it was his saying.

And he's right.

As I said, it's an organizing principle.

It's a hermeneutic, it explains the world, makes sense of the world.

So you find victimhood movements in India, you find victimhood movements in Israel, of course, you find victimhood in the Arab world, I mean, the Arab world is founded on victimhood.

All post-colonial societies in Africa, a victimhood-based United States, the whites are victims, the blacks are victims, and any color in between is also a victim, native Americans, I mean, everything is victimhood.

It's simply an overriding way to make sense of your life and your world and what's happening to you and why you couldn't make it as you think you should, you deserved because everyone deserves to be multi-billionaire and have the most beautiful girls and become president of the United States, of course.

And if you don't, then something is wrong with you, mind you, because you're perfect.

Something is wrong with society.

So because something is wrong with society, it owes you.

I came across very few exceptions.

For example, Denmark is an exception.

Netherlands used to be an exception, no longer in the last 10 years.

They have a victimhood stance with regards to immigrants and so on.

Immigrants are now victimizing the Dutch, unfortunately.

So they are veering right wing, I mean, far right wing.

They're veering to the right.

But Denmark is still an extremely healthy society, in my view.

Strangely, Finland, the Finnish people, they drink a lot.

This rampant alcohol isn't there.

But I don't know if because of the alcohol, I don't know why, but they're pretty healthy.

Their attitude is pretty healthy, but Denmark is more healthy, my view.

So I would say Denmark, I'm hard pressed to come up with other examples, but I think New Zealand to some extent.

Which is New Zealand.

New Zealand is isolated.

I mean, but maybe because owing to its isolation, it had remained healthy and touched by all these corrupting influences or decadent influences or whatever you want to call them.

So maybe New Zealand, maybe Denmark.

Some parts of Germany.

What about Japan?

Japan is a very sexist society.

What makes you say that?


There are several seismographs of health, mental health.

One of them, of course, is a sex crime.

Sexual relations or sexual behaviors in Japan are deeply disturbed.

I mean, astoundingly and worryally disturbed.

Everyone would agree this.

Every sexologist, every psychology, Japanese first and foremost, they would agree that there's something seriously wrong between men and women and generally with regards to sexuality and gender in Japan.

Japan is a collectivist society, but in the best sense of the world, where the collective is totalitarian, not only authoritarian, intrusive, and stifling and stunting.

We call this psychological process constriction.

The collective constricts the life of individuals.

Individuals, consequently, are unable to separate an individual, they don't become full-fledged individuals. They define their identity via collectives, but again in the best sense, sacrificial sense.

So they would tend to sacrifice their lives and interests and so on in favor of collectives, some of them imagined collectives and so on.

Now, this was much worse, has been used to be much worse in the 30s and 40s, of course, but it's still very much dominant and very much prevalent.

I lived in South Korea, so I spent a lot of time in these countries, Japan and everywhere, Hong Kong.

And so Japan struck me as a very, very sick society, very sick, especially the young, I mean, people under age 35 or 40.

But mind you, the prevalence and incidence of mental illness among the young is much higher than among older generations.

Even when you take sexuality, for example, the young have fewer sex partners and fewer sexual encounters than my age, my generation.

But forget sex, the young have much higher depression rates and rates of anxiety disorders.

Suicide rates among the young are going up and so on and so forth.

So the young are in a huge predicament.

Now, we have something called displacement in psychology, it's a defense mechanism.

So when you try to explain yourself why your life is going south, nothing works and you're not getting anywhere, you can't afford an apartment. You still live with your parents, you're 35 years old.

One third of people under age 35 live with their parents in the industrialized world. 40% of people under age 25 live with their parents.

The number was 3% in the Great Depression.

So something really bad is happening.

When you try to explain to yourself, or to account for this inadequacy, for this systemic failure as a young man or a young woman, you know, you would tend to have what we call alloplastic defenses.

You would tend to blame others.

So you would blame student debt, but you would also blame climate change.

And you would blame the government and you would blame others, your peers.

So there is this tendency to shift the blame or shift the responsibility, abrogate actually personal responsibility.

I think the climate change movement has been hijacked by this disgruntled youth.

These youngsters are unmitigated failures in every dimension that I can think of.

Compare them to their equivalence in the Great Depression or during Second World War, you name it.

I mean, it's really, I mean, I give lectures and these young people come to me and say, "You don't know what you're talking about.

"Do you know what the price of an apartment in San Francisco is?" And I say, "Yes, I know what the price of an apartment in Francisco is.

"Do you know what your grandfather had to go through in the Great Depression?

"Do you know what your great grandfather had to go through in the Second World War?

Are you comparing the two exigencies?" And so it's a question of being spoiled or entitled.

I'm not sure why, but they externalize this aggression.

And so I think the climate change movement has been hijacked actually by this failed youth, by this failed generation.

The climate change movement today is a failed generation movement.-


This generation has hijacked the climate change movement, which is legitimate.

There is climate change.

It's constant and it's horrible.

And the environmental impacts will be cataclysmic.

And we have to prepare for it.

I'm not denying climate change, but the way it is now with Greta and all her peers, there's nothing to do with climate change.

This is displacement.-

Sam, I have to tell you a story.

I went and read all of the New York Times media coverage of heat waves for the last century.

The worst heat waves in the United States were in the 30s.

So in the middle of the Great Depression, the New York Times wrote about heat waves, but the way they wrote about them, like people are like dying, like on the streets and the apartment buildings.-

Yeah, the dust bowl.-

Yeah, the dust bowl.

So the way the New York Times was writing about it though, in the middle of the Great Depression was, well, this is strange because everything has been getting better.

Whereas now when the New York Times writes about heat waves, where far fewer people die.

I mean, far fewer people die.

It's the end of the world.

It's a sign of the apocalypse.

Now, the other issue you're describing is, now I may use the wrong psychological jargon, but it's external locus of control, right?

So a hundred years ago, if you fail, you say, well, I've got to work harder.

And that's on me.

And then a hundred years later, I haveI can't, and it's all, and I'm a victim of my circumstances.

My parents didn't raise me right.

I have student debt, climate change, historical racism, oppression.

Yeah, precisely what I was saying.


It's the age of... So you're right that alloplastic defenses, alloplastic defenses when you tend to blame others, circumstances, institutions, and so on, for your predicament.

Also for your failures and defeats.

Self-inflicted, however they may be.

That's alloplastic defense.

Alloplastic defenses go hand in hand with an external locus of control.

You believe that your life is determined from the outside, not from the inside.

This and this whole thing is a form of displacement.

When there's something you cannot cope with because you are too, I don't know, indolent, or I don't know what, too something, then you would tend to displace it.

You would tend to say, well, the cause is out there.

Not in me, but out there.

It's nothing I can do.

So talk to me.

So that's, I mean, that is scary.

That seems like the end of civilization.

If civilization depends on systems taking... Well, I hope it's the end of civilization.

I think the civilization we've created is dysfunctional, problematic, and not conducive to happiness, which I think is the ultimate test.

However you define happiness, I mean, there's a big debate what is happiness, what is not, contentment, simply contentment.

Our civilization is not conducive to contentment.

It's conducive to conflict and dissonance and aggression, and it's not good.

It's not working.

I absolutely hope it's a demise of this civilization as it is now.

It involves malignant capitalism, not original capitalism, which was 13th century, 15th century capitalism was a great way to create wealth and distribute it, but the malignant ideological forms of capitalism have failed us.

Current civilization involves narcissism and the focus of commoditization of suffering and attention, and then the linkage of suffering with attention.

The only way to garner attention is to suffer in public, ostentatiously.

So this is bad.

Current civilization is a death cult.

It places emphasis on objects rather than people.

It's a civilization of the inanimate, not the animate.

Current civilization is adversarial, founded on conflict rather than on collaboration.

For example, like in hunter-gatherer societies, where collaboration and cooperation was preeminent.

So current civilization is seriously flawed.

So I sure hope it spends its demise.

Of course, we're gonna go through a tectonic phase where all of us and our descendants and so on are gonna suffer horribly.

This is the price of transition, and I hope it's dying.

I hope these are the death rules of civilization.


Now, climate change has nothing to do with civilization.

Climate change is a geophysical phenomenon.

It's been brought on by human activity to a large extent, but not only.

And so we have to accept it.

It's not the first time the planet is.

We've had the Dantian anomaly.

I don't know if you know about this phenomenon.

The Dantian anomaly, there were five or six years with famines and I don't know what, because the planet overheated.

I mean, it has happened numerous times before.

The Ice Age was a result of climate change.

I don't think that climate change is a threat to civilization.

I mean, I look at, I kind of go, I look at, you know, cheap energy, law and order, meritocracy, those are three pillars of our civilization.

They're all being undermined.

Yes, undermined our own existence.

Anyway, I mean.

What's that?

Undermined or even rendered non-existent.

It's, the Enlightenment is dead.

The Enlightenment, 18th century Enlightenment, European Enlightenment was founded on the principles that you have mentioned.

Democracy was supposed to be a reification or a reflection of meritocracy.

But it had become aocracy, mob similarly meritocracy was supposed to be founded on education.

But education having been privatized and monetized has now has nothing to do with meritocracy.

Education was supposed to lead to informed citizenship.

And therefore, proper decision-making, political and otherwise.

But of course, education today is ideological, mostly.

So it doesn't lead to good citizenship.

It leads to partisanship.

It leads to division.

It's adversarial, exactly like a court of law.

And so on and so forth.

You see the chain of none of this is working.

So we, there are two options.

We can tackle each unit separately and try to, this is nonsense. It all needs to go.

There needs to be an enormous conflagration.

And then we can reveal.

I'm sorry, but I'm, I am not an incrementalist.

I'm not.

But Sam, well, okay.

Nowwe're finally getting to some maybe, potential some disagreement.

I think we need to affirm the pillars of Western civilization.

And how do we make the case for Western civilization?

Would you rather live like the Chinese or the Russians, which are totalitarian societies, oppressive, or would you rather live in the United States of America?

People aren't trying to get into China and Russia.

There's not a border crisis on the Southern border of the United States. There's a border crisis in Europe.


Because people would rather live in Western civilization.

And so the case needs to be made to the people inside Western civilization, that that requires cheap energy, law and order, and meritocracy.

And so let me argue with you and say, we do not need to be apocalyptic about this. We just need to affirm the pillars of Western civilization.

Youand we need to push back against the coddled, entitled narcissistic culture and say, "If you don't want, if you don't, if you think this is oppressive, please go and live in China where you can live under a social credit system."

Have you been monitoring the Republican Party in the United States?

I think the majority of voters, Republican voters definitely, would utterly reject what you've just said. They would reject, I think, I think they would reject many democratic terms. They would reject definitely what they consider to be liberalism or progressivism and so on and so forth.

I think, I think many voters in the West, industrial societies in the West, are opting to become China. They're, they don't want to live in China. They definitely don't want to live in Russia, which is a failed experiment, but they want to live in a China-like thing, like a strong leader, a central authority, and prosperity guaranteed by excluding others, which is what China is doing. There's no immigration to China, by the way. There's no immigration into China, not because people don't want to go into China. I think if China were to open up, many people from Africa would go into China. Maybe from Afghanistan would go into China. I mean, there's no question about it, but you can't go into China. You can't immigrate. They don't allow this. So, I think many, many voters in the United States and in the United Kingdom, I know the United Kingdom well, many voters in these places are opting for a Chinese model, definitely, with, for example, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Xi Jinping's studying.

So, I am not quite sure about the commitment of people in the West to enlightenment, to something about what I said.

Enlightenment is dying. I'm not sure about their commitment.

I think if Trump tomorrow, or someone like Trump, never mind, were to kind of introduce an authoritarian regime with intermittent elections, and so on, or no elections, I'm not sure how many would rise up to the challenge with their Second Amendment weaponsI'm not sure how many would rise up to the challenge with their Second Amendment weapons.

I'm not quite sure.

I think many would simply accept it and go along, and if they have prosperity guaranteed, and so on, just the Chinese traded prosperity for freedom.

That was a trade-off.

Now, if Xi Jinping cannot deliver prosperity, there'll be a mess, I agree.

But I think the predominant model nowadays is not American anymore.

It's more Chinese.

I have witnessed first, then, at least 10 countries transitioning from democracy to authoritarian rule, and that includes this country that I'm in right now.

Sander, we've been at-- I have hunger.

You may be right.

You may be right.

Obviously, I hope you're wrong, and would like to try to prove you wrong in the real world.

There has been an enormous debate in the United States around efforts by the federal government to regulate social media companies, to restrict misinformation, which is being overly defined to include factual information.

We've seen a pushback, mostly from the right, in defense of not allowing that to occur, but now we've seen a very important left-wing publication in the United States called "The Intercept," writing a big piece about leaked documents, attempts by the Department of Homeland Security to regulate speech.

So there is a pushback from liberals and conservatives on state regulation of speech.

Immigration, there's definitely anti-immigrant sentiment here, but also we've just let in millions of people.

And my neighbors, I'm in Berkeley, California, my neighbors all have signs in five languages saying immigrants welcome here.

And there's a cynical read to it, which is that they want them to work as gardeners and house cleaners and maids.

But I think that, so I, well, anyway, we can, it's some of it's speculative, but I guess the question I would put to you would be, if I support the Sam Vaknin that is saying, let's rechannel narcissism towards something positive rather than the Sam Vaknin that says, we should wait for the, we should allow the apocalypse to proceed.

It's the same, it's the same Sam Vaknin.

I believe that rechanneling and reframing actually, the clinical term would be reframing.

Reframing narcissism, I believe is the apocalypse.

I believe that once we have reframed narcissism, the rechanneling of energy would be so dramatic, so tectonic if you wish, that everything will crumble.

All the institutions will crumble and new technologies will crumble and you name it, and the values, beliefs, it will be a total redefinition of the human space and civilization.

We will have a civilization founded on narcissism.

Perhaps I haven't been too clear and that's my fault definitely.

I'm suggesting to transition from a civilization founded on virtue, fury to virtue, mind you, and dignity to a civilization founded on narcissism by skipping the victimhood entering phase.

I'm suggesting to transition to a narcissistic civilization simply because I believe that narcissism is ineluctable, not because I support it.

I think the genie is out of the bottle.

For example, with social media, you can't take this back.

There's 3 billion people there.

They're vying for attention.

They're hunting for likes and followers.

This is their main preoccupation.

Can't believe how much energy and time people invest in this, excuse me for the expression shit.

It's mind-boggling.

I'm part of it.

I participate in it.

I have many Twitter followers.

Oh, it's a struggle.

But so, okay, let's get a little bit more specific in our closing minutes, because I will let you go.

And I have another podcast at the top of the hour.

So we have another 10 minutes.

Give us some more, Sam, in terms of what that looks like.

What does it specifically mean?

'Cause I think I'm really fascinated.

Say more about what that looks like, because obviously we're working, so you're clearly saying, if I'm hearing you right, that we should, we have to use these tools, have to use these social media tools as much as toxic as they are.

We have an expression from environmentalism of the antidote is near the poison, or the poison is, medicine is a poison.

Poison is a medicine.

Talk me through that more.

What does that look like in your mind to building this culture and politics of narcissism?-

The younger generations are deficient when it comes to human interactions, intimacy skills, the ability to maintain relationships, and the connection between bodily functions, for example, sex, and emotions.

This is not an old man talk.

This is not a baby boomer talk.

This is substantiated by numerous studies.

Fact number one, fact number two, narcissism is on the rise.

It has quintupled among college students, according to Twenge and Campbell.

Point number three, narcissism is energy, similar to nuclear energy.

Point number four, this, any energy can be challenged.

Point number five, there is a wide consensus as to what would constitute a socially acceptable agenda.

We all, for example, think that we should be happy.

No one says the aim of society and the individual is to be unhappy.

I have yet to come across someone who says this.

But point number six, we disagree as to the means and methods and ways to obtain happiness.

Okay, point number seven, when people receive narcissistic supply, they're happy.

It's a fact.

Put all these points together and you emerge with a ready-made off-the-shelf solution, which guarantees the attainment of socially acceptable goals, social coherence, social cohesion, or at least social functioning, at least.

On the one hand, as a collaborative species, on the one hand, and on the other hand, guarantees personal contentment.

Forget happiness, contentment.

What is this solution?

This solution is to institutionalize narcissism.

Not to fight it anymore.

It's a lost cause.

It's hopeless.

To institutionalize it via specific technologies, institutions, and career paths.

How do we institutionalize?

I'm sorry, I'm being telegraphic, but you know.-

No, no, that's great.-

How do we institutionalize the narcissism?

We provide dosages of narcissistic supply at every turn.-


We engineer systems, institutions, interactions, relationships, we re-engineer everything to produce a single product, narcissistic supply.

This product should displace previous products such as victimhood.

Today, the main commodity in the world, the main currency, the main coinage is suffering and victimhood.

If you're not a victim, you manufacture victimhood.

You force people to victimize you.

It's called projective identification.

It's like suicide by cop, you know?

Projective identification.

So we create a new currency, narcissistic supply, and we displace previous currencies such as victimhood.

Why should we do this?

Because narcissistic supply is more innocuous.

It's also individual.

It doesn't have society-wide impacts.

It's not poisonous, it's not pernicious, it doesn't create rights and obligations, calculus.

It doesn't impose on other people.

You sit at home and you receive supply.

It's not a form of entitlement.

It's a passive, consumptive, consumption act.

So we re-engineer everything to produce supply.

If you do A, you get attention.

If you do B, you don't get attention.

Positive and negative reinforcement, very primitive, very animal-like, very effective, of lobbying.

Social media are doing this.

How do I know it's gonna work?

How am I sure?

How can I be so sure it's gonna work?

Because that's the core of social media.

It's precisely what they're doing.

If you do A, you get a thousand likes.

If you do B, we're going to shadow-ban you or derank you and no one will ever see you.

So people don't do B.

Is it a form of censorship?

Of course it is.

Everything is.

If you're a liberal, progressive person, there are many things you cannot say.

There is no ideology or set of beliefs that does not suppress speech.

It's a myth.

There is no such thing as free speech.

It's bullshit.

It's American bullshit, excuse me.

It's not such thing.

If you adhere to an ideology, if you belong to a group, if you're a part of a collective, however minimal, your speech is suppressed, end of story.

So of course, in the new narcissistic paradigm, in the new narcissistic model and chart flow, there will be many things which will be, many speech acts which will be suppressed, but it's nothing special.

It's nothing unique.

And at least I know that there is no energy stronger than narcissistic supply.

People will do anything for narcissistic supply.

If you don't believe me, go on TikTok.-

Oh, no, I believe you.

The question is, how do you, I mean, is this a matter of we need to get Elon Musk on the phone and tell him how to change the algorithms at Twitter?-

Elon Musk is a master of narcissistic supply.

He doesn't need any lessons from me.

But he's the CEO of, he owns Twitter now.-

I know, he owns Twitter.

So he's the master of narcissistic supply.

I have no doubt that he will engineer Twitter this way.

Elon Musk in my view is not the brightest star in the galaxy, who's a British understatement, on the one hand.

On the other hand, he's an animal of narcissistic supply.

He's a primordial force of supply.

So I'm sure he will redesign and re-engineer Twitter to be an engine of supply.

But generally social media are engines of supply.

We can look to them for modeling.

But you're saying, if I'm hearing you right though, you're saying that the incentives need to shift from victimhood tosupply.

What's that?

To supply.

And overcoming victimhood would garner the most supply.

Like if you overcome victimhood, you get the most supply.

There will be a chart, kind of a flow chart on how much supply you get.

There'll be a tariff of supply.

But we need to redesign everything in terms of attention.

We need to make attention a coinage.

By the way, institutionalized coinage.

For example, we are on the verge or on the brink of introducing the metaverse.

The metaverse needs to be constructed with a coinage of attention at its core.

So then if you're active in the metaverse in certain ways, you get way more attention than if you're active in other ways.

Similarly, in politics, if you act in certain ways, you get way more attention to do.

For example, mainstream media cover Donald Trump a lot.

That's a perverse incentive system.

He's getting exactly what he wants, attention.

They're paying him with attention for misbehavior.

While they actually should have ignored him, had the mainstream media ignored Donald Trump, that would have been his most severe punishment.

But the media incentives were similar.

They wanted the revenues and the journalists were themselves getting their attention.

What the shift I'm talking about is a shift in values.

It's a social agenda which requires social engineering.

I mean, 50 years ago, it would have been inconceivable to mention sex or pregnancy on CBS, for example.

Today it's not.

There's a shift.

If we decide on a global agenda and we promote it, one day it will become true.

And that day Donald Trump will not get any coverage for any of its shenanigans.

So you're saying, I guess I'm trying to, are you saying that Twitter needs to change its algorithms or are you saying we need to change the culture or are you saying both?

In terms of social media, which are technologies, of course they need to reward socially beneficial behaviors more than socially, antisocial behaviors.

But no, I'm talking about a society-wide, culture-wide change where we say, "Okay, people need attention.

"They need to be seen.

"They need to be noticed." This is the currency of the realm.

That's it, that's the coinage.

We need to accept this.

This is what it's all about.

It's not money.

People don't give a shit about money.

They don't give a shit about anything.

They don't wanna work.

They don't want to study.

They don't want anything.

They want attention.

We're gonna pay them with attention.

But we're gonna do it in a wise and clever way, a smart way.-


We're gonna pay them with attention if they do the right thing and we're gonna withhold attention if they don't do the right thing.

Example, Donald Trump.

But you need, so we need a social media, let's just, if we were starting from scratch, you would start a social media platform that rewarded people for telling stories of overcoming adversity, and you would punish them for telling stories of wallowing in victimhood.

For example, but I would also reward free and bridal speech.

So I would reward, I would reward to some extent, controversy and controversial ideas and so on.

I would eliminate, I would try to eliminate via this incentive system, censorship and, you know.

So in this sense, I agree with Elon Musk.

I don't agree with Elon a lot, but in this sense, I agree with him.

So yeah, we need to, of course, we need to reach a consensus as to what constitutes socially beneficial outcomes.

But then once we have this list of socially beneficial outcomes, we need to incentivize these outcomes via attention, via narcissistic supply.

Listen, once before we did succeed to reach the global consensus on this, it was called the Ten Commandments.

Ten Commandments was a social consensus on what constitutes, you know.

And then everyone adhered to it, basically.

So we need to reach the Ten Commandments of, but we need to accept that people are narcissistic.

And we need to reward them with attention because they don't care about anything else.



Sam, I feel like the conversation has just started.

What a pleasure.

Would you talk to me again?

If you reward me with attention, I will, of course.

I have a lot of attention to reward.

I'm kidding, yes, of course I will.

I think it's really important conversation.

I can't stress how important it is.

I'm excited to get the video out and to get reactions from people, but I know I have more questions, particularly on this positive project, which I do think is essential for a positive human future.

So Sam, thank you so much for taking-- - Thank you for your work.

I spent the last few days getting to know you.

Thank you.-

Appreciate you, sir.

We'll be in touch again soon.

I'll be in touch against.-

Thank you, country.-

Thank you, sir.

Okay, bye-bye.

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