Privacy, Opposite of Narcissism

Uploaded 8/19/2021, approx. 11 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the only author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

I am also, for some oblivious reason, a professor of psychology in several universities around this shrinking and locked-down globe.

Today we are going to discuss privacy, or using my Oksonian upper-crust accent, privacy.

So, privacy is the opposite of narcissism. It's the opposite of narcissism because narcissists do not have a private life. Narcissists have only a public life. Everything that happens to them within doors, they immediately publicize. They immediately let other people know. They share, then they overshare, then they share the oversharing.

And they do this because they consider themselves to be many celebrities. Every single narcissist alive and many dead narcissists consider their lives to be cosmic sagas, the equivalent of Game of Thrones. They think everyone and his dog should be fascinated, amazed, captivated by the unfolding story of their biography.

So, narcissists immediately place online, social media, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, you name it. Every single thing that happens to them, what they had eaten that morning, what had happened to Fuffi, the cat, and what happened to Chuchu, the dog. The events in their children's lives, what kind of sex they had with a wife last night or with a husband, if it's a narcissist, narcissistic woman.

Narcissists are out there, they're naked. There is no barrier separation or firewall between what happens to them with their nearest and dearest, with their intimate partners, with business colleagues and associates, with co-workers. There's no barrier separating these happenings, which should remain confidential and discreet. There's no barrier between this and the public realm.

Narcissists, in other words, are in the public domain. Similarly, their sexuality is in the public domain. Somatic narcissists are likely to act in a dysregulated and unbounded manner when it comes to sex.

And so, this leads us to the question of privacy.

Privacy is the exact opposite of narcissism. If you see someone who is very private, very reserved, very withdrawn, probably we're dealing with someone who is not truly narcissistic. That kind of person can have other features of narcissism, but not the main features of narcissism.

And so, the issue of privacy is a cardinal topic in the study of narcissism.

And now, in this video, I'm going to try to provide you with some context, philosophical and technological, to the ongoing conversation and discourse about privacy.

We start with Aristotle and John Stuart Mill. Both of them were philosophers, separated by 2000 years. But both of them had observed that the private sphere sets limits, normative limits and empirical limits to the rights, the powers and the obligations, of course, and duties of other people.

It's, in other words, privacy is a kind of boundary. It's a boundary condition and it's a self-boundary, a personal boundary. It informs other people where you stop and they start.

Similarly, it informs other people where you stop and you start. And there's a kind of implicit trespassing warning up to here, beware.

The myriad of forms of undue invasion of the private sphere, for example, rape, home invasion, burglary, eavesdropping and surveillance, these are all crimes. Even the state respects these boundaries. Even the state, which is a monopolist of legal violence, the best definition of the modern nation state, it's an entity which has monopoly on legal violence. Even the state is restrained by some privacy concerns.

When the state fails to honor the distinction between public and private, when the state is authoritarian, totalitarian, dictatorial, it loses its legitimacy and the leader ends up in a hole in the ground, literally like Saddam Hussein or very, very dead in a bunker.

Alas, this vital separation of the private from the public, public sphere, private realm, this vital separation is eroding fast and this erosion has massive implications for the rise of narcissism.

Remember again, narcissism is when there is no privacy. In theory, private life is insulated. It is shielded from social pressures, from the ambit of norms, mores and laws, even from the strictures of public morality.

In other words, you can do anything you want as long as you're not harming or hurting other people. You can do basically anything you want. Your home is your castle.

Reality, though, is very different. The encroachment of the public is inexorable. Probably we've reached the point where it is also irreversible and irrevocable.

You see how many long words I know? Aren't you impressed by me? I am.

The individual is forced to share. The individual is forced to consent to or merely obey a monopoly of laws, norms and regulations, not only in his or her relationship with others, but also when the individual is all by himself or herself.

Solitary. For example, even when you're alone, you're not allowed to consume drugs. Failure to comply with these edicts, failure to comply and to be seen to comply, to be complying, to be seen, to be conforming, these lead to dire consequences.

In a morbid twist, public morality is now synonymous with social orthodoxy, political authority and the exercise of police powers.

Liquidity, remittance and attendant rights of the private sphere are now determined actually publicly by the state in legislatures or even on social media and victimhood movements like Me Too, Black Lives Matter and so on and so forth. They are even more intrusive using political correctness and the woke kind of movements. They are even more intrusive than the state.

They attempt to micromanage speech and stifle it and censor it and suppress it and to alter behaviors, gender roles, sexual scripts and other things.

So we have an attack on the private sphere by people around us, by the state, by civil rights and human rights movements and victimhood movements, by technology.

In the modern world, privacy, the freedom to withhold or to divulge information, privacyagency, autonomy, the liberty to act in certain ways when you are not in public. These are all illusory, these are illusions in that their scope and essence are ever shifting, reversible, culture dependent and my favorite word, kaleidoscopic.

Privacy, autonomy are perceived as public concessions, not as the inalienable rights that they actually are.

Because yes, we have a right to privacy and we have a right to autonomy which supersedes any law, any more, any convention of society.

Though perhaps as Judith Jarvis Thompson observes, it's a derivative of other even more fundamental laws, but still it's there and yet the right to privacy and increasingly the right to autonomy are being challenged and undermined and confounded and constrained and restrained.

The trend from non intrusiveness to wholesale invasiveness is clear.

Only 200 and odd years ago, the legal regulation of economic relations between consenting adults, a quintessentially private matter, this legal regulation would have been unthinkable and bitterly resisted and contested. This was only 200 years ago, not 2000 years ago, only a hundred years ago or so, no bureaucrat would have dared to intervene in domestic affairs.

A man's home was indeed his castle.

Nowadays, the right to maintain a private sphere and the dwindling technological ability to maintain a private sphere is multiply challenged, undermined and contested.

Feminists such as Catherine MacKinnon regard the private sphere as a patriarchal stratagem intended to perpetuate abusive male domination. Talk about conspiracy theories and paranoid ideation. Someone should really psychoanalyze feminism or the more advanced forms of feminism.

Conservatives blame the private sphere for mounting crime and terrorism. Sociologists in the church worry about social atomization and alienation, the collapse of institutions, communities, the family and ultimately intimate relationships and sex. I'm among this group. I'm a member of this group.

So all of us in our ways, in our own ways, surreptitiously dig at the foundations of the private sphere.

Consequently, today, both one's business and one's family open books to the authorities, to the media, to community groups, to non-governmental organizations, to assaulted busy bodiesand to everyone and his cat or his dog online.

Which leads us back to privacy, the topic of this expounding.

Privacy is often confused with autonomy. The private sphere comprises both privacy and autonomy.

And yet privacy has little to do with autonomy. Even the acute minds of the Supreme Court of the United States keep getting it wrong.

In 1890, Justice Louis Brandeis, writing together with Samuel Warren, they correctly summed up privacy rights as the right to be left alone. That is the right to control information about oneself.

But nearly a century later, there's been a regression. In 1973, in the celebrated case of Roe versus Wade, the United States Supreme Court, totally confusing privacy and autonomy, found some state regulation of abortion to be a violation of a woman's constitutional right of privacy, implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

But of course, it's not a violation of privacy of any kind. It's a violation of autonomy.

But if privacy is unrelated to autonomy, what is privacy all about?

As Julie Innes, I-N-N-E-S-S, and many others note, privacy, the exclusive access to information, the privileged access to information, is tightly linked to intimacy, but is not the same.

The more intimate the act, excretion in the toilet, ill health, sex, all these come to mind, the more intimate the act, the more closely we safeguard the details of the act and its secrets.

By keeping back such data about our actions, we show consideration for the sensitivities of other peopleand we enhance our own uniqueness and the special nature of our close relationships.

Anyone who goes online with everything they're doing and with everyone in their lives, they compromise other people. And they are narcissists in the sense that they regard us, other people, as tools, as instruments for self-aggrandizement and publicity and celebrity.

Privacy is also inextricably linked to personal safety. Withholding information makes us less vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Our privileged access to some data guarantees our well-being, longevity, status, future, and the welfare of our family in our community.

Just consider, for example, the consequences of giving potentially unscrupulous others access to our bank accounts. Imagine giving your credit card numbers away, pin codes, medical records, industrial and military secrets, investment portfolios, etc.

Last but not least, the successful defense of one's privacy sustains one's self-esteem.

Or what Brandeis and Warren called, inviolate personality.

The invasion of privacy provokes an upwelling of shame, indignation, feeling of indignity, lack of dignity, violation, helplessness, a diminished sense of self-worth, and the triggering of a host of primitive defense mechanisms.

All these happen to you when your privacy is invaded. You feel raped and violated.

Intrusion upon your private sphere is traumatic.

This is an observation made by Edward J. Blaustein.

Incredibly, modern technology has conspired to do exactly this.

Vitiate and negate your privacy.

Reality TV shows, caller ID, electronic monitoring and surveillance, computer, malware, viruses, worms, trojans, rootkits, etc., elaborate databases, marketing profiles, global positioning system GPS-enabled cell phones, wireless networks, tracking cookies, smart cards, all theseand this is a very partial list, all these are intrusive, all these attack privacy head on.

Add to this social policies and trends to this toxic mixture.

For example, police profiling, mandatory drug testing, workplace key logging, the nanny welfare state, traffic surveillance, biometric screening, electronic bracelets, and the long-held demise of privacy is no longer mere scaremongering or conspiracy theory.

And of course, the situation had become much worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As privacy fades, so do intimacy. So does personal safety, and ultimately, so does self-esteem and mental health.

And with these, social cohesion crumbles. The ills of anomic modernity, alienation, violence, and crime, to mention just three, these ills are therefore directly attributable to diminishing privacy.

And this is the irony that privacy is increasingly breached in the name of added security, counterterrorism, crime-busting, when actually it decreases security.

We seem to be undermined our very own societies in order to make them safer, and in the process, fostering, encouraging, and making the kind of technologies that make it possible.

Narcissism. Narcissism, the anathema to privacy, is now supported by institutions, technological platforms. And monetizing eyeballs as a business model is about abrogating privacy. State intrusion is about abrogating privacy.

The coin we pay with for this new normal is our privacy.

But what we don't realize in the long-term, this makes us, renders us more and more narcissistic and psychopathic.

So ultimately, the real coinage of the realm, of the kingdom, is our mental health. Or what is left of it?

Thank you for listening. I hope you're doing it in private.

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