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Why We Hate to Work (Narcissism Epidemic)

Uploaded 3/11/2021, approx. 23 minute read

When I was still a kid in the early Middle Ages and well into the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, people used to brag, people used to boast, people used to promote as a determinant of their identity, their sense of self-worth, their self-esteem, their self-confidence.

So they used to brag about their products, about the quality of their work, about their clientele, about their training. They had what we call work ethic. The quality of what you had produced, the way you leveraged your skills and training, and who you had trained with, this defined you.

People felt one at one. They were merged, they were fused, they were enmeshed and entangled with their professional lives. There was no distinction between professional life and leisure. It was fun to work, well, in the majority of professions and jobs and so on, with the exception of some dreary drudgery.

People were very proud. Potters and blacksmiths and ironmongers, everyone was very proud.

And something had happened. Something had happened.

We are no longer proud of our work. We hate to go to work. We definitely don't feel identified with our careers and jobs and professions, except on rare occasions.

We make a clear distinction and demarcation and boundary between personal life and work.

And we are very worried about maintaining life-work balance, as though work was some kind of cancer, metastasizing into our personal space and personal time, about to consume everyone we love, our nearest and dearest, and everything we care about and everyone we care about.

Then we started to have hobbies. Hobbies are actually kind of occupations or vocations or professions, but we delineate them, we distinguish them from what we do for a living. Hobbies are fun. Working for a living is drudgery, it's dreary, it's drab, it's boring and dull, it's slow death.

Work had become to be identified with repetition, with descent, descending in a way, with slow decomposition of the spirit.

We go to work the same way death row inmates go to the electric chair, more or less.

We are terrified of Monday mornings because they come after fabulous Sundays and Saturdays where we do exactly as we please.

So work is no longer fun, no longer something to look forward to, it's something to escape from.

Why is that?

If I'm right about narcissism, in the 1990s I've written a series of articles titled The Narcissism Epidemic. Two decades later, Benjamin Campbell published a book titled The Narcissism Epidemic. I want to believe it's a coincidence.

All of us are saying that narcissism is on the rise, especially among the younger generation.

If this is true, being proud of your work, of your skills, of your training, of your output, this should be a major determinant of your narcissism.

If narcissism is becoming widespread, common, a determining feature of identity and belonging, a directional, attitudinal approach to life, then what you produce is an integral part of you, an extension of you.

And when I say what you produce, I mean your children, but I also mean your work.

The products and services that you kind of spawn and manufacture and provide, this should be an integral part of your grandiosity if you're a narcissist.

So if grandiosity is on the rise, how come the work ethic is going the other way? Why aren't people proud of their work, even to the point of grandiosity or malignancy? Why don't they elevate and glamorize and glorify their efforts, their skills, their education? Why don't they kind of use these to buttress their inflated view of themselves? How come?

Work had become the antithesis, the anathema too, the opposite of narcissism, the opposite of grandiosity.

Well, I'm going to analyze this phenomenon in this video later.


Maxim Gorky, who was a Russian novelist, author and playwright, he lived in the latter part of the 19th century in the beginning of the 20th century, a very turbulent time in Russian history. And he wrote, when work is a pleasure, life is a joy. When work is a duty, life is slavery.

When we look around you, airplanes, missiles, and space shuttles crash due to lack of maintenance, absent mindedness, pure ignorance. Look at how COVID-19, the pandemic had been mishandled egregiously almost all over the world. Software support personnel, aided and abetted by customer relationships, management application suits.

What's the outcome of customer support? It's curt, it's abrasive when it's reachable.

And when you do reach them, they're unhelpful. They don't know what the hell you're talking about.

Despite expensive state of the art supply chain management systems, retailers, suppliers, manufacturers, habitually run out of stock of finished and semi-finished products and raw materials. People from all walks of life and all levels of the corporate ladder skirt their responsibilities, shirk, avoid, are truant neglector duties.

What ever happened to the work ethic? Where is the pride in the immaculate quality of one's labor and produce and services? They're dead in the water.

A series of earth-shattering social, economic, and technological trends had converged to render jobs loathsome to many, tedious nuisance best avoided.


Let's start with job security.

Job security is a thing of the past. Itinerancy, the gig economy in various make jobs, it reduces the incentive to invest time to commit, to put in an effort to allocate resources into a position, into a job that may not be yours next week.

Why bother? Why invest? Why commit? Why do your best? No point.

Brutal layoffs and downsizing had traumatized the workforce, outsourcing, finished them off.

All these globalization-related phenomena had producedin the typical workplacea culture of obsequiousness, extreme anxiety, blind obeisance, the suppression of independent thought and speech, and the avoidance of initiative and innovation.

Many offices and shop floors now resemble actually prisons.

Trend number two, outsourcing and offshoring of bank office and more recently customer relations, research and development, numerous other things, manufacturing, outsourcing and offshoring of functions sharply and adversely affected the quality of services. From help desks to processing centers to airline ticketing, processing of insurance claims, remote maintenance, it's all gone down the drain.

Cultural mismatches between the typically western client base and the offshore service department, usually in a developing country, where labor is cheap and plenty. These cultural mismatches, starting with accents, simply impossible to understand these people. It only exacerbated the breakdown of trust between customer and provider or supplier.

Number three, the population in developed countries had become addicted to leisure time.

I suggest you to read the work of Vebel and others.

Vebel, V-E-B-E-L-N, most people regard their jobs today as a necessary evil, but sure, best avoided whenever possible.

And hence phenomena like the permanent temp, employees who prefer a succession of temporary assignments to holding a proper job.

So we have phenomena like Uber. The media and the arts contribute to this perception of work as a drag, as a drudgery or a potentially dangerous addiction, you know, workaholism.

When they do portray workaholics, they portray them as raging and abusive or neurotic and disintegrating.

Number four, the other side of this dismal coin is indeed workaholism, the addiction to work.

Far from valuing workaholism, these addicts resent their dependence.

You know, in the past, well into the industrial revolution, people thought nothing of spending their entire day working because they had fun. They loved it. They were proud. They were invested. They were committed. They were elevated and elated. Work was transcendental. It was like nirvana, like an enlightenment.

Now, of course, every work, every profession, every job, every career, every skill, every artisanship and moments or stretches of drudgery, repetitiveness, boring and dull beats of time. It's normal.

But in view of the final product, the happy customer, the admiring public, they were enough to motivate. People were workaholics by choice. And the more workaholic you were, the more valued as a member of a community you were, the more valued by your own family you were.

And today, workaholism is nearly a mental illness. Far from valuing it, these people are considered to be dependent addicts. The job performance of the typical workaholic lives a lot to be desired because he is anxious about his or her workaholism.

Workaholics are fatigued, suffer from ancillary addictions and short attention spans because they are told they are signaled by society something is wrong with them. They frequently abuse substances. They are narcissistic and destructively competitive, being driven by ambition that is out of control. And so they are incapable also of teamwork.

That's the stereotype of the workaholic. And of course, we all know that groups of people conform to stereotypes because stereotypes reflect the expectations of society. So we have ruined with our own hands, we have ruined the most productive segment of the workforce, the workaholics.


Number five, the depersonalization of manufacturing, the intermediated divorce between the artisan, the worker, the handyman and his client. Today, services and products are impersonal, mass produced, indistinguishable from each other. There's no face behind the product. There's no face behind the iPhone. There's no human touch. There's nothing there to bind us or to bond us to the product except our financial investment. And our financial investment is actually a personal investment because money is time, the time that we had invested to get the money. So it's all autoerotic.

Our consumption of products and services had become autoerotic rather than object related. In the past, if I wanted my furniture fixed, I went to a specific carpenter. That carpenter had a face. He had a family. He had a history. He had a specific type of laughter. He had a sense of humor or not.

But he was a human being. And so I had to develop object relations with the artisan or the manufacturer or the service provider or the handyman. I had to develop object relations. I had to interact into a person's act personally.

Today, when I buy an iPhone, there's nobody there. There's nobody home. There's no one behind the product. So I'm interacting not with anyone, but I'm interacting with myself.

The money I had invested in purchasing the iPhone represents my life, represents the time that I had given in order to obtain the money. So I'm having a relationship with myself. It's autoerotic, one of the major features of narcissism.

And this divorce, this disconnect between manufacturer, artisan, artist, and the consumer contributed to a lot of indifference and alienation of the common industrial worker.

The common industrial worker doesn't see the happy client or the unhappy client. The actual anonymity renders the industrial worker an anonymous cog in an anonymous machine with anonymous customers.

Not only was the link between worker and product broken, but the bond between artisan and client was severed as well.

A few employees know their customers or patrons firsthand. It is hard to empathize with. It's hard to care about a statistic, a buyer whom you've never met and never likely to encounter or come across. You can't care about such a customer or a client.

It is easy in such circumstances to feel immune to the consequences of your negligence, apathy, neglect, lack of skills. You fake it till you make it. It is impossible to be proud of what you do. It's impossible to be committed to your work because you never set eyes on either the final product or the customer.

That is Henry Ford's innovation of the productionline where everyone is a bit in a cog.

Industrial psychology had contributed to it. Of course, we have the famous movie, Charlie Chaplin's movie Modern Times, where there's this guy whose role is to do this all the time.

So, pride is gone. Connection is gone. Relationships are gone.

And in Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece Modern Times, you see this estrangement. It's captured brilliantly.

Alienation, atomization. The industrial worker becomes commodified and commoditized.


Number six, many former employees of mega-operations abandoned the rat race. About 40 to 50 million people in the United States alone are self-employed from home mostly. They have abandoned the corporate structures. They've abandoned the rat race. They're not commuting anymore. Distance work now enhanced by the pandemic. Flex time, flex time, flexible time is taking over, flex time.

And so they establish your own businesses, small and home enterprises.

Entrepreneurship is the buzzword of the day. And we have phenomena like crowdfunding and you know, small business finance.

But these are undercapitalized, understaffed. And these small businesses, small enterprises, they are outperformed by the competition. They're fledgling. There are mature-ish outfits. And they usually spew out shoddy products, lamentable services, only to expire typically within the first year of business.

And we are flooded with these products and services and books and what have you.


Number seven, despite decades of advanced notice, globalization caught us by surprise. Most firms in the world, most corporations in the world, even multinationals, were caught by utter surprise. Globalization shocked them.

The amazing thing is the world used to be more globalized than today at the beginning of the 20th century.

Immediately before the First World War, all indicators and indices of globalization were higher than today.

So globalization was not unprecedented and yet it shocked everyone. Ill-prepared and fearful and anxious of the onslaught of foreign competitions, companies big and small, grapple with logistical nightmares, supply chain calamities, cultural shocks and conflicts, and rapacious overseas competitors.

So mere survival and opportunistic managerial plunder, of course, had replaced client satisfaction as the primary value.

So today it's the bottom line. It's surviving the competition and it's stealing as much as you can if you're a manager. It's known as the manager principle, the agent principle problem.

Number eight, the decline of professional guilds on the one hand and the decline of the trade unions on the other hand had greatly reduced worker self-discipline, pride, peer-regulated quality control and frankly training and skilling. Workers are much less skilled, much less trained. They don't want to dirty their hands.

Who wants to be a plumber or an electrician? Everyone is going to college and wants to be a professor of psychology.

Yes. And they don't belong anywhere. There's no club.


You see, the trade unions, let alone the professional guilds, one of the things they had done is impose professional standards. They were in the position to negotiate with employers, negotiate with corporations, negotiate with multinationals, and negotiate with clients and customers because they had guaranteed standards of skills, standards of delivery, standards of performance. Quality was monitored, was self-administered and self-monitored, self-regulated.

Quality today is monitored by third parties and you can't trust them.

For example, rating agencies had failed miserably in the 2008 great recession. You can't trust third party monitors, supervisors and quality assurance services. Quality is compromised by being subjected to procrastian financial constraints and concerns.

People are taught by business coaches to cut corners. Business coaches openly are telling people, fake it till you make it.

The shortcut is the best way. Cut corners, pretend, package it nicely. This is the advice given today.

It's shocking, absolutely mind-boggling. The investigation of malpractice and the punishment of malpractice are now at the end of vast and ill-informed bureaucracies and regulators, either corporate or governmental.

You saw what had happened with Boeing's airplanes who had crashed repeatedly until Boeing couldn't fake it anymore, couldn't lie anymore, couldn't pretend anymore and had to ground the fleet.

But where were the regulators who were supposed to verify and check the procedures in Boeing? They were nowhere to be found. They were nowhere to be found because they're understaffed, under-capitalized, under-financed and above all, they're ill-informed.

And what's worse, there's an incestuous relationship between quality control bureaucracies, standard imposing bureaucracies, supervisory regulatory bodies. There's an incestuous relationship between the employees of these bodies and the very corporations, companies and individuals they're supposed to supervise.

Once malpractice is exposed and admitted to, the availability of malpractice insurance renders most sanctions unnecessary or toothless.

You can have airplanes crashing till doomsday and you're covered. The insurance company will pay. You're not damaged. There's no incentive. All the incentives are perverted incentives.

The therapist has an incentive to prolong the therapy by perpetuating your victim mentality.

And many online coaches, so-called coaches and self-styled experts are doing precisely this.

And of course, Boeing and similar companies, they have all the incentives to hide malfunctions and problems with their products. This is a set of perverse incentives.

Corporations prefer to bury mishaps and malfeasance rather than cope with them and rectify them.


Number nine, the quality of one's work and of services and products one consumes, this quality used to be guaranteed. There was some guarantee about the quality of your work and the quality of the products and services that you consume.

One's personal idiosyncrasies, one's eccentricities, one's mental health issues, one's problems. They had nothing to do with the product of the service. They were left at the doorstep at home. Work was sacred. One's sense of self-worth and self-esteem and self-confidence and dignity and self-respect depended crucially on the satisfaction of one's clients. The client was always right. You simply did not let your personal life intrude upon and affect the standards of your output. End of story.

This strict and useful separation had vanished with the rise of the malignant narcissistic variant of individualism. It led to the emergence of idiosyncratic and fragmented standards of quality.

No one knows what to expect, when to expect and from whom. Transacting business had become a form of psychological warfare or fortune telling. The customer has to rely on the goodwill of suppliers, manufacturers, service providers, customer relations, employees. The customer has to plead, has to beg, has to convince, has to prove his identity among many other things.

And often the customer finds himself at the whim and mercy of these people. The client is always right. Are you kidding me? Death has gone the way of the dodo. It's dead. It's an extinct species. It's my way or the highway says the supplier or the retailer or the service provider.

Have you ever tried to do business with a plumber or an electrician? Then you know what I mean.

This uncertainty about what you're going to get, when you're going to get it and what quality is going to be. This uncertainty is further exacerbated by the pandemic eruption of mental health disorders. 15% of the population right now are severely pathologized.

According to the latest studies, the pandemic is bound to push this figure to double that.

Antisocial behaviors from outright crime to pernicious, defiant, passive-aggressive sabotage. All these behaviors, once very rare in the workplace, are now the standard. They're abundant. You expect them. You're grateful when you are not insulted as a client, as a customer. You're grateful when you're not insulted, when you're not sabotaged and undermined, when things arrive on time, when you get a refund.

These are shocking events worthy of gossiping about and sharing on social media. So rare they are.

The efforts of work team, tempered collectivism in collaboration for the greater good. These are now derided or decried. Conflict on all levels had replaced negotiated compromise and had become the prevailing narrative, the course of action.

Litigiousness, vigilante justice, use of force, and getting away with it are now extolled.

Today, people are proud that they had succeeded to cheat you, to deceive you, to pull the wool over your eyes, to take something from you, illegitimately, sometimes immorally, sometimes amorally, and very often criminally. They're proud of it. They're proud of antisocial behavior.

And conflicts lead to the misallocation of economic resources. They're nonproductive. They're not conducive to sustaining good relations between producer and provider or customer.

So there's a breakdown, a societal breakdown.


The next trend is moral relativism.

Moral relativism is the mirror image of rampant individualism.

Social cohesion and discipline had diminished, ideologies and religions had crumbled, anomic states had substituted for societal order.

The implicit contracts between manufacturer or service provider and customer, between employee and employer, these very tenuous, sometimes unwritten, informal contracts, which the glue that had kept the social fabric intact, these all had evaporated. They were shredded and they were replaced by ad hoc negotiated operational checklists and narrow minded focus, passive aggressive focus.

These are my obligations. I'm not going to give you anything at all if I can.

Social disintegration is further enhanced by the anonymization and depersonalization of the modern chain of production, which I had mentioned before.

Nowadays, people easily and callously abrogate their responsibilities towards families, communities, nations, let alone customers and clients. The mushrooming rate of divorce, for example, the decline in personal thrift, savings rate, the skyrocketing number of personal bankruptcies and the ubiquity of venality and corruption, both corporate and political. These are all examples of such dissipation.

No one seems to care about anything anymore. Anything. Let me binge on Netflix and leave me alone.

The mantra of today's age is leave me alone.

I don't even want your sex. Just leave me alone.

Why should the client or employer expect a different treatment or outcome?

This is the prevailing mood.

As Weber observed largely correctly, the protestant work ethic underlies the rise of modern capitalism. Calvinism regarded work as a form of religious worship and regarded success is proof of divine approval. If you are successful, God loves you. If you are a hard worker, this is the equivalent of worshipping in church.

Work had become a religion.

Protestans of all creeds valued time because time was God's given gift and they sought to maximize the benefits of time via productivity and quality.

Both the puritan and non-conformist empathic values over commonwealth wherein everyone is equal before God and therefore deserves to be treated well and with respect. These values were abandoned along the way, somewhere we've gone wrong, somewhere we've taken the wrong turn.

Even the infusion of Jewish values, charity, community, industriousness, the idea of progress and self-betterment, learning, pragmatism, when all these Jewish values had flown into the mainstream, had joined the mainstream in the late 19th century when Jews were emancipated all over.

Even this failed to stop the erosion in communality and the rise of malignant short-sighted narcissism, the anathema of work ethic and honestly the anathema of any social arrangement of any kind.


Another trend is the disintegration of the educational systems, especially in the West.

Everything is money-oriented, there's great inflation, we let students believe that they're entitled, that they're special, they're grandiose even when they're not. Accomplishments are no longer necessary, just by being you, this is your main accomplishment and so people who would have never been accepted in any university in the 70s and 80s now join freely Harvard and Yale and Stanford.

Why? Because they can pay, or their parents can pay, which is even better.

So the disintegration of the educational systems, the lowering of standards, compromise on quality, integrity, it's maybe difficult for employers to find qualified and motivated personnel.

Courtesy, competence, ambition, personal responsibility, the ability to see the bigger picture, synoptic view, interpersonal aptitude, analytic and synthetic skills, not to mention mere numeracy, literacy, access to technology and the sense of belonging which they foster, all these are products of proper schooling, proper education and they're all of course gone with the wind and with the education system.

There's also a rise of irrational beliefs, esoteric disciplines, pseudosciences, conspiracy theories, the occult, these rushed in to profitably fill the vacuum left by the crumbling education system.

When you don't get proper education, you get improper education, especially now with social media and the internet this wasteful, idiotic preoccupation with rank nonsense, encouraging their followers, an overpowering sense of fatalistic determination, fatalistic determinism, they hinder the ability of the adherence of these retarded systems to exercise judgment and initiative.

The discourse of commerce and finance relies critically on unmitigated rationality, even bounded rationality. It is in essence, it's contractual, it's transactional.

Irrationality is detrimental to the successful and happy exchange of goods and services within a non-regulated or slightly regulated marketplace.

And so the end result is the rise of irrational and frankly, intellectually challenged leaders such as Bolsonaro, Donald Trump, Duterte or antisocial leaders such as Victor Oban in Hungary, Erdogan in Turkey, Netanyahu in Israel, they reflect the efforts of the age, they reflect the demographics that had elected them, they all came to power via elections like Adolf Hitler, who did so three times.

So unmitigated irrationality is a huge trend to the economic fabric, not only to the social fabric.

And finally, I blame employers as well. Employers place no premium on work ethic. Workers don't get paid more, don't get paid differently if they are more conscientious, if they have higher standards, if they are more efficient, if they are more friendly.

In an interlinked globalized world, customers are funded by customers. Customers are fungible. Employees are fungible. Everything is fungible. Everything is replaceable, dispensable, commoditized, commodified.

There are so many billions of potential clients that customer loyalty had been rendered irrelevant. The greater the reach via modern transportation and communication into alternative markets, the less important is your market back home, in your backyard.

Marketing, showmanship and narcissistic bluster are far better appreciated by workplaces because they serve to attract clientele to be built and then discarded or ignored.

Short term, the next quarter, the bottom line. This is the one we live in. It's not likely to change anytime soon.

The pandemic, in my view, only accelerates all these trends because it forces people to work from home.

There's less human interaction, interpersonal interaction. Everything is now roboticized, automation, and it's going to get really, really bad, the disconnect between end consumer and manufacturer or producer or service provider.

Only much worse.

And it is, of course, all part and parcel of narcissism in so many ways.


And if you ever want optimistic messages, please subscribe to my channel.

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