September 21st, 2012Politics and Narcissismby Joseph Pearce

I'm continuing to wade through the submissions for the next issue of the St. Austin Review. Here's another book review that has not made the final cut for inclusion in the print edition of StAR but is worthy of being posted and read on the Ink Desk:
Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative by George J. Marlin

St. Augustine’s Press, 2011, $18.00

ISBN 978-1-58731-566-4

182 pp.

Reviewed by David Tisdale

George Marlin taps into his rich experience working in and observing New York and national politics and culture in his new book, Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative. Scathing in its criticism of the current generation of political and societal movers and shakers who seem to casually choose expediency over principle in their decision making, Marlin points to a mindset too often held by the children of the baby boomers as the culprit – one that takes a condescending, we-know-better-than-you attitude toward those outside of their political, educationally, economic and socially elite circle.

            This narcissistic generation, Marlin contends, sees “material benefits, comforts and security as entitlements, not privileges”. The children of this generation “never learned tolerance or patience – they expected special considerations and instant gratification and were petulant and self-righteous.”

             The narcissistic mindset of these children of baby boomers is shaped by the adoration of self and not by sacrifice, humility and respect for enduring truths and the values of those who made the world they live in possible. The blame may rest in part with their parents, Marlin acknowledges, who in their zeal to create a better life for their children spoiled them rotten in the process, over-indulging them and failing to teach that there was more to life than “creature comforts, that for every action there are consequences, and they should not be self-indulgent.”

            Marlin longs for politicians who act on reasoned principle and not in self-serving, backroom maneuvering that runs counter to their campaign pledge to serve those who elected them with the highest ideals in mind. For now he and those who share his disdain for today’s cynical politics believe there’s no leadership when it comes to dealing with important issues such as deficits, health care costs and corruption that undermine the health of our democracy and our government’s ability to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of the electorate. In this political reality, cronyism, lobbyists and self-absorbed, power-hungry politicians too often hold sway while our democracy staggers along on life support.

            In assessing those who have led his native Empire State, Marlin finds many wanting in their political will and, further, moral core. He takes stock of the careers of governors Pataki, Spitzer and Paterson, as well as New York City mayors John Lindsay and Rudolph Giuliani, concurring that often their campaign rhetoric was empty words. Once in office, they left a combined legacy of bullying to get their way and engaging in reckless, irresponsible spending that put the city and state on their knees economically. Further, they flouted procedure and the law in favor of a corrupt expediency to advance their own personal agendas.

            In the case of Giuliani, Marlin urges Catholic voters not to look past the former mayor’s pro-choice stand when choosing a presidential candidate, even if he holds other conservative values that they favor as opposed to the Democratic standard bearer. In the end, Giuliani’s Republican presidential bid fell short not because of faulty political strategy, Marlin states, but because of his liberal stand on social issues, including abortion, his “messy personal life” and “questionable” business connections.

            Beyond New York, Marlin holds President Obama and his administration with equal or less regard. He finds the current commander in chief to be a thin-skinned elitist who is overly sensitive to criticism and finds protection from the mainstream media, who he believes gives him political cover and comes to his defense against critics as they consider him one of them, “a fellow member of the enlightened class destined to impose their ideology on the masses.” 

            Devoted to his faith, Marlin also decries the culture of death advanced by the narcissist elites at work in the pro-choice movement and those medical care decision-makers, be they doctors or policy makers. These elites give short-shrift to the elderly, judging their lives to be less valuable than their younger, healthier counterparts and thus less worthy of the expense, research and effort necessary to improve their condition.

            Marlin’s Narcissist Nation validates the concerns of those who fear a bleak future for our nation if it remains on its current course, guided by these morally and spiritually bankrupt political and cultural elites.  It is a sincere and passionate call for the citizenry to return to the bedrock values of self-sacrifice, hard work and respect for the sanctity of human life, lest it leave a legacy reflecting the opposite.

A native of Hattiesburg, MS, David Tisdale has worked in the newspaper industry and in higher education public affairs for the last two decades. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, where he studied English, political science and journalism.

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