Saturday, September 11, 2021

Carly Simon and Refusal to Parse Qualifying Adjectives

I just figured out a long mystery. For ten years or so, I've noticed a widespread inability to parse a certain seemingly easy logic. Here's an example:
Me: Most tall people avoid small cars
Respondent: Untrue. I'm tall and I love small cars.
Being a slightly Aspergian type with a pedantic streak, I want to helpfully help. 
No, you see you missed a word! I said ‘Most’! ‘Most’ is not ‘All’! You're off the hook! The way I said it allowed lots of exceptions!
It never helps. That's not where the problem lies.

The other weird thing is the spite. People get irked. "How dare you make this generalization?" It creates an impasse. I can’t resist the urge to pedantically point at the qualifier, and they can’t resist the urge to tell me to go fuck myself.

Finally, I figured it out. It's pure narcissism. Let me demonstrate on you. Ready?
Some blog readers are ugly pigs.
You felt a twinge, didn't you? Even though I expanded the qualification to "some", leaving you tons and tons of room to evade the net. Not "most", not “many”, just "some"!

It's not a matter of empathy or team spirit. It's not that we dislike hearing generalizations about people who share some factor with us. No, it's the antithesis of that. It's pure narcissism. 

As narcissistic modern-day Americans, we each assume we're Everything, so criticizing some fraction of Everything criticizes Me. I know that was confusing, so let me explain.

If I say some people named Doug dislike cauliflower, the other Dougs will poise to protest. Because no Doug is just *A* Doug. He's *THE* Doug. No one reading a blog is just *A* blog reader, and no tall person is just *A* tall person. You're THE Doug, THE blog reader, and THE tall person. 

I’m not saying anyone imagines they’re literally the only one. People aren't quite that deluded. But they’re the only totally real one. Narcissists frame themselves as higher-class cases of any category. It's me in the spotlight, gathering the praise or suffering the persecution. 

Carly Simon nailed it: you think the song is about you (Don't you? Don't you?). Any observation about any realm in which a modern American person identifies is assumed to be a direct, personal assessment, even coming from an absolute stranger. And if the match is imperfect, there is rage. Because no amount of qualification and caveat can nudge a narcissist from the bright lights of center stage.

No comments:

Blog Archive