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Collective Narcissism: "Alarming Changes to Macedonian Mentality"

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The Republic of Macedonia is 20 years old: an adult with the problems and promises that characterize early puberty. There are troubling currents afoot. Macedonia is undergoing a worrisome change of character. If not reversed, these malignant processes will backfire and Macedonia's hopes will be cruelly dashed.

All the countries in the mutilated post-Communist parts of Europe inevitably ended up poor. Yet, as opposed to their neighbors, some polities failed to alleviate their misery or ameliorate their dire predicament. Macedonia is a prime example of such systemic failure. The denizens of Macedonia are not only impoverished—they also feel like losers and failures.

To avoid confronting such unpalatable truths and to fend off a tormenting low self-image, the citizenry of Macedonia, egged on by the incumbent political leadership and abetted by an avalanche of chauvinistic propaganda, have developed a host of psychological defense mechanisms.

1. Anti-elitism and anti-intellectualism

History teaches us that chauvinistic nationalism is often built on a foundation of deliberate ignorance, hatred of the other and the different, exaltation of the primitivism of the "people" and of populist values, and xenophobia. Macedonia is no exception. Macedonians have vehemently turned against their erstwhile elites, now dubbed by them as "traitors", "thieves", and "kodoshi". The "proletariat" has taken over and in an atmosphere of ochlocracy (mob-rule) intellectuals bear the brunt of the hoi-polloi's destructive envy, spite (inat), and passive-aggressive rage.

2. Magical Thinking

The belief in a fantastic world in which miracles occur, saviors materialize, one is immune to the consequences of one's inaction, and all ends well, regardless of current realities.

The leaders of Macedonia provide their voters (whom they generally hold in contempt) with fairy tales and grandiose fantasies about multi-billion dollar investments, which typically never materialize. Worse still, this obsessive preoccupation with deus-ex-machina salvation-by-outsiders detracts from and distracts the scarce human resources at the disposal of the government.

As a result, the authorities neglect to tackle the most pressing problems facing their nation: unemployment, dysfunctional institutions, and venality. In the meantime, asset bubbles—now in real estate and previously in the bloated and much-manipulated stock exchange—imperil the country's financial system.

3. Messianic-Religious Leadership

From the Caucasus to the republics of former Yugoslavia, leaders of economically decrepit countries in the region present themselves as either Messiah-like saviors or martyrs to the cause, hounded by a "hate-filled and jealous" opposition, or victimized by outside forces. Such leaders ostentatiously "dedicate themselves" to the nation, forsaking a private life or worldly pleasures.

Their subjects crave for honest and hard-working leadership and so hungrily succumb to the allure of ceaseless media campaigns, which border on a personality cult. They suspend their disbelief and dispense with rationality. The Dear Leader becomes the focal point of their hopes and dreams while other institutions - parliament, the judiciary, and the media—shrink and wither.

Often, this populist worship results in an authoritarian regime that gradually, almost imperceptibly replaces consensus politics. The Beloved Leader keeps paying lip service to democracy and functioning institutions, but effectively, he contemptuously ignores them. He purges the civil service, staffing it with cronies and relatives, and he treats the opposition as traitors and enemies of the state. The media is brutally trampled on, coerced into cooperation, or corrupted and co-opted with advertising and perks.

4. Denial of Reality

Unable to face the dismal condition of their country, people in Macedonia choose to simply deny it. Hype and spin and public relations replace real action and substantive reforms. The language itself is subverted: corruption is redefined by the powers that be to exclude blatant nepotism; a mere change of ownership hailed as a revolutionizing foreign investment; promises and plans presented as facts (faits accompli); statistical methodology altered to produce favorable results; faux historians, half-deranged pundits, virulent and corrupt "journalists", and pseudo-archaeologists are recruited to transform grandiose myths and outrights lies into official history. Thus, reality is done away with and replaced with fantasy.

5. Aggressive Assertiveness

Rather than accept the fact that the nation's low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence are outcomes of its failures, the leadership reverses cause and effects: the country's repeated failures are now, officially, a RESULT of people's wavering self-esteem and self-confidence. People who doubt the leadership's claims and doctored data "don't believe in the future of the nation, don't believe that Macedonia can (succeed)." Dissidents are, therefore, branded as pusillanimous traitors.

Thus, everyone is encouraged to adopt a loathsome variant of newfound assertiveness that borders on narcissism and is unpleasantly aggressive. It does not reflect an inner conviction in the real capabilities and skills of the populace. It is merely demonstrative and hyperbolic.

Sam Vaknin ([sign in to see URL]) is the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb, and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101. Visit Sam's Web site at [sign in to see URL]

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Oct/30/2012, 10:15 am Link to this post  

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