Razer’s Class Warfare: Hockey’s narcissism in the age of the selfie

When Joe Hockey declared the “age of entitlement“ at an end, he almost certainly exempted himself from this historical turn. The Treasurer, after all, feels “entitled” to days spent in court with Fairfax Media  —  time, perhaps, that might be better disbursed dousing the deficit, ending the Swan spending spree, soothing the surplus boner blahblahblah.

Of course, Hockey can dance with a defamation suit, his wife or an entire chorus line of winking, high-kicking Tony Abbotts as much as he likes. It won’t change a thing. As mentioned last week in Crikey, charges of moral hypocrisy against politicians tend only to be effective when they derive from conservative values. “Juliar” works better than “Joliar” because neoliberals lob their insults from a foundation of absolute moral faith. The Left fails in its communications because its own moral foundation is buried in decades of uncertainty that has it arguing half the time from reason — which rarely plays to voters — and the other half from a feeble platform of ad hominem. Tony winked. Tony’s daughter got into a good school. Joe danced. Julie Bishop looks like a Meanie, and Pyne talks posh.

None of this demonisation works for progressives. This is not only because it’s half-arsed. It is because the Left never really enjoyed the “age of entitlement” in which Joe is still culturally present. The Treasurer may publicly decry a time of rampant self-interest which must be ended by fatherly austerity. But it is his rampant self-interest that makes his message so successful.

This week on ABC1’s Q&A, Hockey offered, for the nth time, the narrative of his childhood as a lesson for the polity. His father, he told the audience, was so busy building wealth on a Saturday that he had no time to watch his son play soccer. Engaged with the business of cleaning the shop floor with just a toothpick and some pluck, Hockey Sr. acted just as his son, the future Treasurer, must. “The hardest task in life is to say no to someone you care about,” said Joe in his age of entitlement speech in London. Spare the rod and spoil the economy. And this is why a generation of young job-seekers will find life impossible. Their dole payment is Joe’s quality time with dad. It must be withheld for their own good. Their reward will be as Joe’s was: wealth. Well, “moral” wealth. This should make up for the material poverty.

In seeking to end the “age of entitlement”, Hockey the fabulist is actually extending it by example. Like so many successful conservative politicians before him, he employs his story as one that will function as a moral instruction for everyone.  There is, perhaps, nothing more “entitled” than to permit one’s own experience to stand in for everyone’s experience. It is, in fact, messianic.

Or, to be a bit more technical, it is narcissistic. The kind of untethered self-esteem that allows an individual to see themselves as the model for all others begins to look a lot like the narcissistic personality inventory. Hockey’s rationale for his policy — my dad withheld affection and it was good for me and it is therefore good for the economy — is a sense of personal entitlement so inflated as to be diagnosable.

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15 Responses

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  1. What does Shonkey smoke when he’s not smoking cigars - in his land of the lotus eaters?

    by klewso on May 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm

  2. Pyne talks posh.

    Really Helen? With that voice, on any decent ship of the line, he wouldn’t be allowed out of steerage.

    by paddy on May 22, 2014 at 2:10 pm

  3. “The hardest task in life is to say no to someone you care about…”

    The problem is the Jockey Strap is not saying no to anyone he cares about. And the “born to rule” mentality so pervasive among tory uglies tops the narcissistic personality inventory list and encapsulates the whole entitlement as moral foundation narrative.

    Good article, Helen. Thanks.

    by Dez Paul on May 22, 2014 at 2:38 pm

  4. Spending time with your children at the weekend used to be values supported by Conservatives, now it as seen as an impediment to the economy and something we should all strive for.

    Surely any economic framework should lead to fair and positive outcomes for society.

    This fuzzy economic thinking leads to a growing gap between rich and poor; greater pressures on families (of all types) and lower quality of life. A mark of a crumbling society planned around the interests of an elite few who wield great influence.

    It is difficult to determine if Joe Hockey has truly drunk the Koolaid or whether he is simply part of a corporate puppet government.

    by bluepoppy on May 22, 2014 at 2:39 pm

  5. Nice read but there’s nothing new here. It looks like you’ve also chosen the ‘other half’ of the left’s dialogue with ad-hominem attacks on members of the right (and left), using a bit of pop psychology.

    Diagnosing the right, and society broadly with traits of a ‘psychological disorder’? This is not particularly constructive thinking.

    It would be nice to see you (and many other journos/columnists) pen more articles of ‘big ideas’ rather than criticism fired at all and sundry. Please.

    by rowboat on May 22, 2014 at 3:08 pm

  6. Depression is common after gastric banding. Jolly Joe turned into Grumpy Joe after his weight loss. The Age of Gluttony was ended with the Age of Entitlement.
    Australia would be a jollier place if the band was loosened.
    I wonder if there are also stuides on the association between lycra wearing and dishonesty.

    by beachcomber on May 22, 2014 at 3:11 pm

  7. Answering questions in the same sphere as their one line slogans. Dumbing down the debate into simple metaphors. Why am I not surprised!

    by Observation on May 22, 2014 at 3:28 pm

  8. this article exhibits what i frequently find annoying about crikey articles. it feels half done. just when i think i’m going to read a brief history of right of centre moralising it ends with a whimper. but still, it was OK, even though it did seem to play to the personality politics which razer decries on her blogue.

    by jimothy pimothy on May 22, 2014 at 3:54 pm

  9. There has also been a series of articles and blogs in the Harvard Business Review relating to narcissism and leadership. I have blogged (mostly in the Guardian) on the current spate in Australia of leaders afflicted with narcissism. The destructive narcissist wars between Rudd/ Gillard and Abbott - and the way the press used their narcissistic tendencies to entrap - especially Rudd. – In the current environment the entrapment will be of Abbott and Hockey.
    Hockey up until now has not really shown his narcissism to the full; but his antics over the last few weeks ranging from the cigar/ the dance/ the bashful photo subject / and his growing hectoring of anyone who disagrees with him are typical of an uncontrolled narcissist under duress. Hockey and Abbott are like Rudd –are really making fools of themselves - as the pressure is applied.
    Narcissists make poor leaders as a result; as Rudd proved; and Abbott will in the next few months — as his confidence crumbles and panic sets in crumble. The major weakness is arrogance and distain and when there is a threat of a leadership challenge it will be interesting to observe the behaviours of the LNP front bench.

    by tonyfunnywalker on May 22, 2014 at 6:23 pm

  10. The Nobility of Suffering.

    This bullshit goes back further than the Roman Empire when Cato the Younger made a virtue of Stoicism. Cato was of course filthy rich although he at least attempted to avoid hypocrisy by dressing simply.

    I refuse to be lectured in the benefits of Austerity by a man who appears incapable of passing a pie shop.

    Stick that in your $40 cigar and smoke it.

    Grub pronounced the Pyne way.

    by DiddyWrote on May 22, 2014 at 7:52 pm

  11. This isn’t narcissism. It’s management skills. You share personal details to try and build build trust. People are more likely to follow you when they understand your value system, especially if they share it.
    Having an absent father is a fairly common refrain by a lot of men Hockey’s age…and the reason why men are more engaged with parenting in the modern age. Yet ask any father about providing for your family, and most will still say its a core part of their identity and a source of pride for them. Especially those men who still believe in a level of gender roles in the family, not as uncommon as you might think.
    Why is it a bad thing to share that, and let other men and women know where your motivations come from?
    Most would call it leadership. Not Helen I guess.

    by Scott on May 22, 2014 at 9:55 pm

  12. I don’t call it leadership, it’s more like an attempt at manipulation!

    by Yclept on May 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm

  13. TLDR: conservatives win all via their direct access to the infinite. Materialist/humanist positions cannot prevail, due to inexorable operation of the moral calculus.

    by crapocular on May 23, 2014 at 12:18 pm


    by Jennifer Armstrong on May 24, 2014 at 1:40 pm

  15. Scott - if Hockey is seriously attempting to build a rapport with the public, he is doing an extraordinarily hamfisted job of it. A handful of five dollar words about tough love isn’t going to erase the image of him smoking cigars outside Parliament. But this isn’t about building trust; it’s about using a weak, anecdotal analogy to justify cutting domestic support programs in the budget. And it’s extraordinarily indulgent of Hockey to think that anyone in the public would find him relatable anymore.

    by Brendan on May 24, 2014 at 1:45 pm

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