May 22, 2014

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

The age of entitlement is far from over for our narcissistic Treasurer, who believes his own experience should be universal and is screwing the poor because he didn't get enough love from daddy.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

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. In fact, there’s a book that does diagnose it. The Narcissism Epidemic is subtitled "Living in the Age of Entitlement", and it describes the way in which narcissism has grown exponentially. Hockey fits well not only within a conservative tradition of making "family values" national values -- such as that idiocy that compares a central banking economy to a household budget. He is also a product of the age of the selfie. When the narcissist holds himself up as an example of "tough love", he fits well into an era of naifs holding up signs about Boko Haram. "Lived experience" now stands in for evidence and reason on all sides. But it works so much better coming from a legitimate selfie-taking narcissist like Hockey. After all, the Right has been expert in this kind of personal moralising for centuries. They do it better and they do it with a clearer, more entitled view of their own moral foundation. What Hockey does when he talks with extreme entitlement about his family and his absent hard-working father and his personal views about the possibility of upward mobility is selfie clicktivism. Except it’s on a grander scale with a much grander history. The age of entitlement is not over. It has just clicked over into a higher gear.

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15 thoughts on “Razer’s Class Warfare: Hockey’s narcissism in the age of the selfie

  1. klewso

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

  2. paddy

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

  3. Dez Paul

    “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.

  4. bluepoppy

    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.

  5. rowboat

    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.

  6. beachcomber

    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.

  7. Observation

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

  8. jimothy pimothy

    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.

  9. tonyfunnywalker

    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.

  10. DiddyWrote

    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.

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