Narcissism and Glengarry Glen Ross
This case study comes from The Last Psychiatrist post Hipsters on Food Stamps Part 1.
In this case study, the subject is the viewer, the object is the above video, and the viewer’s reaction to falls into one of two categories.
The first reaction is, “Alec Baldwin is a jerk!”. That’s also the reaction of the sales people getting lectured by Baldwin’s character. The colloquial term for this reaction is “taking it personally”.
The second reaction is, “This guy is awesome!”. This is also known as “getting psyched” because the coach (in this case, Baldwin) is giving the viewer the inspiration to go into the field and start closing sales.
Because only one thing counts in this life. Get them to sign on the line which is dotted. You hear me, you fucking faggots? … A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-closing. Always be closing. Always be closing. A-I-D-A. Attention, interest, decision, action. Attention; do I have your attention? Interest; are you interested? I know you are because it’s fuck or walk. You close or you hit the bricks. Decision; have you made your decision for Christ? And action. A-I-D-A; get out there.
The first group of viewers see Baldwin’s speech as a threat to their identity, which is why they start the contents of the speech personally. “Who does this guy think he is? Nobody talks to me like that!”
The second group sees Baldwin’s speech as a work. In other words, they treat it like a pre-game locker room speech and draw energy from it.
In the words of the Last Psychiatrist,
One group of people sees the man behind the job, and judges him as an identity; and the other group of people sees the symbolic importance of the person, what he represents, a judge, a doctor, a bank teller, whatever; and that first group of people find it difficult to operate in society because they cannot see that the person is more than he “is” simply by virtue of his position, because that would doubly reinforce their own marginalization.
This paragraph is gold, but it takes some work to understand.
The first group “sees the man behind the job, and judges him as an identity”. What this means is that the people in the first group interpret their interactions with the world in terms of identity. They hold a self-described identity and see everyone else as having singular identities that define them. These people have a uni-dimensional view of Baldwin’s character as a successful salesperson but miss the fact that that he, as a person, is more than just a successful salesperson. If they were to acknowledge this, it would be a crushing blow to their identities. Not only is he a better salesman than they are, he is also a father and a Little League coach? Hence, “they cannot see that the person is more than he “is” simply by virtue of his position, because that would doubly reinforce their own marginalization.”
The second group “sees the symbolic importance of the person, what he represents” — in other words, what role he is playing. The people in the second group view their interactions with the world in terms of roles, where each person takes on many different roles in society. Each role requires an individual to put on a different mask, so to speak. The people in the first group cannot separate the mask and the person, while the people in the second group understand that a person can wear multiple masks. In the scenario that played out above, the people in the second group would see Baldwin put on his coach mask and they would put on their “player” masks and assume the role of a player getting a pre-game pep talk from their coach.
These case studies are not detached thought experiments. Once you understand them from an outside perspective, it is time to turn the mirror on yourself. Now you’re the subject and the object is the video. What’s your reaction, and what does this tell you about how you view the world?