Narcissism and Higher Education: Case Study 1
This case study is based off the Last Psychiatrist post, Hipsters on Food Stamps Part 1, the first post in the Hipsters on Food Stamps trilogy.
In this case study, the subject is the general public, the object is this Salon.com article, and subject’s reaction to the object is assumed to be rage. By the end of our analysis, we will see how rage is working to protect the system of higher education from change.
The Last Psychiatrist, on the Salon article:
It’s very easy and satisfying to hate these two, and nothing would make me happier than to hit them square in the back with a jack-o-lantern. But I also recognize that I am being told to hate them, so I have to take a step back and find out why it is so important that I hate them. I did. I should have just reached for the pumpkin.
Our analysis starts at his reaction to the article. What does his rage tell us? We know rage occurs when identity is threatened, so it would follow that this article threatened his identity somehow. But what his self-described identity, and what about the article threatened it?
Answer: The identity that is threatened is the identity of the working college graduate who sees themselves as smart and employable because they have a college degree. The Salon article threatens this identity by juxtaposing the two hipsters in the story, both of whom hold college degrees, with their situation — unemployed, living off of food stamps, and unable to find work.
If a college degree truly is a symbol of employability and intelligence, these two Hipsters are lazy free-riders who could easily get a job but won’t. In this interpretation, it’s easy to write off these two, feel some rage, and continue on thinking that your college degree was worth the six figures you or your parents spent on it. This preserves identity, see?
Let’s explore the alternate interpretation of the Salon article. What if a college degree isn’t a symbol of employability and intelligence? This means two that “you were tricked, your parents were tricked, your peers were tricked, [but] your employers were not tricked at all.” In other other words, you’re a sucker, and the higher education system (in this case, colleges and universities) took six figures of your post-tax money for an almost worthless diploma. Hence, “I should have just reached for the pumpkin.”
… college is a waste, but we haven’t yet hit that point in society where we can bypass it. So we have to pass through another generation of massive college debt. How to pull the suckers in? Answer. these articles. By getting you to say, “these hipsters should be able to get jobs because they are college graduates!” you are saying, “college is worth something.” It isn’t. But by directing your hate towards hipsters, you are protecting the system against change.