On Space Narcissism
Quit whining that you haven’t done anything wrong because, frankly, you haven’t done much of anything. –KMFDM, “Dogma”
I’m not a fan of critiques in policy debate. They tend to be unnatural abominations of half-baked ideas which don’t actually answer the case and policy that has been presented. But sometimes they just turn silly, like the one claiming that any interest in exploring or developing space is clearly a byproduct of rampaging narcissism and we should ignore their crazy affirmative plans because we’re all psychoanalysts and can see their underlying personality disorders. As far as I can tell, it starts with an ad-hominem attack and them links the affirmative to Everything Wrong with the world today while claiming that the negative and judge are just innocent bystanders. The first time I saw it, the negative team claimed “Narcissism is the most important thing in this round!” which got a response of “Well it certainly thinks so, doesn’t it?” but didn’t convince me of anything because the critique of the policy — like most badly stitched together critiques in policy debate — failed to actually critique the policy.
But if you get this critique run against you, I suggest you have some fun with answering it… like this.
If you want to mess with your opponents straight out, begin cross-examination with “So, according to your critique, we all need to examine our subconscious motivation for our actions. Please, tell me about your relationship with your mother.” The reason for this question is the fourth response to their critique (see below) and anything other than an honest and open discussion of their relationship with their mother shows that they’re failing to meet the obligations they’re trying to lay out in the critique. On the off-chance that they actually do answer the question, I’d go so far as to spend the whole cross-examination period on “I see. Please continue,” and “What did you mean by…?” — which is to say, the cross-examination becomes all about your opponent’s mother. If you get stuck for questions, switch over to: “Very interesting. Let’s try some word association, where I say a word and you say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready?” Bonus points if you’ve got an actual Rorschach test ready to go during cross-examination.
But regardless of how you want to spend your cross-examination time, here’s five responses — stacked — to the critique:
- It’s unethical to diagnose an opponent in an attempt to win an argument against them. The state of opposition in competition constitutes a relationship. From the American Psychological Association’s list of “Potential Ethical Violations,” we start with “psychologists are supposed to avoid relationships that could impair their professional performance or harm their clients.” So while this whole narcissism critique is a dubious ad-hominem attack (going after us instead of our case), in as much as it is also be an attack on our psychology claiming that we should be analysts, it immediately violates the basic ethics of being an analyst which the critique claims as its framework.
- But even ignoring ethics, it’s illegal to actually practice psychology without a license. About.com explains to people pursuing work as psychologists that “In order to be licensed to practice, psychologists need to earn a degree from an accredited institution. After earning a degree, it is also necessary to complete the requirements to achieve professional licensing in the state where one wishes to work.” And advocating criminal behavior in a policy round seems counter-intuitive to say the least.
- But let’s suppose that they’re not intending to go to the extremes of illegality or ethical conflicts of interest. In this case, we’ll play the analyst like they say we should and see in this critique they’ve made the markers of a Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder. We think it’s a bad idea to go down this path — both ethically and legally — but if they want to get into throw-away cheap-shots, we are prepared to defend ourselves here.
- And yet we don’t think either of us should be getting into that territory because I don’t think any of us are prepared for the responsibilities of being a pscyhoanalyst. As Dr. Jung — the guy who laid the groundwork for Meyers-Briggs Personality types — recounts in Memories, Dreams, and Reflections:
He wanted to be an analyst. I said to him, “Do you know what that means? It means that you must first learn to know yourself. You yourself are the instrument. If you are not right, how can the patient be made right? If you are not convinced, how can you convince him? You yourself must be the real stuff. If you are not, God help you! Then you will lead patients astray. Therefore you must first accept an analysis of yourself.”
So a crucial part of wanting to play analyst is needing to be analyzed. Expecting that the negative team doesn’t actually have a certificate of clean mental health appropriate for practicing psychology, we reject their critique. But their critique also turns against them as their lack of preparation in their chosen field — which passive-aggressively avoided directly responding to the proposed policy — should lead you to question the validity of their other claims, in the exact same way they wanted their faux-diagnosis of narcissism to make you doubt our policy.
- Finally, the critique misapplies psychology in an attempt to project the negative’s biases onto our status as mythological creatures. Joseph Campbell, whose work as an anthropologist was heavily influenced by Dr. Jung, describes this in Myths to Live By:
[O]ur most immediate mysterious neighbor today is not the animal or the plant; nor is it any longer the heavenly vault with its wonderfully moving lights. Frobenius points out that we have demythologized those through our sciences, and that the center of mystery now is man himself: man as a Thou, one’s neighbor; not as “I” might wish him to be, or may imagine that I know and relate to him, but in himself, thus come, as a being of mystery and wonder.
So from our relational vantage point as mythological beings vis-a-vis The Other, we reject their claims to know that we’re narcissists because they simply can’t know us well enough to make any such claim after a mere eleven minutes, even if they are of sound mind and licensed to practice in this state. But above and beyond that what Campbell reminds us of is that rocket science is relatively easy compared to figuring out people. And in that we’re more likely to be successful with our plan than their critique, you’ll want to vote for our plan.
In case you’re wondering, the markers that the linked Wikipedia article (ostensibly based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) lists for passive-aggressive personality disorder are as follows:
- passively resists fulfilling routine social and occupational tasks like actually responding to the affirmative case.
- complains of being misunderstood and unappreciated by others as the negative will do when they claim the point of the critique was totally missed.
- is sullen and argumentative, especially the latter.
- unreasonably criticizes and scorns authority, not only by calling our rocket scientists categorically narcissists, but I’m sure they’ll have some unkind things to say about Campbell, Jung, and the APA in defending their critique.
- expresses envy and resentment toward those apparently more fortunate like those of us who have vision and ambition and rockets.
- voices exaggerated and persistent complaints of personal misfortune which is where we get into their nuke war and extinction scenarios.
- alternates between hostile defiance and contrition… okay, they might not have done this one.
Of course, with only a couple of subtle variations, almost any affirmative I’ve seen this year could run a PAPD critique against negatives. But then again, I’m in Oregon so alternate causality might be in play. Regardless, that’s how you can turn the Space Narcissism critique to claim your status as a mythological creature. Me, I’m a chimera!