By Neo Pachisia
Yeh Jabr Bhi Dekha Hai, Taareekh ki Nazron Ne,
Lamho ne Khata ki thi, Sadiyon Ne Sazaa Paayee
(Literally & poorly translated, this beautiful couplet above means:The eyes of history, have even witnessed this compulsion. A momentary lapse, has led to centuries of punishment).
In the 2014 general elections, like millions of others, many of my hardcore Congressi family members felt sheepish but opted for Modi. And now I understand why.
Manmohan Singh’s vapid leadership, inability to prevent scams, had left many of us feeling frustrated and disempowered. So Modi who arrived on the scene as a testosterone-bleeding man’s man seemed the one who would restore our sense of potency, not to mention erase the endemic corruption, rebuild and transform India into a glorious new version of itself.
Whether it is in nations, street gangs, mafia families, politics or corporations, if the leader is missing or weak, the vacuum provides a perfect opportunity for narcissists to take over. Narcissists can be very attractive to others, at least in the beginning as they go on a charm offensive in order to make the future ‘narcissistic supplier’ feel really special and attended to. Once bonded, the victim would have a hard time escaping or breaking off from the Narc.
Narcissism is a term expressing self love. There is healthy and reparative narcissism, which ideally we should all possess—which helps us feel self confident, have a realistic assessment of our talents or lack thereof, have ambitions and goals and we can pursue them with the belief that we deserve to have what we desire.
Self confidence with commensurate abilities and self belief lead to success.
Nehru may have been a reparative narcissist who had a vision of a fairer, more just and free India and and he pursued that vision dragging India, as some believe, single-handedly into the 21st century. Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of New Delhi, may be similar in some ways. Reparative Narcissists define their mission to be in alignment with the needs of their followers.
Then there is unhealthy narcissism which varies by degrees, such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and its most extreme form Malignant Narcissism (MN).
“A simple narcissist is someone who is self-absorbed,” says Peter Freed, a psychiatrist at the Personality Studies Institute in New York City. “On the other hand, people with narcissistic personality disorder are so self-absorbed that they are indifferent, even oblivious, to how they appear to others.”
Some of the obvious and typical characteristics of those with NPD or Malignant Narcissism are:
1. They are Utterly deficient in empathy & compassion, in the case of MN, they are outright sadistic and cruel. They have No conscience or “Super-ego lacunae” (Holes in conscience)
In July 2016 a video, initially seen with disbelief, eventually went viral generating universal revulsion. Seven dalit men, in the video, were seen being flogged by 42 vigilante ‘gau rakshaks’ (cow protectors) in Gujarat. This flogging apparently went on for hours, half the time in front of the local police station. The ‘crime’ of these dalit men was to skin a dead cow—a vocation and tradition they have been following for centuries.
Prime Minister Modi’s reaction for the first few weeks was a confounding silence. Finally, an unprecedented backlash by the Dalit community led him to speak out some weeks later with a bizarre remark which was met with widespread derision. “If you have to attack, attack me but stop attacking ‘my dalit bretheren. If you have to shoot, shoot me but not my dalit brothers,” he said.
He expressed No sorrow, no remorse, no shock. A normal, by any standard, response by a head of a country would be to put an immediate end to the attacks, pacify and compensate the victims, arrest the guilty. Modi did none of this.
Before that, in 2015 a Muslim man named Akhlaq was lynched and killed for the suspicion of having killed a cow and consumed it’s meat. (which was later proven to be false). Again there was a lack of response from Modi, no real action taken against the guilty, in fact in an unbelievable travesty, an enquiry was launched against the widow and family.
In 2002, in an incident often known as the Gujarat riots, over 1000 mostly Muslim men, women and children were killed, mutilated and burned alive by Hindu mobs with Isis-ian savagery, the likes of which India hasn’t seen in years.
Modi was then the Chief Minister and claimed he wasn’t aware of what was going on and did the best he could to stop the killings. Years later, he got a ‘clean chit’ by the courts and was absolved of all wrong doing.
He was not held guilty of even gross incompetence leave alone for the suspicion of having been in the know and supported the killings.
Modi has taken virtually no responsibility for it and NOT astonishingly shown no remorse, guilt or even empathy for what happened during that slaughter. When asked in an interview with Reuters whether he regretted the violence, Modi compared his feelings to the occupant of a car involved in an accident.
He said, if “someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.”
2. Narcissists can be intelligent, extremely manipulative, vengeful, paranoid and envious.
In the summer of 2002, a few months after the Gujarat pogrom, Ashis Nandy, a renowned clinical psychologist and one of India’s best-known public intellectuals, wrote an essay, which earned him a lawsuit from Modi.
In the essay Nandy referred to Modi as a ‘fascist’ not as an insult but as a psychological and clinical description of his personality. Nandy wrote, “….Modi, it gives me no pleasure to tell the readers, met virtually all the criteria that psychiatrists, psycho-analysts and psychologists had set up after years of empirical work on the authoritarian personality. He had the same mix of puritanical rigidity, narrowing of emotional life, massive use of the ego defence of projection, denial and fear of his own passions combined with fantasies of violence – all set within the matrix of clear paranoid and obsessive personality traits.”
Modi, one of six children, grew up in an impoverished family of oil-pressers and as a young boy he helped his father sell tea at the Vadnagar train station to supplement the family income.
With little education, or prospects of success, power or riches little Modi at age 8, was ripe for an organisation like the rightwing RSS which often find their membership base amongst such discontent.
Modi was not only intelligent but had a fierce survival instinct as was evident from his progress in the RSS, an organisation whose head, M.S Golwalkar, was an unabashed admirer of Adolf Hitler and his “purging the country of the Semitic Races—the Jews,” and urged Hindus to manifest a similar “Race Spirit” with Muslims.
Malignant Narcissists are known to easily adopt and internalise ideologies that are aligned with notions of being superior to others.
At an early age Modi was also married to a young girl Jasoda, whom he soon abandoned. The woman grew up never properly married, widowed or divorced.
Narendra Modi’s rise to power and success in the RSS and later in it’s political wing the BJP, his transition from CM to PM, is a testimony to his irrefutable powers of manipulation, determination and ability to out-manoeuvre even seasoned, veteran politicians like Lal Krishan Advani and A.B Vajpayee.
Wrote Vinod K Jose in 2012 in The Caravan Magazine, there were “three prominent leaders in the Gujarat BJP—all of them with impeccable Sangh credentials—who spoke out against Modi’s autocratic style within the party.
“The first, Haren Pandya, who had served as Modi’s revenue minister, was murdered in mysterious circumstances in 2003. The second, Sanjay Joshi, who had become a general secretary in the national BJP, was forced to resign when a CD containing pictures of him with naked women—later determined to be fake—was anonymously circulated to top BJP leaders. And Zadaphia, the third, was pushed out of the cabinet by the end of 2002, and subsequently ejected from the party.
“Modi understands only one alphabet, and that is capital I,” Zadaphia told Jose. “I was threatened with death by Modi himself.”
3. The most obvious characteristic of all those with NPD or Malignant Narcissism is they have an inviolable sense of being entitled the best of everything, of grandiosity. Any kind of adoration inflates and gels with their own sense of self-importance, and those in the public eye love public meetings, the pleasure at being centre of attention thrills them to the core, like a drug high and without another fix soon, they start deflating.
Politics and corporate situations are perfect avenue for their manipulative skills and they thrive well in Machiavellian skullduggery.
According to Plato and Aristotle “the tyrant is one who..undertakes measures to sow discord among subjects, impoverishes people with his exploits, and uses informers and betrayers to undermine trust among his subjects.”
Soon after CM Modi became PM Modi, people watched initially with indulgence and then stupefaction as the caterpillar transformed into a butterfly. Or what was Modi’s extreme infatuation with himself becoming visible to the world.
I doubt if there are many who support or approve of a bedraggled leader as he is not just representing himself, he is representing the country. So people took pride in how elegant Indira Gandhi looked in silk sarees and coiffed hair, how regal as she met world leaders and held her own.
So Indians were not entirely displeased as Modi dropped the cotton kurta for designer togs. It seemed challenging but they still accepted that he had to apparently change his outfits thrice or more times a day—and never repeat them. But what proved to snap the tolerance of most middle class Indians was the $16,000 suit Modi wore during Obama’s visit, which was monogrammed with Modi’s full name in gold thread. (pic above).
Social media was also incessantly chattering about Modi’s obsession with selfies, whether alone or with other world leaders.
But Nowhere has Modi’s narcissism been more embarrassing for the nation than in his insistence on a forced familiarity via awkward full-body-contact hugs and interlaced fingered hand-holding with world leaders.
Narcissists without exception, are delighted in the proximity of the rich and famous and love to display a familiarity with them, which is all publicised as a reflection of their own elevated status.
In another instance, Prime Minister Modi spent an hour being photographed by a Time magazine photographer who said he normally got only 10 minutes from other country heads.
A person with a healthy sense of self can assess his own strengths and weakness and to a large extent accept and integrate both aspects. A Malignant Narcissist can Never see his own flaws and in a process called splitting, projects the bad, negative traits onto Others. This helps him maintain a self image of being absolutely Perfect.
So anyone who challenges their perfection, who questions their ability, is an immediate and unqualified enemy!
In an article in Psychology Today psychoanalyst & faculty at Columbia College, NYC, Dr Carrie Barron says, “The combination of subtle paranoia, lack of conscience and sadism in Malignant Narcissists renders these individuals scary, dangerous, and ruthless. Because they have not internalised the capacity for restraint, revenge for imagined assaults can be cruel, excessive and unfathomable. Their wish to humiliate and destroy can be extreme.”
So when Delhi’s Chief Minister and Modi’s arch enemy Arvind Kejriwal (AK) stated he thought Modi might have him killed, it was not hyperbole. Or when AK, perhaps intuitively, described Modi as a “psychopath and a coward”, he was scathingly accurate and also unknowingly exposed Modi’s core.
It was like pulling out the pin from a live grenade!
Ex-Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar recently wrote in the NDTV opinion page, a blistering and impressive analysis of Modi as if he too is well versed on Malignant Narcs.
Aiyar wrote: “Character is destiny. What is happening is happening because Modi is who he is: vain, arrogant, self-obsessed, domineering. He wants to be the only one on the stage, the only one on whom the limelight is playing, the sole recipient of all applause. So he insulates himself from advice, fiercely concentrates decision-making in himself, personalizes governance, and projects only himself. It is therefore only he, not even the hapless Jaitley who seems to have been kept entirely out of the loop, who is responsible for the seething anger among the people, the total mass disillusionment with the man they mistakenly elected 30 months ago. He has neither the wisdom nor the training to make revolutionary change nor the administrative acumen to effectively manage the transition. His one talent is speech-making – a characteristic shared by all demagogues from Mussolini to Modi – but while that has its uses as spectacle, it is no substitute for sound governance.”
When the Malignant Narcissist feels ‘injured’ by a deemed or real challenge, he reacts with disproportionate and uncontrollable rage, aggression and violence. Narcissists loathe virtually nothing more than being shamed or accused of something. Their already fragile self-esteem cannot handle the slightest criticism.
The only way to deal with a Narc in your personal life is fairly simple—walk away or detach as much as possible.
In public life, if you can’t walk away, maybe you could read Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
Sun Tzu was one the greatest military strategists in history and just one of the suggestions he made was, “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt”. In other words, employ strategy and manipulation to counter manipulation, keep your plans close to your chest.
BY NEO PACHISIA
Disclaimer: I am Not a Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist. My ‘only’ knowledge of Narcissism is that I grew up with two (and survived) and have studied it for over a decade. Everything in this article is more or less my personal opinion, unless I have specifically quoted another.
Confessions of Gujarat murderers:
‘Gujarat Files’ author, publisher Rana Ayyub, 2016
http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2013/07/12/interview-with-bjp-leader-narendra-modi/ By Ross Colvin and Sruthi Gottipati
To know more about Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Malignant or Healthy Narcissism
Otto Kernberg on Narcissism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyP92WLLqIU