One of the questions of the survey that determined students entering college in the fall of 2006 were more narcissistic that entering classes previously surveyed was: “If I ruled the world, it would be a better place.” I presume the more narcissistically inclined said “yes.”
My answer to such a question way back when I entered college–and still today–would have been “no,” and I was wondering why.
First, even to begin to answer that question or to take it seriously as a question would seem to require a much richer fantasy life than I have. I remember when the lottery first came in talking with people who would go on and on about what they would do with those vast amounts should they win it, how they would divide it up and give money to relatives and charitable organizations and buy a Jacuzzi. These people really seemed to enjoy themselves talking about these fantasy prospects. I would sit there with my mind completely blank. I just couldn’t entertain the fantasy much less enjoy having it. I guess I do not have a rich fantasy life.
Second, answering yes to the question would seem to imply that one would want to be ruler of the world. Personally, being ruler of the world strikes me as requiring way too much work and responsibility. I think being ruler of the world would be quite time consuming and even onerous. Also rulers of the world tend to have many enemies and frequently get killed off by assassins.
Finally, being ruler of the world would not, to my mind, necessarily put one in the position to make the world a better place. The way I see it no one person –even the ruler of the world—can make any difference to the state of the world. Individuals can do little or nothing to improve the state of affairs on a world wide scale. Even to think so implies pure megalomania. If the question read, “If I ruled the world, along with a very large army, and a fanatically charged mass following, I might be able to make the world a better place (if I had exact and clear directions on how to make the world better)….well, I still would answer “no” because I couldn’t entertain the fantasy in the first place.
I am suspicious of such surveys and how much they can tell us about the psyche of the student of today. Still, the idea that by being the ruler of the world one could make the world a better place seems to suggest a remarkable naiveté about what goes into being the ruler of the world. Or let us say, it would appear one could answer yes to this question only if one assumes that, because one is the ruler, the world will somehow plastically and magically respond to one’s attempts, no matter how ill-informed, to make it better.
This is narcissism. Or rather, let us say, it is primal, archaic and relatively untempered narcissism. Twenge and others suggest that today’s college students are narcissistic because they were told by their parents and in schools that they are special, and are encouraged in their specialness by such attention seeking technologies as my space and Utube. I don’t buy it. If today’s students retain a high degree of untempered narcissism, that has little to do with being told one is special, but rather to having the “world” in fact plastically respond to one’s needs. Those relatively few families that reaped the wealth of the 80’s and 90’s may have produced such children. I wonder how young people not entering college might respond that question.