When Francesca Montanaro’s school shut down in March due to fears about the new new coronavirus, she had nowhere to go. Francesca’s mother is a nurse working long hours in New York City. The grandparents who would otherwise have provided child-care were old enough to be vulnerable to the bug, so they were out. That meant Francesca has spent the last few months with her dad at his pizza shop in the Bronx. In this six-minute piece from Radio Diaries and NPR, we take a look at what it’s been like to be a bright and typical 11-year-old thrust into a completely different world. She puts pizza boxes together and answers phones. She’s even learned to make perfect pizzas. I found the story touching. It reminds me of the degree to which children used to learn more about the real world than they do today. Even though she won’t follow in the pizza-making footsteps of her father, I’ll bet this will be one of the defining experiences of her childhood, one that she will treasure for years to come.
I noticed three instances over the weekend of people talking about Donald Trump’s “campaign of hate.” I wanted to correct them — because they misunderstand this narcissist — but I knew they wouldn’t get my point. It’s not that I’m defending him, because what he does is worse than hate. You simply have to understand the way narcissists think to understand him. Trump doesn’t hate. It’s worse than hate. He’s indifferent and angry with anyone who doesn’t obey him and worship him, those who don’t give him what’s called “narcissistic supply.” People believe that Trump hates blacks or Hispanics or foreigners or whatever group which he’s seen as hating. It’s true that he experiences rage at people who will not give him what he wants, but he’s not in touch enough with his real self to feel real hatred, much less to feel real love. He’s like a vampire who sucks all the available praise and adoration from any group of people — any way he can get it. He doesn’t love rural, blue-collar white folks, but their adoration gives him what he craves. He’s not emotionally mature enough even to hate. For a narcissist, people are simply objects to manipulate, depending on what he can get from them. Trump’s indifference is far worse than hatred. This isn’t ideological or political. It’s pathological. He’s not mature enough to hate.
The decline of modern culture can be seen clearly by looking at what passes for public discourse. There was a time when people who wanted their ideas accepted made rational arguments. It was assumed that most people were bright enough and rational enough to evaluate those arguments — and a surprising number of them really were. Today, the arguments are made in the form of irrational and simplistic graphics called “memes.” Because these graphics can’t convey complex or nuanced information, they present dumbed-down presentations of positions which are stunningly juvenile and seem designed to offend rather than to convince. We have regressed from books and dense pamphlets to a level more like that of angry kindergartners making crayon-scrawled hate notes to send to other children. Reason no longer plays a role in public discourse, and this signals the coming fall of this society.