(… Or, why some cultural groups are SUPERIOR than others!)
Back in 2011, Amy Chua claimed that she was taken out of context and misunderstood, that it had been the Wall Street Journal that had put words in her mouth in saying that Chinese mothers are superior (to American mothers), creating a deluge of public indignation even as Ms. Chua pleaded her public relations misfortune around media circuits.
Now in 2014, Ms. Chua and hubby buddied up to write a book that asserts some cultural groups are superior (to American culture), this time covered by New York Post… which means either Chua knows how to pick media outlets that put words in her mouth (seriously? She’s a lawyer), or her true belief was indeed that Chinese mothers were superior back in 2011.
I joined the ranks of those who made themselves read the book — yes, I made myself go to the library! And get on a waiting list with all who refused to buy this book because they were cheap and/or repulsed! And made myself read the entire book! Regardless of how Chua’s alleged “satire” made me cringe and nauseous! And review it on my mental health site! — I’ll say this:
Chua knows how to leverage division and polarity to get publicity. This strategy obviously works extremely well for her, and enriches her and her family (since hubby’s now involved). Now she’s upping the ante by going to the next level. Forget mothers: let’s target a bigger division, like races and cultures. Instead of targeting a biological phenomenon a bigger target is people’s very own sense of belonging and identity.
The immediate graph that came to my mind when I read Chua-Rubenfeld’s sensationalist reduction of success to (1) “superiority complex”, (2) “insecurity”, and (3) “impulse control” was a research paper on narcissists and aggression I had to read for a Coursera Social Psychology class, published in the journal Psychological Science:
narcissists are more likely to become aggressive when they perceived ego-threats
Graph from: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/20/12/1536.short
[the hand icon was part of the screenshot where the mouse cursor was; it's not on the original graph]
In “Reducing Narcissistic Aggression by Buttressing Self-Esteem”, scientists Thomaes et al sampled over 400 adolescents and demonstrated empirically for the first time, that narcissists are more likely to become aggressive when they perceived ego-threats.
Instead of “boosting” self-esteem (extrinsic), narcissistic individuals who do exercises that “buttressed” self-esteem (intrinsic) displayed less aggression than those in the control group experiencing threats to ego.
The main difference between “boosting” versus “buttressing” self-esteem is key both in this paper and in how I interpreted Chua-Rubenfeld’s reductionist claims.
By cultivating people along the first 2 items of “superiority” and “insecurity”, we are training a generation of narcissists and narcissistic tendencies (“because we are superior!”) that come with a very low threshold tolerance for ego-threat (“and yet we also feel like shit but this shit must be good because it’s supposed to make us strive to be even more superior!”). Talk about double the bullshit in this so-called triple package claim.
In other words, we’re unleashing into our society — our communities, corporations, and governments — increasingly aggressive narcissistic mindsets and worldviews. All in the name of achieving status as a successful, superior group/culture/race.
Why ask, “Is she wrong?” Why not see the kind of world we get to live in because people will flock to make her right in their desire to be “successful” and “superior” on her terms? … Or are we already here, when we look at our communities, corporations, and governments? Is this where we want to be, or strive to become?
As for impulse control, I have no beef with that; enough studies about delayed gratification have been done to sustain the marshmallow industry.