Egalitarianism and Narcissists

A narcissist seems to hold people’s attention because of the, once thought of as ineffable, quality known as charisma, and they represent what we secretly desire which is to feel special and to have undue influence over people and control over resources.  When you break it down to those terms you can empathize with the wannabe narcissists because who doesn’t want power and control.  Well, there are many reasons why an unchecked ego and unbridled desire go beyond being just ugly.

And we did not always glorify these people as we do now, take for example the Kardashians of the world or even people such as our President Donald Trump who is “given to boasting, preening, and swaggering to the point of self-parody” [3].

The following excerpt touches upon how we would keep one another in check by putting each other “down” if we got too “full of ourselves” in our tribal past and would remain more or less egalitarian while striking down those that would take but not give value back such as bullies and free-riders.

Boehm concluded that human beings are innately hierarchical, but that at some point during the last million years our ancestors underwent a “political transition” that allowed them to live as egalitarians by banding together to rein in, punish, or kill any would-be alpha males (or females) who tried to dominate the group.

And I can’t help but underscore the point again of street justice if you will when blatant domination occurs.  We can extrapolate from chimpanzees’ behavior for a lot of good reasons and one is because we are 98.6% similar in DNA to them like it or not.  To illustrate, look at a chimp named Foudouko in 2017 that was beaten and stomped to death and then cannibalized by his own community because he became a tyrant, in other words, a bully that took more of his fair share and that had little concern for anyone else.

After his death, the gang continued to abuse Foudouko’s body, throwing rocks and poking it with sticks, breaking its limbs, biting it and eventually eating some of the flesh.

The emphasis of this point is not just a Freudian-slip because of what I have experienced in my life, but it’s the rudimentary makings of our very own egalitarian society we strive for today.  Do I endorse such extreme forms of retaliation to oppression, well when I was being dominated and manipulated I certainly may have?  But that’s the point of our penal institutions which is to keep even the victim in check from our innate brutal capacities that are apparently still alive and well.


[1] Boehm, Christopher. Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior. Harvard University Press.

[2] Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind (p. 198). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

[3] Kohn, Alfie.  “Narcissist in Chief.  A Psychological Take on a Political Reality.”

[4] Whyte, Chelsea.  “Chimps beat up, murder, and then cannibalize their former tyrant.”


  1. brucegee1962 says

    My theory about the “political transition” Boehm talks about is this: imagine that two tribes have settled on opposite ends of a lush, fertile valley. One of the tribes is what we think of as “evil” – the leader is the biggest bully, the weak (especially women and children) are treated as property and given no status, rights are given or taken away at the whim of the leader. The other has qualities we think of as “good” – stronger members of the tribe are told it’s their duty to protect weaker members, courage and self-sacrifice, especially on behalf of ones’ children, are held up as exemplary qualities, and leaders are told that their first goal should be to protect their people. Of course, the two tribes don’t get along, and low-intensity clashes between them go on for years.

    It seemed pretty obvious to me that, over a long period of time, the “good” culture would have an advantage over the “evil” culture. Warriors who are motivated by ideas of honor, family, and the nobility of self-sacrifice are going to fight a lot harder than warriors who believe that the only thing that matters is what’s personally good for them, or fear of what the Big Man is going to do to them if they run away. Probably even more important, the weaker members of society get a vote as well. Unless you keep them locked up somehow, women who are being mistreated are going to be perfectly capable of grabbing their kids in the middle of the night and sneaking away to someplace where they think they’re likely to be treated better.

    That’s an important way that I think altruistic behavior may have evolved in humans and other social animals.

  2. lochaber says

    I think the problem with the scenario that brucegee1962 brings up, is assuming that every member of each culture subscribes to the beliefs of those cultures.

    -there would be members of the “good” culture, that would be more capable, but may be lacking in empathy, compassion, morals, etc., and think their personal situation may be better under the “evil” culture.

    On the inverse, I think there are a very rare minority of people that are willing to look at their situation, privileges, etc., and not only recognize the injustice, but willingly give up their slice of the pie in the name of fairness, justice, equality, etc. Usually they just find reasons to try to justify their unearned wealth/power/privilege, and then go about making some grand spectacle of whatever half-assed displays of support they offer to other organizations and such fighting for equality…

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