General Question

serenade's avatar

What do you know about the concept of "the narcissism of minor differences"?

Asked by serenade (3784points) February 18th, 2012 from iPhone

I just came across this idea recently and feel like it’s something I should understand, but I don’t know how valid an idea it is or where to start in understanding it.

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8 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

It refers to a tendency all too common to place great emphasis on those details that we see as setting us apart from others. In other words, we ignore the overwhelming number of things we have in common with others, and focus in on the few differences, because these differences are what seem to define us as individuals. This reinforces the sense of self and keeps us feeling out-of-the-ordinary, but of course it’s also what keeps fueling conflicts with others over stupid little points of difference.

Jaxk's avatar

I just want to be different. Like everyone else.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

It is the foundation of most the world’s enduring cultures and religions, and informs most of their doctrinal decrees and laws.

Small differences give a group identity, as not that group. These identities are then reinforced by law or religious tenant. Consider food purity laws; admonishments not to eat certain foods, made distinct one tribe in ancient times from their almost identical neighbor. “God has told us not to eat oranges, because only wicked people eat oranges.” The people from the next town over will almost always love oranges.

Jeruba's avatar

religious tenet

MollyMcGuire's avatar

I think the concept was born here.

I looked at a few articles and this one might help you.

6rant6's avatar

@MollyMcGuire Here, meaning what?

Earthgirl's avatar

MollyMcGuire Good reference point.
Serenade I am curious why you felt like it’s a concept you “should” understand. Also, in what context did you come across the idea? Was it in reference to some type of conflict?

To answer your question though, I do not know much about it as a term per se, but I have recognized the dynamic involved. People do seem to have a need to differentiate themselves and feel special. Many people have family, clan, religious or tribal loyalties that make too much of minor differences. Being proud of who you are only seems to create conflict when it seeks to prove superiority or impose laws limiting freedom. This tribalism can be exploited by unscrupulous political entities in order to achieve their own ends. The gap between people an/or cultures then widens. The only way to fight it is to look for areas of common values and common goals.

Jeruba's avatar

Presumably this is not something we see much of in members of collectivist societies—? The idea of distinct individuality plays out somewhat differently in, say, London and Pyongyang. Generalizing about Western cultural traits as if they described the whole world is going to mislead us when we come to dealing with people from widely different cultures.

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