The final scene in the movie shows Nicholson proudly walking up and down the bridge, making his last inspection when he discovers a wire connected to explosives that were set by an allied demolition team. He and the Japanese Commander follow the wire downstream, flushing out the allied soldier set to detonate the bridge. The soldier stabs the Japanese commander to death; but Nicholson--who is supposedly on the soldier's side-- begins to yell for help and then personally tries to stop the soldier from detonating the explosives in order to protect "his" bridge. Suddenly, Nicholson, in horror, comes to his senses and exclaims, "What have I done!?!"; falls from a mortal wound, and accidentally detonates the explosions that destroy the bridge. As an observer in the movie notes, it is madness.
I want to focus on Nicholson for a moment, because his behavior is a perfect example of a type of narcissism of the extreme 'selfless' variety". I thought I would go into this in a little detail since several readers asked questions about it when I linked to this post that discusses it.
Colonel Nicholson becomes so narcissistically invested in the Bridge and his role in creating the structure, that he loses all perspective of the larger picture and ends up betraying his country and the very values he believed he was supporting by working with his captors. The moment when he suddenly realizes that his commitment to an abstract ideal has led him and his fellow POWs down the path of betrayal is the climax of the movie.
Nicholson was not a bad man--on the contrary, there was much about him that was quite admirable. He simply gave into fantasies of his own self-aggrandizement and rationalized it as something heroic. This is his speech to the other POW's when the bridge is finished:
But one day, in a week, a month, a year...or that day when, God willing,we all return to our homes again...you're going to feel very proud of what you have achieved here in the face of great adversity.
What you have done should be...and I think will be...an example to all our countrymen...soldier and civilian alike. You have survived with honor. That and more. Here in the wilderness you have turned defeat into victory. I congratulate you.
It might have been more heroic to resist doing a good job for the enemy or to subtly sabotage their efforts. Yet, in a very narrow way of thinking about it, Nicholson is correct. He and the other prisoners survived and they turned their personal defeat into a victory of sorts--but at a huge cost to their country and those who were still fighting. They had facilitated--in a time of war--their enemy's abiity to wage that war against their comrades. Nicholson was immersed in this narcissism, he failed to recognize it for what it was: aiding and abetting the enemy. He was so caught up in maintaining his own and the other prisoners' self esteem, he became willing to sell out his country.
It is even more interesting to note that the "selfish" and cynical Commander Shears (portrayed by William Holden) who repeatedly states that he's in it for himself, ends up exemplifying the very values that Nicholson has betrayed.
This story may remind you of the pathetic behavioral display of the recent British hostages in Iran; but actually, they were simply frightened and poorly trained soldiers. Nicholoson's "selfless narcissism" is far more relevant to the behavior of certain high-ranking American politicians.
The Democrats and their glorious leaders, who have become so narcissistically invested in this country's defeat as a political strategy to accumulate power and "restore American honor", that they have--wittingly or unwittingly--decided to sell their countrymen out to the very enemy they are currently fighting. They mean well, of course. They do it for those wonderful 'selfless' reasons--like "peace" and "social justice" and all. They really support the troops .
Let's just ignore the fact that they bear considerable responsibility for the ongoing violence and death of our troops as they enable and encourage the priorities of the enemy. Why should the terrorists alter their homicidal behavior? It is working! People like Nancy Pelosi are living proof of the effectiveness of their strategy.
And, Pelosi, the Democrats and their even more narcissistic leftist base are not even POWs--except insofar as they have been traumatized like the rest of this country after the attacks on 9/11. You might expect that some psychological denial and even some neurotic displacement would be fairly normal for a brief time after such a trauma.
But now, it is clear that they are deliberately choosing to cooperative and negotiate with those who have repeatedly stated--clearly and concisely--their intent to kill us or make us submit to their will. And, like Nicholson, they are proud of their actions, even as those actions lead to more deaths.
Nicholson's "selfless" narcissism is a form of narcissistic sociopathy (or alternatively, antisocial behavior that is frequently referred to as "malignant narcissism") . This is the type of narcissism that dominates the mind of the utopian collectivist. The typical leftist collectivist almost always considers his or her actions as altruistic and selfless, yet interestingly, the end result of their selflessness often causes greater harm for other individuals and for society in general.
In that earlier post I linked to above, I wrote:
The unopposed Grandiose Self gives rise to tyrants big and small; to megalomaniacal dictators and dictator wannabees; to unbelievable corporate greed and plundering; and to the typical criminal sociopath in all his/her glory. The damage that such individuals do in individual relationships, in business, in politics and in all spheres of human behavior, is well documented and appreciated in the world. Most children are abjured repeatedly never, never to be "selfish". To always consider others. Laws are set up to protect people from victimization at the hands of these unrestrained grandiose monsters, unable to see other people as distinct individuals separate from their own self. These "others" exist only as the means to achieving their own desires.
But far more menacing to humanity is the unrestrained Idealizing side of the self that seeks only the utopian and the perfect; because that person has access to an unlimited potential to cause human misery and death. This destructiveness of this collectivist mindset dominated the 20th century. The countless dead bodies that are the direct result of the malignant narcissism of people who meant well and whose intentions are always so good and sincere are quickly forgotten because they died as some nations, religions, ideologies attempted to implement their IDEAL in the real world.
This second type of evil is more subtle, and it derives from the ethics of the IO side of the self. The IO also does not see other people as distinct individuals with needs and desires of their own, but only as fodder for the expression of an IDEAL; or as pawns for the wishes of a deified GS. People with this narcissistic defect completely reject the needs of the individual and enslave him or her to the service of their IDEAL. Eventually, the enslavement--whether religious or secular--snuffs out human ambition, confidence, energy, self-esteem, and life. These mindlessly malignant "do-gooders" -- like the Nobel Laureate mentioned at the start of this article-- do far more harm than good and their ideologies can lead to genocidal practices and unbelievable atrocities on a grand scale, all in the name of an IDEAL or GOD.
The Democrats and the political left are cheerfully whistling Colonel Bogey's March as they proceed down this "selfless" path to achieve peace and stop the war (and, they hope, to regain the White House for their political agenda). But, just as Neville Chamberlain stupidly betrayed his countrymen and his values in the lead-up to WWII, they are only paving the path and building the bridge that will lead to more slaughter and injustice.
There are two kinds of "selflessness". One derives from the humility and insight that comes when both the grandiose and idealistic sides of the self work together. This psychological synthesis leads to true benevolence and is psychologically healthy for both the individual and the society in which they live. And then there is the kind of narcissistic and self-serving "selflessness" we see regularly displayed by the thoughtless, irresponsible, and destructively pandering Democrats (and many Republicans for that matter--what ties them together is that they act only out selfish interest, but despicably disguise it as selfless); as well as most of the morally righteous, posturing members of the political left; whose self-aggrandizing antiwar antics only lead to prolonging war and increasing the number of deaths as their own fanatacism serves to inspire and encourage the fanatical jihadists. Those jihadists must be rolling on the floor laughing, as they prepare their next suicide attack against the troops.
Pelosi trots out Tom Lantos as her "moral authority" because he happens to be a Holocaust survivor. Indeed, the Holocaust is a good moral lesson to learn from, particularly since the very people that Pelosi et. al. want to negotiate and have tea with are actively planning the next big one. But, like Pelosi, Lantos' supposed 'selflessness' in this matter is self-serving and driven by his own hubris.
If you want to tap into some real moral authority regarding the Holocaust, then you should look to someone like Elie Wiesel who truly speaks for the dead of WWII's Holocaust. When he is asked, if he can personally forgive those who perpetrated the Holocaust:
"It depends. If it were an individual person, of course I could. One person coming up. But for the whole . . . Who am I to forgive?Later, when talking about the jihadists, he notes:
Fanaticism in the name of God is a real problem now, with the jihadists . . .Those people who kill for God make God into their accomplice, an accomplice to murder."
Pelosi and the Democrats also seem willing to become accomplices to murder. Just as Colonel Nicholson was so narcissistically wrapped up in his own personal pride and failed to appreciate the big picture; so too are Pelosi and her ilk.. They refuse to look up from their personal political agendas long enough to apprehend the consequences of their behavior and can only assess it by how important or good it makes them feel.
Like Colonel Nicholson, they will one day come to their senses and exclaim, "What have I done!?!" when they realize what they have betrayed.
NOTE: The intrepid readers may want to read/re-read the following posts which lay the intellectual groundwork for this one:
Narcissism & Society Parts I-III
The Narcissistic Dialectic
The Narcissistic Synthesis
Malignant Narcissism- Sociopathic Selfishness and Sociopathic Selflessness