The Narcissism of Small Differences

The Narcissism of Small Differences
by Bevin Chu

November 1, 2009

Taiwan Independence Movement Banner reading: “Taiwan on one side, China on the other”


Champion of a “Taiwanese, not Chinese” ethnic and national identity desperate not to be mistaken for a “Chinaman.”

The China Desk: I recently stumbled across the following item of black humor about “The Narcissism of Small Differences.” Founder of Psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud once noted that people often feel greater hostility towards those slightly different from them, than those dramatically different from them.

Freud considered this an example of narcissism, because the emotional distress that individuals afflicted with the Narcissism of Small Differences is the result of looking into a mirror but seeing an intolerable blemish on one’s own face.

Hence the incomprehensible and irrational hostility self-styled champions of a “Taiwanese, not Chinese ethnic and political identity” feel towards “Chinese” (i.e., fellow Chinese on either Taiwan or the Chinese mainland).

Champions of a “Taiwanese, not Chinese ethnic and political identity” are deathly afraid of being “mistaken for Chinese.” God forbid anyone should lump intrinsically superior “Taiwanese” together with superficially similar, but congenitally inferior “Chinese.”

The narcissism of small differences most often applies to politics, but one of the best jokes on the subject pertains to religion.

The Narcissism of Small Differences

I was walking across a bridge one sunny day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over to him and said: ‘Stop. Don’t do it.’

‘Why not?’ he asked.

‘Well, there’s so much to live for!’

‘Like what?’

‘Are you religious?’

He said: ‘Yes.’

I said. ‘Me too. Are you Christian or Muslim?’

‘Christian.’

‘Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?”

‘Protestant.’

‘Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?’

‘Baptist.’

‘Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?’

‘Baptist Church of God.’

‘Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you reformed Baptist Church of God?’

‘Reformed Baptist Church of God.’

‘Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?’

He said: ‘Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915.’

I said: “Die, you heretic scum!” and pushed him over the railing.

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