A native of Las Vegas, I am appreciably au fait when it comes to narcissistic excess and abjection. One might even say an expert in ennui. Lo my surprise in discovering San Francisco to be an adroit polis of merrymaking, especially when it comes to Halloween. Halloweekend in the Bay is a scintillating theatre of consumption, an opiate utopia, rivaled only by Pride Weekend, 4/20, and, recently, the Women’s March. Aging millennials descend upon the streets in lurid costume, lubricated with plump bank accounts and a cornucopia of drugs. I follow suit, stopping at a corner store for cigarettes before attending a house party. I walk to the back of the line, stand behind two skimpily dressed high school girls, and eavesdrop their chatter. Standard talk of pep rallies and house parties ensue, interspersed with the occasional Snapchat selfie. Eventually, this gives way to a sobering discussion of professionalism. GIRL 1 is under familial stress to enroll in AP Calculus. She wonders if passing with a low score is more detrimental than enrolling in regular calculus. At least, GIRL 2 relays, Stanford weighs GPA over coursework, but Ivy’s do consider transcripts. Learning a third language might be an alternative. Maybe coding? GIRL 2 wants to give up the clarinet but worries of a threadbare college application. GIRL 1 ponders the risk of pursuing a fine arts degree over a STEM degree. They contemplate if a gap year would provide clarity. Still, it should inform an application essay. A Euro-trip or successful Etsy shop might render time-off worthwhile. Fraught with genuine concern, the discussion continues until they reach the register. Such tales are commonplace in these parts, where enrollment in private school is a blood sport and acceptance into a prestige college is a matter of bloodline and bribery. These anxieties are not new but appear magnified in Generation Z, especially in the Bay Area. Two buzz worthy N-words come to mind having witnessed this teenage display: narcissism and neoliberalism. Christopher Lasch’s treatise on the former paints any evocation of the word with a reactionary glow. Indeed, romantic reveries of the past fall flat for anyone with a less than ideal identity construction. Nevertheless, his diagnosis of pervasive narcissism metastasizing at the close of the twentieth century profoundly resonates today. A vulgar reading of Freud and Lasch understands a healthy balance between self-love and love-for-others to be disturbed when the latter cannot be fully expressed.[1] Enter the narcissist, frustrated by an inability to love they locate the problem as themselves. “Why don’t people like me,” they ask, desperately searching for an identity to win the approval of others. A dogged and often commercial investment in self inevitably comes at the expense of community, further siloing the narcissist in their own house of mirrors. Subsequent self-loathing and doubt transmutes into misanthropic rage, rage that people don’t understand me, rage at the state of global politics, rage that COWORKER took the last cookie. A charming and agreeable façade, crafted for others’ approval, masks the seething anger, shame, and vacuity of the narcissist. The West’s collective pathology is a direct result of external socio-economic structures that have, for lack of a better word, castrated our ability to forge meaningful relationships. In his lectures under The Birth of Biopolitics, Foucault understands the primary impetus of neoliberalism to be the extension of market logics into the social body. Thus we find our austere fixation with investing in “human capital,” in accruing social and economic standing through innate and learned characteristics.[2] Whether raising a child, regulating institutions, or navigating coitus, the frameworks of bureaucracy, use value, and contractual agreement are employed. When every actor is in competition and every interaction an exchange, narcissism is the only way to survive. Thus, grandiose optics built to manipulate others describes advertising as much as the 21st Century Westerner. The anxiety to maximize one’s potential economic value is inescapable, born from a realistic material impetus and propagated via popular media. Take, for instance, the Kardashian Dynasty. Self-validating rhetoric of hard-working businesswomen abounds, though upward mobility and middle-class jobs dissipate at a pace equivocal to aforementioned family’s rate of surgical enhancements. To transform oneself into the ideal capitalist subject requires a brutal level of discipline in accruing capital, developing skills, and securing pedigrees. It is no wonder the general populace fails to form meaningful bonds, preferring instead the dopamine hit of an Instagram like or the misanthropic savagery of a comment war. The concerns of the girls in the corner store, while born from an incredibly privileged vantage point, reflect a precarity that’s universal, though unevenly afflicted. Numb to the chaos and cutthroat carreerism of postmodern life, the narcissist most desires to feel, to commune, and this is no more evident on Hallows’ Eve. Leaving the gas station girls behind, I arrive at the house party. Everyone adores everyone’s costume; compliments distract from the judgment and jealousy behind dilated eyes. Substances are swallowed to quell the nervous ego and raucous acts are performed for social media, solidifying the event as a good time. As the night wanes, some engage in laissez-faire sexual relations, while others swipe through Grindr, Tindr, Bumble, or Blendr hoping for the same. We all wake up the next day feeling the same as any other day, despite the hangover. Halloweekend in the Bay is not the reverie of Bakhtin’s carnival, joyous and debaucherous, relishing in transgression and challenging the status quo.[3] Nor is it the pressure valve Umberto Eco theorizes, venting repressed ideations to reaffirm the boundaries of civil society.[4] Such endless partying is the manifestation of a young bourgeois careerist class desperate for human connection. Having chosen jobs and follower count over community, we feebly tap at screens lusting for likes, waiting to fall in love. Our start-ups and corporate platforms boast of “town halls” and “team outings” as though colleagues are a substitute for community, as though digital networks aren’t exacerbating our alienation. This essay itself is a narcissistic act, born in solitude and tinged with an egoistic rage against the social order. Character descriptions laced with misanthropy, implicating my own superiority beneath the veneer of satire. Trademark millennial self-deprecation and pseudo-self-awareness mask the insecurity and anger buttressing my diagnosis of generational narcissism. Sown at birth through relentless competition and investment in human capital, this crippling inferiority complex, this shame and self-loathing, afflicts the entirety of my generation and the next, producing an army of narcissists.   [1] Freud and Lasch [2] Foucault [3] Bakhtin [4] Eco