Your Better Self > Primal Injunctions > Meaning of «Restrain Evil» > Varieties of Egotism

Varieties of Egotism

Egocentricity primarily reflects a failure to see unity-L"7 when needed. However, repudiation or abrogation of the other Primal Injunctions reveals additional ways in which egotism, and hence evil, can be allowed to manifest.

Heed What's Right-L"6

Recognizing what's right is often obvious, but heeding may not be personally gratifying. In complex situations, it may not even be obvious, and this particularly encourages rejection of the Injunction. However, that means surrender to the pre-eminence of your own impulses, ideology or personal preferences irrespective of any obligations. Such egotism, evident in its milder form as selfishness and self-indulgence, is obviously dangerous. Persisted with, it eventually leads to a tendency «to reject any constraint on doing what you want whenever you want».

The next step in this downhill slide involves turning selfishness into a social entitlement. That means nobody should even dare suggest that you restrain yourself even for your own good, much less for the good of others.

In decaying societies, following catastrophes or in war-zones, ignoring what's right can lead to a person becoming submerged in the flow of events. That leads to «doing whatever everybody else is doing regardless» and an «everybody for themselves» attitude. Breakdown in the social order is likely, with the loss of ethical sensibility worsening an already tragic situation.

Do Your Best-L"5

Repudiation of doing your best means that mediocrity will rule the day and outcomes will be poor. With loss of creative input, work and life then trends towards the mechanical and the routine. In turn, this leads to dehumanization of work activities, and deterioration in the social environment.

The seriousness of evil here is rarely emphasized. But, in any work situation, awareness of needless harm to one or more stakeholders often leads to the response: "but what can we do?", and the answer to that is: "Do your best—be creative and find a way forward."

Care About Others-L"4

This Injunction recognizes that we should experience ourselves in relationship with others, near and far. Just as you don't want another to walk all over you as if you don't exist or your feelings don't matter, you must not behave like that to others.

Egotism here is commonly labeled narcissism. The mythical Narcissus, was exceptionally proud, disdained those who loved him and died by falling in love with his own watery reflection. Without having such a full blown personality disorder, everyone is vulnerable to experiences of superiority, of disconnection, feelings of entitlement and unrealistic demands for admiration.

Narcissism may show as emotionally destructive states like envy and jealousy that actively hurt what is good in relationships. Narcissistic self-absorption and self-preoccupation can also generate more general indifference and neglect of others.

Giving in to narcissism means having little interest in others to the point of disconnecting personally. The desire for admiration and adulation may lead to contact with masses of people—as evident in most politicians, many evangelical preachers and some celebrities. Communicating then occurs in ways that feed lower impulses like imitation, excitement, greed, superiority or revenge. Lying and manipulation, the very opposite of caring, come to dominate interactions.

Become Aware-L"3

Becoming aware is resisted because it so often wounds the ego. Events do not proceed as well as they should, either ethically or practically, due to:

Refusal to become aware can show up as •gullibility •superficiality •thoughtlessness •mindlessness, •denial •turning a blind eye.

The consequences of such negligence may be mild, but you can never know that beforehand. Negligence can be a form of recklessness that triggers a chain of events leading to catastrophe. According to reports, the BP 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an example of multiple incidents of negligence that, together, may well have had a global impact.

Hold Ideals-L"2

Actively repudiating ideals is serious because it is equivalent to a direct attack on values generally and therefore on what is good.  So criminals and the power-obsessed both regard goodness as weakness, and view ideals as foolish dreams. Extreme relativists are also reluctant to evaluate individuals or communities against ideal standards.

Hiding personal ideals may be ego-protective where the culture is intensely pragmatic. If survival is the issue, that makes sense. However, in any situation, turning away from ideals makes you unable to bring out the best in yourself or in others. Even if it is covered up by dynamism and pressure, the result is an expedience-driven, half-hearted and partly devitalized state of affairs.

Egotism may also feed the mishandling or perversion of ideals e.g. by imposing unrealistic expectations on others; or by becoming a «do-gooder» intervening at the wrong times and in the wrong places; or by justifying harmful but ego-satisfying choices. Political correctness appears to be evil in this way.

Get Enjoyment-L"1

Getting enjoyment differs from the rest in that it is supposed to be egotistic: after all, you enjoy by gratifying your wishes. But selectivity is required. Egotistic ways of getting enjoyment can get out of control and lead to excessive indulgence or avoiding responsibilities. This is likely to harm oneself and others.

Harmful egotism manifests as a killjoy who actively rejects fun and blocks the pleasure of others. Any form of joylessness or nursing of misery can easily lead to a pessimistic mood that is enervating and demotivating. Pleasures can then get perverted so that loveless sex, substance abuse, sadism or masochism develops.



Originally posted: 7-Dec-2012

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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