Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fictive Egos

When you get right down to it, the ego is simply the fiction we tell ourselves. It is an equal mixture of memories, emotions, dreams, aspirations and phobias. There is a certain utility to it in that it gives us a degree of continuity from day to day, but it is no more than a tiny boat that floats on the surface of our souls.

It is from the soul that the deeper emotions—grief, euphoria, terror—come. Emotions coming from the soul move; emotions coming from the ego flap in the breeze of the superficial.

When someone proclaims that they are going to “reinvent” themselves, they are committing an ontological fallacy, for a subject cannot be its own object, so whatever change is effected is shallow. Real change is possible, but that comes from the outside whenever trauma produces a fundamental change in our fiction.

The ego becomes problematic when it is given a reality it doesn’t deserve. Once the ego is reified it begins to erect thick walls with which to protect itself. The walls are especially thick because the ego is aware of just how ethereal it is. Everything outside the walls is seen as a threat to its fictive existence, so it is quick to lash out and inflict pain. It is an ego that clings to labels, both the labels it hangs on itself and those it hangs on the Other that it sees as a threat.

Reified egos thrive best in individuals with no core but the Self, where the soul has been lost down a nihilistic sinkhole. The Japanese philosopher Keiji Nishitani[1] points out that if we deconstruct everything except the ego, we are left with a crypto nihilism that can only be filled with noise and toys.

If the individual ego is problematic, the collective ego can be downright deadly. The collective ego is a product of the group. Nation states choke on them. The walls they construct are not only thick, they are armed as well. Most groups find it challenging to operate at an eighth-grade level. The nation feels more comfortable at a fourth or fifth grade level.

The deadliest national ego of them all is one that believes its ego is at the top of the food chain and that it has a moral obligation to convert all other national egos to its particular fiction. The most disruptive force on the face of the earth is national ego with a mission. Lesser egos are given a simple choice: convert or face the consequences, consequences that range from marginalization to death.

National egos produce toxic policies. The deadliest emerge from a roomful of old men (old refers not to age but to the strength of the steel in which the ego is trapped). Blood flows when the old men believe that this collective ego would be irreversibly damaged should it lose its “credibility” or appear “weak.” So, sabers are rattled, drones are put in the air and the fanged god of destruction stalks the earth.

All for a fiction.

[1] Religion and Nothingness


Seinbeetre said...

I would portray the Ego as an entity that consumes and misinterprets the soul, from whence all emotions stem. The Ego is something that needs to be directed instead of letting it direct. This is a difficult lesson that only few learn.
But here you will find my criticism of your post if I may. Real change, to the Ego as well as the soul is possible without direct outside influence (though it is indirect as one is the result of all experiences). Change however mostly occurs at such a slow pace that one does not notice it. At times however it can happen suddenly from within. Just a sudden change in outlook, for no apparent reason. Imagine it as living in a room without light. And after a long duration the light suddenly comes on and you SEE the room for the first time.
Admittedly, this kind of change is not experienced by many people, yet it is important not to deny an ordinary man and woman (what is ordinary?) the possility of change for better or for worse (what could be worse than a thug that believes there is no point in even thinking of redemption).
In conclusion change takes effort and true desire (not an Ego created desire) but too many people are controlled by their Ego to even dream it.

Case Wagenvoord said...


You make a very valid point, and I was not trying to deny the possibility of change. What I questined was the person who announces that "I am going to reinvent myself." That is the ontological fallacy.