The Ego Crisis

by Philip Damico  /  @philipsdamico

Ego is defined as a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. These days we take for granted the size of our egos but I believe it wasn’t always this way and today I want to look at both why and when this deficit of humility began and how it continues to this day.

The growth of self importance in the average person can be connected to a few different ideas, namely the decline of religion and monarchy and the rise of consumerism and humanism. As the sun set on Feudal England around the 1300s, this way of life was replaced by a set of ideals largely borrowed from rediscovered Greek and Roman texts, summed up best by Thracian philosopher Protagoras – “Man is the measure of all things”. In this time Europe saw the birth of thriving money economies, scientific and technological advancements and most important of all, an increase in social mobility because people were no longer living in the shadows of their local knights and lords. Slowly – over centuries, in fact – people were able to make something of themselves with little more to thank than their own hard work and dedication. And at this same time religion experienced a transition from being a driving force in many people’s lives to sitting firmly in the backseat for all but the most devoted believers. Relatively short-lived moments such as deism in the 17th and 18th centuries are good examples of religion’s decline as atheism was not yet socially accepted yet it creeped up in academia all the while.

The industrial revolution, marketing and planned obsolescence so strongly promote acquisition of goods that the lines between virtue and affluence have been obscured. We’ve come to worship those who have more than us, those who perfect their appearances so as to treat themselves like works of art or, so to speak, royalty. Yes, indeed I think the point can be made that we’ve grown to satisfy the urge to worship by worshiping ourselves instead of gods or kings.

Now I’m not saying that society isn’t better off than it was in the medieval period, because it is. However the negative consequences of post-medieval society have flown under the radar for many years and I think only now, in the last hundred years or so, have they begun to cross the line of what is acceptable and what is not. People who have the nicest clothes and the nicest makeup are not virtuous. They should not be looked to as a source of wisdom unless they act as one and do it correctly. Internet personalities, TV stars and musicians that blindly mimic platitudes from the current generic left wing mindset are not an example of that. They are saying those things to stay relevant. Learn to make this distinction. Class plays almost no role in the mind of the consumerist. We all consume the same music, watch the same movies and play the same video games.

This worship of self, this rejection of objective standards is destructive and eats away at everything we’ve worked for as a people. A lack of objectivity means that contemporary acts of “social justice” can quickly mutate and become acts of making taking from the rich and giving to the poor, like some annoying, Robin Hood. It’s just not sustainable. It’s easy to justify anything and everything when you have no higher moral code to answer to, and that’s exactly what’s happening in our society right now. Our egos, fostered by entertainment and money and technology have led us to believe that we can justify anything. And we care about ourselves too much. Now I don’t mean to tell you that you have some duty to people that you’ve never met nor will you ever meet. We neglect not only our duty as global citizens but as local citizens too. We don’t pay attention to our friends, family or neighbors because many of us are too preoccupied with expressing ourselves in useless, wasteful ways. I’m not saying that I want society to become a technocratic meritocracy full of worker bees and scientists that live to extend our species’ lifespan. That would be boring. Nor am I claiming that we need regress. We are incredibly lucky to be where we are in history and we foolishly misuse the tools at our disposal. The fact of the matter is that at this time there is a serious deficit of national identity. People care more about their own pride than the strength of their nation. Long gone are the days of sacrifice other than the sacrifice of your sleep for just one more hour of scrolling down Instagram. And listen. I’m not saying that we should revert back to some abstract, heroic, artistic vision of what the revolutionary war was like. What I’m saying is that consumerism, combined with relativist morals, has driven us to the brink of collapse. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and our hands have never been more idle than they are at this time in history.

Almost everyone who will watch this video lives in a post scarcity society. We forget that every single day there are humans with the same intellectual and physical capabilities as us who struggle to get their basic needs met. Many parts of the world are centuries behind us in political and technological development. Not because of inherent flaws but because of environmental challenges that would stifle any developing society. Maybe we’ll never be able to rise above our tendencies towards egotism and self-importance. Maybe humans have always been like this and nothing I hypocritically say or write will make a difference. But maybe, just maybe, the bubble will pop. We’ll tired of self deification and pay attention to each other. Stop investing so much money into our appearances. Start improving ourselves and learning of our own volition. It’s a lot of work but it’s better than trudging through our existences, satiating our base, emotional desires with the internet and suffering from terminal apathy.

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