Life's journeys: Language, culture, communication

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A society of egomaniacs?

Some people think they’re unhappy because they don’t get to meet enough of their personal needs. I think we’re unhappy because we’re too damn focused on our personal needs. Focus on the other person for a change.

Some people think they’re unhappy because they can’t satisfy their ego enough. I say we’re unhappy because we indulge our ego too much. Our ego is blocking the view.

One thing is certain. We’re being instrumental to our own misery. We lack metaphysics. We live artificial lives in unnatural environments and structures, full of big dry self-centered ambitions that lead to nowhere.

Out here in the (aging) Western world, we’re more protected than we’ve ever been, but we’re also more afraid than ever. Go figure.

Are we just old? Or too spoiled? Or both? Have we lost our ideals? Who and what are we living for? What do we derive our inspiration from? We’d have to believe in something first…

It seems we live in age where we just can’t find the right balance, the right kind of ferment for our spiritual growth. Too much chaos is bad because it generates excessive violence and a counterproductive recoil towards an idealized past. Too much security is bad because it turns the majority of us into sclerotic wimps AND feeds the extremist pipeline with those who cannot put their fervor and aggression (both natural characteristics up to a certain point) to better use in our society. These people look for leadership, excitement and a firm “vision” in the wrong lot. They are attracted by the “greater good” ingredient in these fundamentalist ideologies –  but they do so (mis)guided by their own narcissistic agendas.

Let’s face it however, there is a dire lack of inspirational alternatives, both east and west. What, after all, does our society put on the table in terms of grand ideals capable of galvanizing people towards brotherhood and a common goal? Moneymaking? Notoriety? A fancy wedding the preparations of which last longer than the marriage itself? Let’s be serious. A big fall is guaranteed. I am talking about sound, essential ideals that go to the core of every human being.

Some societies have too many unemployed young males vying for a sense of purpose in a macho society. Others, such as ours, have completely emasculated their males (I still equate “real man” with “real sense of responsibility”) with easy success, too many comforts and debauchery. The former blow themselves up in crowded places, the latter implode and are plagued by depression and vice.

Western society has not only legitimized but also encouraged selfishness for the past 50 years. Now it faces a dilemma: how do you implement the painful reforms needed for survival with a population used to always being on the receiving end? The peoples of Europe got used long ago to forgoing individual responsibility for their lives and putting their future in the hands of the almighty State. Now the State has failed them. Try taking the candy away from a child who was used to getting his daily “dose” of sweets. Turns out the State was not such a bright parent, after all. It ran into terrible debt not daring to take the child’s candy away and paying those high dentist’s bills. The almighty State did something else, too, by indulging the child. It made the child dependent and instilled the sense of entitlement in his brain. So a society of little pampered egomaniacs ensued, their only vision – preserving the status quo. For the most part, they have forgotten what it’s like to get up and do something for others, for free, once in a while. For free. Unbelievable. Unheard of. But quite a big source of happiness and cohesion. Not to mention survival.

How stable is a society built upon fierce individualists? Does it not wobble? Can a society of egomaniacs ever survive? Can there even be a real functioning “society”, per se, among egomaniacs?

The only true hope lies in shifting the focus from the self towards cooperation and community. It is a wonderful Christian paradox that by giving freely from that which you yourself do not possess enough of (patience, kindness, resilience, assistance, food), you yourself will be replenished. Call it the multiplying effect of love and altruism if you will. It truly IS happier to give than to receive.

What good has ever come from cold indifference?…


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