Wednesday, November 02, 2011

In Defence of Egoism

I'm frequently chastised by my friends of being an 'egoist'. Their reprimanding tone doesn't surprise me because our society has such an ingrained fear of independent spirit that any person with even a hint of selfishness is automatically branded as bad. What makes me laugh is that people who otherwise are fairly intelligent fall for this kind of thinking. After all, a little bit of common sense is all that’s needed to understand that egoism by its pure definition CANNOT POSSIBLY be a terrible thing!

Merriam-Webster defines egoism as "excessive concern for oneself with or without exaggerated feelings of self-importance". So it is actually a very personal thing. But our society completely distorts the definition to claim that an egoist is one who doesn't care about others and so is a horrible person. Two problems with this. One, just because I care excessively about myself doesn't mean that I don't care about others. The two things are not mutually exclusive. The second problem is this 'concern' for others. Just how much concern am I supposed to show others to be branded noble? I strongly believe that I don't need to be in love with everyone around me to be a good person.

I'm a decent person, but I'm not wonderful to everybody. I believe that people need to be treated in the way that they deserve. So I'm nice to people who're nice to me and to people I like, I'm civil to strangers and acquaintances and I'm 'not very nice/almost rude' to people who disrespect me.

Note that I said 'people who disrespect me', not 'people who don't respect me'! This important difference is forgotten by our society when it denounces egoism as an unpardonable sin. Not actively respecting a person is not the same as disrespecting a person. There is a middle way and that’s civility. I believe that we all have a basic obligation to be civil to others, that’s it! You need to be civil to everyone at the least, to 'not disrespect' others, rather than to go out of your way to 'respect others'.

Being egoist means being aware of one’s self-worth. This is completely independent of others. I can think very highly of myself without thinking any less of you. I know what I am and it doesn't interest me what you think of me. I don't need the validation of others. Nothing wrong as long as I don't actively disrespect you.

This is egoism at its purest. An acute awareness of one’s self-worth independent of others' opinions. An independence of thought and a sense of security that precludes the validation of other people. Thinking highly of oneself without thinking any less of others.

P.S. : I'm a pacifist, NOT an idiot. If I tolerate mistreatment it’s because I do not like confrontations. Some take it as a sign of weakness. Maybe it is. Worse, there are those who mistake my weakness for stupidity. Shame!

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