Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 673, June 3, 2012

"This is the strangest era ever,
in American politics. So far."

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Identity Without Ego and Self-Actualization
by Christopher McAllister

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
—Nelson Mandela

Newborns do not know hate. It is obvious with nothing more than a passing glance that ideological hatreds must be learned from those charged with shaping young minds; after all, the statement that ideological anything must be learned is tautological. The world's social problems do not stem from anything innate to human nature. The division and strife we see resulting ultimately in heartbreaking cruelty is purely a result of certain inculcation.

Because human beings are naturally tribal, one might be tempted to contest this starting premise. Cognitively there seems to be a limit to how many individuals we can relate to concretely as fellow human beings (known as Dunbar's number, or colloquially as our monkeysphere). Whether this be true or not, however, has no bearing on the general attitude toward those we can only relate to in an abstract sense. Instead, it can also be taught that these nameless/faceless others are also human beings—just like we ourselves are—rather than something slightly (or greatly) less than human. Even the bigot can do this with the social faction they favor for privilege.

The hate of prejudice is born from an irrational fear. That root fear is born of things we learn, and it is fostered by a particular intellectual shortcut granted us by evolution. If you live in a predominantly black neighborhood, you'll likely see most crimes committed by black people. This of course makes sense as it is the biggest group from which to draw. The conclusion that black people are more likely to be criminals, however, is symptomatic of the mental shortcut I speak of. It is not critical. It is crude and lazy, the intellectual equivalent of relying on brute strength to get your way. A less crude assumption is that it is something about a particular subculture, but stopping there is also crude and lazy as one should learn about the origins of that culture, which will lead you into the history of slavery, global imperialism, a trend of your own original intellectual laziness in the broader culture, etc. But I digress.

Of course, such mental shortcuts need not be applied to personal experience. One of the great double-edged swords of our uploading of data to culture via language is that it can be used to pass on not only good ideas to successive generations but also bad ones. To overcome this, one needs to get to a position where one can begin the process of self-actualization.

Self-actualization is a broad and vague term adopted by many a theorist. In this context I mean it to mean the overcoming of rote culturization to a place where one can evaluate things critically and introspectively based upon one's own evaluation of reality apart from what one is merely told. It requires a confidence in self as the ultimate authority on evaluating reality; after all, if you pass the buck to an authority figure on how to judge reality, then it is you who has judged the judger as credibly authoritative and so it is ultimately you who makes this judgement, not them. Do you wish to be their intellectual slave? I would imagine not.

Once you begin to respect yourself as an individual apart from the culture that you are a part of and begin to make judgements not based upon what your culture has implanted in you (ego) but upon your own respect for your own intellectual sense, then you will begin to see judging groups in common is as silly as someone who judges you so. You will begin to understand everybody is such an individual and so judge them as individuals. It is not black people that steal, though it can be a black person who has stolen from you. It is not homosexuals that spread aids, though a homosexual certainly can. You get the point. It is along this path that you begin to understand what the ego is and how the ego is not who you really are but what you are told you should be by authorities not worthy of judging you. As you are your own ultimate authority, only you can grant ultimate control to other authorities over yourself. You begin to drop the judgements of others as your own and begin to form a structure for judgment that is you. And as you do so, you begin to see that all the things you dislike in others are all the things you're dropping from yourself. You begin to see that it's not others that you dislike, but the fact that others are not being themselves, they are being what they are told to be. As you discover who you are beneath your ego, you will begin to see the real persons beneath the egos of others.

In my opinion, if everybody discovered this then they would begin to be open to others. They would seek to help others be themselves. This is a muti-layered effort. Just as you will begin to understand what you wish to do to help the world, you will begin to wish to help others discover this. You will begin to wish to help others accomplish their goals so that they can be fulfilled in being authentically themselves just as you will like aid in pursuing your own goals of authentic self. Your arms will open and you will embrace the world for the joy of living.

This is what I mean when I say that when humanity is in the right place, we will acquire wealth so that we might help others to do so. I hope I do not need to point out that wealth is not merely a material thing.

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