An Egoistic Populace (2005)

Growing up as a child of the seventies, my adolescence in the eighties, and my young adulthood of the nineties, I have seen a change in society. From the free love of the sixties and early seventies to the video game explosion of the eighties and to the Internet in the mid to late nineties, people’s ideals and personas have changed. Humanity has depreciated within the populace and replaced with a generation that is self-serving and dominated by immediacy. Now, the public can connect to anyone at anytime and purchase anything at any time anywhere in the world; fast-food establishments govern the people’s choice for dinner in America. People have made consumption of both a national pass-time and neurotic obsession. Moreover, the advent of reality television and thus, celebrity reality shows has taken over the channels, because these types of shows underscore the narcissism in America. Trendy objects flood the consumer market with the latest modification for one to try and individualize it. This is in the hopes of one trying to maintain some type of identity within a populace. But that is a perpetuated myth by the conglomerate companies in retail, media, and music industries. These companies promote ideals for possessions and selfishness via commercialization and materialism, i.e., capitalism. The public psyche is thus, in a state of continuously desire. Principles created by America’s capitalistic machine. These independent entities condition the public to covet materialistic objects. Up to this point, capitalism has manifested an unhealthy and detrimental tenet for its inhabitants. Contemporary Americans, enable a neurotic perception, thereby promoting a society that is narcissistic and dominated by instant gratification; i.e., the populace subscribes to an impractical doctrine dominated by immediacy, possessions, and affluence.

Today, citizens in locomotion are constantly on their cellular phones talking excessively loudly, completely indifferent to the surrounding world and the right to privacy by others. The meaningless psychobabble of cellular conversations, dance in the air for all of humanity to hear. People are scurrying about in a frantic manner trying to get from point A to point B in as little time as possible, because time is money. Money changes hands and commerce dominates the stock market and everyone is making and spending money, going into debt. The importance of superfluous possessions is the public’s signature. Instant ownership of items or even people is somehow viewed as sophisticated ideal instead of castigating and refuting it. All the while, Government mendacities, military invasions, occupations, renditions, wars, and the rolling back of the public’s civil liberties, mean little to the consciousness of the average Americans. Of course, people care to a certain extent, but up till now, is anything changing for the better. Does the government truly have its public’s best interests at hand? Does the populace coalesce or unify and fight for their civil rights of others. Does equality and humanity, regardless of ethnicity or creed truly exist? Or does the populace enable a guise of humanitarianism? Sadly, the public engages in a theoretical matrix of convoluted egocentric virtues; and due to America’s neuroses, the public exhibits a cerebral disingenuous to others, i.e., the populace is self-absorbed, obsessive, and presents a phoniness to others. 

As a result, America presents a blasé or indifferent outlook to important and troubling issues, e.g., homelessness, the impoverished, the uneducated, the elderly, sexism, racism, physical, mental, and sexual abuse, health care, and social security are subsequently undermining our society; and this will produce horrendous repercussions that rock the foundation of a true democratic country. However, currently time dominates people’s egos, because capitalism insidiously corrupts the public’s mindset and reprograms it for vapid ideologues; i.e., senseless ideals. For instance, name brand possessions, lavish spending, and immediacy segregate the communities into classes, creating social disparity. The rich have everything because they can afford to; the middle and poor classes, produce merchandise that they in turn lust to purchase. This is a result of the populace’s unhealthy psyche, i.e., the people’s fear of being indistinguishable amongst others within a society. However, people contradict themselves by buying designer products to be an individual and impress their so-called friends, but when everyone else has the same name brands on, how is one different? Ostensibly, this ideal creates a blasé attitude because it reinforces an egocentric creed to pledge to. George Simmel asserts that in “The Metropolis and Mental Life” from his book, On Individuality and Social Forms in 1950. He contends that people’s individuality and independence is complex to maintain in a society. “The deepest problems of modern life flow from the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his existence against the sovereign powers of society” (324). This vain virtue is underscored in many generic music videos nowadays. Celebrities glamorize external objects or designer possessions; thus, exemplifying precepts of what constitutes so-called success and alleged individualism. For instance, male rapper, such as 50 Cent, wears identifiable designer labels and promotes a standard of living in over consumption. Videos such as these present rappers that live in excess; the jewelry, the philandering, and the designer labels are supposed to reinforce individualism. However, everyone in these types of videos are interchangeable or replaceable; hence, no uniqueness or individualism. New products, new faces, thus, new trends replace older ones with the same marketing fervor that the previous one had. Consequently, America’s ideals have spawned other cultures in other countries to mimic our materialistic principles. Other countries try to capture America’s personification of quasi-individuality and success. For example, Asian countries, such as China and Japan have adopted America’s capitalistic credos and pop culture. Both nations are into rap or hip-hop music and emulate the rap stars and the ideal of over consumption. Name brand items cost three to four times what they cost in the United States. 

This type of conditioning and manipulation of the public by the media and marketing companies is the antithesis of what morals are truly imperative within a populace, such as sociological, economical, and ecological principles; but sadly non-humanitarian ethics prevail today. However, Americans should promote strong family values, such as making one responsible for oneself, respecting others right to privacy and expression, and freedom of choice without imposing one’s own precepts onto another. Moreover, emphasis on education, the elderly, health care, social security, and global issues, would make the world a better place. Consequently other nations would take heed and try to follow our virtues of a true democracy. 

Presently, via television, papers, magazines, movies, radio, and Internet, the populace’s cerebral propensity for materialistic possessions and instant gratification is habitual. As a result, industrialist tenets of the media, in all venues, in conjunction with conglomerate businesses, condition the public to indoctrinate capitalistic creeds. And in turn, society will repudiate any sincerity for its heritage, culture, with the pitiful exception of displaced veneration for the fairy-tale stories of American history textbooks. Capitalism became the new “religion” in humanity, and therefore, truthfulness and equality dies. These narrow-minded cannons are accepted in other cultures too. Nowadays, America engages in wars for our government’s benefit, while Americans try to make as much money as possible in as little time as possible to live the “American Dream.” The explosion of the Internet and the commerce made many millionaires. Now there are entire huge businesses on-line, such as search engines as Google and Yahoo!, and investment companies, such as PowerETrade and Fidelity. Moreover, this has helped many established companies, such as Victoria’s Secret, Staples, Best-Buy, and Ikea. 

This apathy Simmel touches on, “Man is a creature whose existence is dependent on indifference” (325) because, he argues is due to over-stimuli of “city life” in a “metropolis.” Nowadays its gadgets, clothes, quasi-friends, and sexual partners all come at the expense of the obtainer’s neurosis of narcissism or in Simmelian terms, the over-stimulation of one due to life in a metropolis. Americans relinquish virtuous ideals of understanding, and kindness because they foolishly aspire to having many possessions and meaningless friendships and sexual relationships. The populace never comprehends that this is all resulting from a fear of being a solitary or self-reliant entity and the need for things to compensate this psychological void. Accordingly, American’s propensity for anything that can substitute a feeling of individualism or sense of superiority over others amongst the public is desirable; hence, all of the pompous standards of living by self-made millionaires, artists/celebrities, politicians, and on a smaller scale, by the middle-class. Ideologues of America and Americans need to change. Americans cannot continue to subscribe to such senseless tenets based on egocentricity. A lack of critical thinking and indifference for the status quo allows perceptions to remain stagnate. 

Juxtaposed to Simmel contentions are Thomas Kuhn’s assertions about perceptions and the lack of critical thinking. From his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962, chapter III, “The Nature of Normal Science”, and chapter X, “Revolutions as Changes of World View,” Kuhn outlines paradigms, paradigm shifts/scientific revolutions, and normal science. He simply states “A paradigm is an accepted model or pattern” (23). However, today, if one opposes these values and disengages from a socializing, people deem it as some type of social deficiency or anti-socialism. Therefore, humanitarianism is truly unattainable within the populace; because Americans follow popular trends mainstream dogmas. Understandably, one will never exhibit a healthy psyche and will thus, be in an intellectual coma or negative paradigm. “Given a paradigm, interpretation of data is central to the enterprise that explores it” (Kuhn 122).  Now, people are performing “normal science” of a prescribed capitalistic paradigm, which in turn has become the populace neuroses. And it will stay this way until an anomaly interjects itself; only then will there be a paradigm shift/scientific revolution. Notwithstanding, most of the public will carry on being blasé due to insular mindsets. No scientific revolution yet. Agriculture, educational systems, health care and social security can all fall by the waist side. Global threats, such as bacterial viruses, pandemics, war, and global warming plague our nation and the rest of the world; but they still persist. 

Therefore in contemporary times, or the “Me!—Now!” generation, the people’s innate need for immediate accessibility to everything will remain paramount; commercials will impose the psychosis of “get it now; do it now; don’t wait.” Suffice it to say, the media’s propaganda venue such as the television industry conveys many abstractions; e.g., commercials or shows, using, athletes, and celebrities reality shows for product endorsements and conditioning. Therefore, the avariciousness of retail conglomerates, marketing or advertising companies, the stock market industry, and the government’s military proclivity for invasion, occupation, and war has bamboozled America’s subconscious. Capitalism has supplanted idiosyncratic imperialistic cannons in a guise of democracy. This in turn only helps the rich and powerful to dictate to the lower class any ideal that they wish. And people accept this and continue their lives with no regard to the ramifications that these ideals breed. It is unfortunate that people do not pay attention, because if they did, they might be more empathetic and start to humanize other more as they should.  Eloquently emphasizing the duality and conflict of this system in the populace’s psyche are assertions made by Sigmund Freud, in his infamous “Second Lecture” from his book Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis in 1909. He contends, “Situations of mental conflict are, of course, exceedingly common” (7); i.e., the Ego, the Id, and the Superego work in concert, however, not always in accord, thus, conflicts between them occur. This he explains is due to the three specificities or regions of one’s mind: one’s ego or conscious mind, which understands the need for compromise between one’s Id and one’s Superego; one’s Id or unconscious/subconscious mind, which represents egocentricity, and one’s Superego or conscience/preconscious, which deals with morality, or the dualism of one’s belief of right and wrong or good versus evil. So, in psychoanalytical or Freudian terms, contemporary citizens are indulging their Ids, which conflicts with their Superegos, because of a superficial paradigm that endorses cupidity and instant gratification. The populace’s psyche is fluctuating between the two spheres of awareness. However, the public’s ego or consciousness is trying to rationalize all of its anxieties, insecurities, and compulsions, because its superego possesses moralistic creed and thus, ends up competing with its id or unconsciousness.  Moreover, one’s Superego splits into two subsystems or divisions, the Ego Ideal and the Conscience. One’s Ego Ideal deems the rules for moralistic conduct or ethical standards that the Ego must provoke; i.e., one’s endorsed parental value system of virtues. Contrastingly, one’s Conscience constitutes what inappropriate behaviors are; i.e., what is socially unacceptable, also indoctrinated by one’s parents. But since the public has not received proper or sufficient parental leadership, their values and perceptions are altered and for the worse. Friedrich Nietzsche illuminates this in The Genealogy of Morals, Good and Evil, Good and Bad circa 1887, in his essay, Nietzsche poignantly writes, “The two opposing values good and bad, good and evil have been engaged in a fearful struggle on earth for thousands of years” (52). 

Inevitably, capitalism remains at the forefront of America. The talons of capitalism cut society into two classes, the rich and the struggle middle-class or poor. A contention underscored in The Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in 1848. Marx and Engels inscribe, “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other, the Bourgeoisie and Proletariat” (109). This division of social classes prevents equality, enables and induces racism. Contemporary Americans have labeled and segregated the populace into two entities: the “majority” who are truly the minority—who are the rich, powerful, and egoistic; and the “minority” who are really the majority—who are suppressed by the wealthy to concede to materialism. 

The result, the “minority” people become saturated in a cerebral prison of lies imposed by the rich or
“majority”. Nietzsche writes, “The judgment of good did not originate with those to whom goodness was shown; that is to say, the noble, powerful, high-stationed and high-minded” (25); i.e., the rich, powerful, or elite supplant their set of values onto to the subordinate class. Keen marketing conglomerates and media advertisers deceive the public; these industrial entities have extorted annual incomes from the hard working “middle-class”. Simmel highlights this; he says, “The metropolis has always been the seat of money …” (326). So if the “seat of money” represents the metropolis, then the money generated is because the rich subsidize these industries; thus, they are the ones who benefit the most monetarily and socially.

Irrespectively, whether one uses Simmelian, Kuhnian, Freudian, or Marxism, when one can ascertain that society nowadays is splitting into two parts; therefore, one can discern that civilization is too capitalistic; meaning society concentrates on possessions rather than endorsing humanity. And with so many other important factors, issues, or global problems, why do we as a species continue to enable an insidious paradigm that is destructive and harmful? If we put our resources into beneficial ventures that help the world and protect all species of life, then the world and all living creatures will reap the advantageous rewards of these honorable virtues. Clearly, the world will be a better place if the populace financed better endeavors, such as education, homelessness, poverty, AIDS, health care, and Social Security. 

In theory, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City or Microsoft’s billionaire owner Bill Gates, could subsidize free housing or affordable apartments/homes for the impoverished; additionally, they could finance AIDS research and other top forms of infectious disease, Social Security for the retired, Medicaid and Medicare for the elderly and sick, and education for the future generation of Americans, but neither of them has done so, nor has any other billionaire or multi-millionaire done so. Unfortunately, presently, this oppressive self-satisfying persona imposed by capitalism and the affluent has defeated the community’s intellect. The powerful media company’s subliminally swift marketing campaigns, corrupt, and condition the populace’s mind. Promoting a neurosis of persistent desire or in Freudian terms, the id, which constitutes the “I want it right now”—“pleasure principle” is in conflict with the superego or morality. And until a Kuhnian scientific revolution or paradigm shift happens, citizens will linger in a Simmelian state of being blasé due to intensification of city life in a metropolis, thereby, allowing Marxism’s social segregation to persist.  So, rest assured, an egoistic populace will eventually fail, as did many past ancient empires, such as the Roman Empire, the Greek Empire, the Incas, the Mayas, etc; because the pendulum will swing too far to one side, causing an imbalance that will destroy the cornerstone of contemporary civilization. Simply stated, the fabric of society is only so flexible; Mother Nature will interject to ratify and eradicate the maladies in America, thus, restoring a natural order in the world. So, unless the populace enacts, evokes, or demands change in the name of humanity and peace, America’s egoistic populace will continue doing normal science, and thus, impede any scientific revolution/paradigm shift of happening. But that is the definition of an egoistic populace. 

Work Cited

Simmel, George. On Individuality and Social Forms: The Metropolis and Mental Life.
University Of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL, 1950.
Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press: 
Chicago, IL, 1962.

Freud, Sigmund. Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis: Second Lecture.
W.W. Norton & Company: New York City. 1989.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Genealogy of Morals: Good and Evil, Good and Bad. Dover 
Press: Mineola, N.Y., 1887.
Marx, Karl. The Manifesto of the Communist Party. Signet Classics: New York City, 
1848.


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