History is, amongst other narrations, a long record of human suffering through the ages. Despite technological advancement, primarily over the past 150 years, the quality of human life has not improved qualitatively. This could due to the human penchant for destruction, which has still not run it’s course after 5000 years of human existence. The reasons for destruction has always been an insatiable hunger for greed and power, but these are only symptomatic of a larger human malaise – the ‘ego’. A simple definition of ego is that it is the sense of ‘self’ in each human. Unfortunately it is an inward and regressive aspect of humankind, making each of us focus on the “I” or “Me” – ironical because humans live in interdependent communities. The survival of humankind has been an outcome of this interdependence – but this has not been appreciated enough in its entirety, to prevent us from trying to destroy each other by which ever means. The unresolved question which remains to be answered – will humankind ever stop destruction to live in harmony?
If we were to attempt to answer this question, it is necessary to delve a bit deeper into ‘ego’ which provides some insight to unending destruction and conflict. It is been argued that there are two types of egos:
- Real ego (our very essence of existence, the consciousness that makes us aware and awake to reality)
- The false ego (narcissistic search for being loved, validated and appreciated – commonly referred to as ‘the ego’).
Each individual succumbs to the false ego and thus the endless desire for wealth and power, even if it means causing unbearable suffering to fellow humans. Perhaps human perusal for immortality, or making a mark in history as an alternate, is through acquisition of material gain and/or power which is uniquely identifiable to the individual . Upto early 20th century the initiation of conflict, for whatever reason, was always done by the monarchy. The general population of a historical nation state was influenced by a structured propaganda, that conflict was unavoidable for acquisition of economic wealth which was critical for self-preservation of that nation state. But the real reason was the ego of the king, which demanded more wealth & power to project grandeur. The wealth plundered in conflicts with another nation state was always appropriated by the royalty. There was never a social agenda in their mind. Some may debate that this was not true – but ever heard of prosperous serfs?
The narrative did not change after WW II, only the actors did. The monarch was replaced by a formal structure called the government, but which in turn is controlled by obscure powerful groupings. These groupings control the formal government due to their financial clout and thus control over the nation’s resources. Unnecessary conflicts are created in other nation states only to further advance their power and increase in their personal fortunes. It was recently reported that 1% of the population controlled 50% of the world’s wealth – and this is the 21st century!
Another illustration of the effect of ego is understanding failure of social experiments. Socialism propagated the collective good of communities based on equal distribution of wealth. It was supposed to be the answer to the ills of capitalism based on democratic centralism, a principle conceived by Lenin that entails democratic and open discussion of policy issues. It became communism under Stalin and controlled by the politburo. The concentration of power resulted in expansionist actions and the living conditions of the general population became no better than medieval serfs.
It is amply clear that the supremacy of the false ego in humans has led to the pursuit of wealth and power, which has resulted only in destruction and conflict. The situation can change for the better when the global population shrinks significantly over the years with natural resources more evenly distributed. Individually, we need to develop compassion and empathy in our subconscious thought and reach out to fellow humans with the spirit of acceptance& accommodation. It is only then that a more just and equitable society will be created for the collective good of mankind.
However the “I”, a part of the human existential being will always remain. Individuals will always aspire to fulfil their greed and not be satisfied with meeting only their needs. Consequently human kind shall remain in perpetual destruction and conflict……..at least in the foreseeable future!