After yet another series of race-related shootings, America doesn’t seem to be changing, it’s eating its own. The Guardian has been documenting police shootings since 2015, to date, its almost 570 shootings in 2016 alone. That’s a big number, and that’s a big problem. But, the social backdrop hasn’t changed, and why is that?
Because most Americans don’t really care about racism. No, we’re too worried about whether our favorite football team won or lost. Or whether or not the crack on our iPhone screen is going to cost us an arm or a leg. Racism is inconvenient in comparison to our entitlement. That’s one of the issues. Many might say its just apathy; that we don’t care enough. That’s not true. We care about a lot of things, mostly inanimate objects, but we really just don’t give a shit about one another. Racism just shows up at inappropriate times and so we just go about our lives as if it doesn’t affect us.
That’s the other thing. If racism doesn’t directly affect us, then it doesn’t even register on our radar. But, there is an underlying reason for this. A lot of Americans are selfish. Yep, I said it! I use that word selfish sociologically speaking. According to Pew Research results, 68 percent of Americans rated their fellow Americans as being selfish. Another common word aligned with selfish is egotistical. Friends tell other friends, “Oh, you’re just being egotistical!” as an insult. If someone is called “egotistical,” it’s not a good thing.
But, what does that mean? Well, according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy egoism, which is where we get the word for egotistical means:
In philosophy, egoism is the theory that one’s self is, or should be, the motivation and the goal of one’s own action. Egoism has two variants, descriptive or normative. The descriptive (or positive) variant conceives egoism as a factual description of human affairs. That is, people are motivated by their own interests and desires, and they cannot be described otherwise. The normative variant proposes that people should be so motivated, regardless of what presently motivates their behavior. Altruism is the opposite of egoism. The term “egoism” derives from “ego,” the Latin term for “I” in English.
Someone might say, “You’re not the center of the universe” or “The world doesn’t revolve around you”, these statements are examples of egoism. It’s where you make yourself the most important person in every room you enter. Notice, also that the antithesis is altruism. You’re not going to be concerned about someone else if you’re always spending hours consumed by your own life and nothing else. Our culture encourages egoism. Consumerism and the psychology behind it is all about putting yourself, your comforts, and your desires above anyone else’s.
Gun control is another example of putting one’s own desires above another’s value. When people approach their rights as something that is being infringed upon, and aren’t concerned about how their claim to rights might negatively affect their fellow human, that’s a derivative of egoism.
There was a French Psychoanalyst named Jacques Lacan who claimed that egoism emerges out of the love of one’s self to the point that the self is treated like a god. But, even beyond that, that we have these versions of ourselves that we try to chase after, and we chase them thinking they will make us happy and whole, but these images of ourselves will only create more pain.
In this sense, American consumerism, that which gives us these images by offering us to buy things that might make us happy, is actually the source of our pain. The persistent drive toward finding happiness is the source of our pain. That desire is also what immobilizes us to care about what’s going on around us. If we’re constantly distracted by our own illusion of happiness, then who gives a f*ck how the world is falling apart?!
Happiness is other people. If someone is in pain, we are too. We’re all connected. We all share the same history. Until we realize this, egoism will be the main protagonist in the human book of stories. Racism needs to stop. We can’t think in options anymore. But to do that, we have to lose our egos. We have to get rid of them. What symbolic act can you perform today to begin that process? Give up something that’s been holding you back. Then go give a shit about racism.
BEFORE YOU GO
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