No one like that word, “ego” in polite company. Even in the company of big fat egos, no one is going to admit to it. It has a bad ring to it, because of it’s surface form “egotistical”, which actually means something more like “arrogant.”
An ego, says Freud, is the mediator between you “gut” (your id), and “reality”. Nothing much to do with “egotistical”.
The ego (Latin “I”) acts according to the reality principle; i.e. it seeks to please the id’s drive in realistic ways that will benefit in the long term rather than bring grief. At the same time, Freud concedes that as the ego “attempts to mediate between id and reality, it is often obliged to cloak the Ucs. [Unconscious] commands of the id with its own Pcs. [ Preconscious ] rationalizations, to conceal the id’s conflicts with reality, to profess … to be taking notice of reality even when the id has remained rigid and unyielding.” The reality principle that operates the ego is a regulating mechanism that enables the individual to delay gratifying immediate needs and function effectively in the real world. An example would be to resist the urge to grab other people’s belongings, but instead to purchase those items.
What makes a leader, and really the only thing that makes a leader, is the ability to make decisions. I differentiate between “choices” and “decisions”: you make a choice between Prada and Louie V; you make a decision to drop the Atomic Bomb on Japan. Of course, there is a sens of “choices” in each case, and it’s not just the gravity of the choice that makes it different in my mind. Maybe I would concede to calling decisions “hard choices”.
But that what a leader has to do. Because nobody else wants to. Because the masses want to have what they want, without seeing the guts of the thing slaughtered to bring it to them. Everybody wanted George W. Bush to make a decision after 9/11. Nobody wanted to be the one, however, to make that decision. Now, no one wants to take credit for the negative fallout from that decision. Nobody, but a leader, wants to make decisions.
Adults – ha, ha – are supposed to make decisions. The kid wants candy. You have money for candy, candy is available, you love your kid. You also know that fat kids without their teeth exists. You know about entitled generations of kids who expect to get everything they want. This is more like Hiroshima, than Prada – unless you want something more substantial. Your teenager wants to smoke pot. You smoked pot when you were their age (and you still do, you hypocrite!). But, it falls to you to make a decision. You may have to lie, which may teach lying, if you are caught. Pot may not be bad for you, according to results. But you know a lot of people who kind of stumbled through high school. dazed and confused, because the power (not so much wisdom, just power) to decide when to be very stoned was not with them. So, you really do have to make a decision with your kid, in this case. It involves some truth that they can’t really handle – as with many decisions.
Abraham Lincoln have been an egoist. He sent 620,000 men to their deaths. In relative terms, that ouwld be 6,000,000 men, today. The disease and destruction was widespread. The country was destoyed, along the lines of Afghanistan.
What would his popularity ranking be today?
More important, what exactly was that decision? Did those 620,000 men die, leave 3 times that number of wives and children homeless and vulnerable, for emancipation? The Emancipation Proclamation, actually. Do you think that anyone got emancipated? If you saw that the KKK was still free to burn and rape one hundred years later, would you say that anyone got emancipated? Would Martin Luther King, Jr. have been assassinated if those 650,000 lives had really bought his race freedom?
Nobody knows. And frankly, it doesn’t seem like anybody cares. All those Civil War dead, are dead. But the issue here is, no one knew then, either. And then was the time the decision had to be made, or not. But somebody, this leader, had to wake up with such a sense of self importance in the morning, to get out of bed and say “650,000 people must die horrific deaths, and the country must suffer greatly, for some big reason.” And we don’t really know if his reason was Emancipation, or economic, or, whether he was just an egoist, at the level of megalomaniac. Hitler killed 600,000 Jews – about the same number – for some crazy reason, and everyone left that decision to him.
Because creating and destroying human life must feel, to these guys, like God. If you believe in God, then you may have asked God, “why did you kill all those people on the plane from Malaysia?” Like you were expecting an answer – or an apology. And you were expecting the answer to make sense to you. But instead, God is silent about those things. You probably wouldn’t understand.