We all have an ego. Most of us would prefer to use the expression ‘self-esteem’ because for some reason it lessons any sense of self-importance implied by the shorter word. Ego is a perfectly good term and its strength lies somewhere along a continuum that runs from ‘inert’ to ‘huge gravitational pull.’ I suppose that an ideal strength-level for a reasonable ego would be self-confidence borne of principled competence and character (and thus representative of compliance with The Second Resolution).
Some, however – usually those most vociferous and combative on Twitter in my experience – suffer from an excess, an over-confidence borne from being right, once, then venerated for it regardless of their actual knowledge or character. Or they have truly, expertly specialised in one field only to be asked their opinion on things well outside their Circle of Influence – and they freely give it, uninformed as it may be.
To my mind you can often tell the difference between modest, controlled, ‘self-respect’ level ego and the ‘ooh, look at how clever I am’ ego merely by watching a conversation (verbal or Twittery) take place.
A comment is made, and the reply is:
- a straightforward attack with no effort to address the argument originally made (huge ego),
- a question with an evident sub-text (high ego),
- or a genuine question or provision of alternative, researched facts (principled ego, which is borne of a desire to check or clarify understanding).
(Another weird one I have seen is when someone genuinely knows something and asks someone else ‘am I right in thinking…..’. That might not seem egotistical on first glance but in that case the sub-text is ‘Tell me again how clever I am.’)
Have you committed any of the sins described, or do you try as hard as I do to be in the third group? I am not always successful. Sometimes I have missed a crucial point and go off on one. But in the main I try to be in group 3, asking questions to seek clarification or providing some kind of reference for my thinking.
Unfortunately there are also those who you know will make their same arguments, or attacks. You know this, in the main, by the language they use about their opponents in the debate. Reference to people they have never met by the various insults available just demonstrate how ignorant, rude and ideological they are. A case in point.
In the 1980s a new, alternative comedy arose. On the face of it, great. No more stereotype humour based on race, religion or mothers-in-law. Meanwhile, lampooning silliness on the part of politicians remained de rigeur. Then the pendulum swung the other way, and now the abuse is directed by name, using words which were banned from use on TV until the late 70s. Politicians are no longer just lampooned for their acts. They are call the c-word. By name. They are fat-shamed, which wouldn’t be permitted against fellow celebs or the public, as a rule.
The comedians responsible for that should be ashamed of themselves. Some of them are exceptionally talented, funny gagsters. But I now find myself turning the off as soon as they start their ideological diatribes, and definitely move on when their personal abuse starts.
I hope their egos can cope. They must need a garage or second home for them.
If your objective has any nobility about it, you don’t need the language. You certainly don’t need the language if your argument has any merit. If you have any character, you don’t need the ego-boost of looking clever by bandying bad language at those who, much as you might think otherwise, can’t hit back using the same weaponry.
Although to be frank, I look forward to the day I hear Boris Johnson call Russell Howard a c**t.