Napoleon Bonaparte was a typical example of an egoist. He wasn’t renowned for his political abilities, prowess nor was he endowed with a high sense of culture. He had, however, a very highly developed drive for personal power, and every time he won, he attained a more glorious place in history; that’s what he was principally after.
The main characteristic of his personality was an especially developed intelligence accompanied by a relentless ambition. These attributes affected his judgement negatively, so he underestimated the English general Wellington as well as the weather conditions in the battlefield of Waterloo. As a result, the outcome was catastrophic both to himself and his troops.
There are Napoleons in contemporary history as well, in whom ambition and egoism in the name of motherland, religion, etc. dominate with terribly catastrophic effects on the peoples of the earth.
While morality may be a bulwark against the onslaught of barbarians in the sense that the latter lag behind in civilization and culture, it is used at will by the Napoleons in order to overcome the resistance of the people of the world. Then, corruption, cynicism, racism, and uncontained self-centeredness prevail. The means to achieve this is the use of concepts like remorse, sin, as well as the development of a sense of guilt in others. Behind all these lies a well-known, powerful conflict of interests, which nobody dares to contest either because of fear or due to an inner conflict of conscience since we believe we are serving institutions like freedom, faith, or the motherland.
For this we are ready to sacrifice our very life should that be deemed necessary by the Napoleons of the time.
The survival instinct prevails in people just like in all living beings and it leads us to aspire to become more capable and more powerful regardless of the social class we belong to.
The strength of this instinct is the source of antitheses, of conflicts, of wars, as well as of alliances and friendships. So arises the need to mask some of our desires. There enters human selfishness, which does not purport to procure for the basic needs as it does in other living organisms, but instead strives to expand its realm of desires. Desires, however, are not instinctual, so it all depends on our individual judgement whether or not we will become freer and more responsible beings.
Nowadays we know of countless ways to pinpoint our own shortcomings and particularly those in others and to categorize others with ease and to relate to others with prejudice, distrust, and narrowmindedness. But this does not make for improved relationships. As a result, a great deal of human potential is lost due to the lack of extra linguistic communication. Relating, then, a difficult process even though we may claim to have thousands of friends on Facebook.
With postmodernism in full swing, globalization has contributed greatly to our conscious awareness of the importance of relationships of mutual influences, of interdependence and of the development of international business.
It is an established fact that many multinational businesses claim larger profits than the gross national income of many a nation and this influences the politics of many governments.
The more conscious we become of interdependence the more distinctions fade between the self and the others or between what is mine and what is yours. So, the idea of a war is a pointless proposition.
In today’s world there is no more room left for selfishness. There’s only room left for the development of conscious coexistence. This, of course, does not mean that we are not interested in ourselves or don’t care about ourselves in the best way: it means instead that it can only be accomplished through coexistence.
Spyros Metaxas, Psychiatrist/Psychotherapist www.anotropia.gr