*ahem* Anyway, to address the subject of the controversy. In the little maze of words I have developed to express the idea-complex I call Chaos Marxism, "ego" is defined as that part of you which has developed with the express goal of survival in the Real World of Horrible Jobs. (See Aphorisms 2:123 and 2:132) Ego is the part of you which:
- can have relationships with other people.
- can acquire the goods and services necessary for survival and personal fulfilment.
- has opinions on politics, sport, music, the weather, other people, etc.
If anything I've said here could be taken to read that I advocate the annihilation or "amputation" of the ego, I've done something terribly wrong, because as you see above, the ego is bloody useful for many things. If you don't have an ego, then you have to be locked up for your own protection and people have to feed you pre-chewed mush so you don't hurt yourself with cutlery. And if you have a weak ego, you will be dependent on any weird identity, religion or other memetic device which will prop your ego up to be able to face the world. This is especially true under capitalism. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, ego is more necessary under capitalism than at any other time in history, because this is the time when the isolated individual is supposed to look after themselves independently of social networks.
However, a vital tenet of the CM approach - which doesn't appear to be in the Aphorisms yet, which probably means I need a third volume - is that since a successful ego is one which enables you to live well and comfortably in the world-as-is, it is not fit for the purpose of changing the world-as-is. This of course will explain why revolutionary parties are full of flakes and weirdos, i.e. people who haven't got that kind of well-rounded ego, so they're a bit outside the whole system. Like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in They Live, if you're not the people the ads are speaking to, you can see the true horrror in what they're actually saying.
However, as said above, the weaker the ego, the more Ego Comes First. What this means in practice is putting the practical needs of the movement (changing the world) behind the needs of the ego (finding a niche where people like you and you can feel good about yourself). And so the party becomes a sect, a substitute religion, a lifestyle choice. So many people who escape the clutches of Big Brother just end up falling for the first Little Brother/Sister who tells them the lies that they want to hear (usually some variation on You Are The Chosen One). So the opposition to the system is recuperated, because the essential problem - the dominance of the Ego and its needs for an identity, for a place to call home, for attention - is still the same.
So what is the way out? Simply put - to have a strong Ego which is under control. This is the purpose of the Greater Work/Jihad which I outlined in "One Key and Nine Commitments". It requires the essential insight that YOU ARE NOT YOUR EGO. Your ego is a tool. It's something that you created for a purpose, and your job is not to look after its needs. Quite the opposite. What you really are - let's call it "True Self" until someone suggests a better term - has nothing to do with ego, which, as we've explained, is all about your physical and social survival and wellbeing, identity, and place in the world. "True Self" is... well, what really moves you, irrespective of all those social games.
Robert Graves, professional poet and amateur theologian, suggested that the true test of poetry is whether it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. For "poetry" substitute whatever gets you metaphysically high. It might be BDSM play. It might be the first thirty seconds of "Squonk" by Genesis (1975) (fuckin' brilliant bass line). It might be petting your dog. WHATEVER. If you can find that source of "poetry" - the language of your soul - you have a way of looking after yourself irrespective of the ego. Look, even bloody Weight Watchers has figured this out - that so many people become fat because they are eating, not for their bodies' needs or even for pleasure, but to plug holes in a fragile ego, or at least to numb the pain. Anything that you do for its own sake, for the joy of being there and existing, is the voice of your True Self. Feed that as much as you can. Anything you do because it gives you some kind of identity or place in the world or plugs a psychic gap is feeding Ego. Put it on a diet. No, that does not mean starve it to death.
I do like the metaphor of the ego as a dog. I don't want to hurt the friendly dog, but he and I will be much, much happier if he learns to stop begging for food and humping my leg.
Also, Christopher mentioned in the comments:
that sort of dancing nascent insight on this blog that really does seem to come from a stream of consciousness singing about a great deal of interconnected ideas that haven't been systematically joined, and perhaps never will be.
Yeah, that's about right. Posts on this blog are as spontaneous as anything I ever do. I get a Burning Thought - oft-times during prayer or meditation - and rush to this blog to put it in vaguely presentable form before the buzz wears off, which really is a kind of verbal "dance". This is a problem for the medium-term project of putting this into a book. I write for publication as well, and that's a completely different style of writing, and I'm not sure how well it will translate.