[The 'I Matter' Illusion]

Multi-agent systems Philosophy Added on 24/02/2013

How many times a day do you encounter slogans like 'treat yourself with this and that product' or 'your choice of this and that' or even 'this and that is in this way for your convenience'? The idea that the world is all about you creeps everywhere these days, no matter whether you are buying a quick snack or a car, or whether you are simply walking on a street. While we cannot blame the advertisers for cleverly choosing words to sell us their product and profit from our over indulged egos, the danger of thinking in a self centered way is nevertheless there and becomes larger and stronger as one assimilates into the materialistic society.

It is hard to say when we started thinking this way. Why do some species like insects live in an ego-free society where the colony's well being is the most important thing and why do other species like higher mammals or some birds prefer an individualist way of life? Surely there is some evolutionary advantage to this behaviour, having to do with resources available to an individual or something similar. However, humans managed to perfect individual-oriented way of life way beyond survival and collectively craft an ego-centric illusion that one indeed does matter.

Among other things, one could argue that wars between countries or even the fight with crime have had a big impact on how we think today. We call heroes the people who die blindly and unnecessarily for the good a few leaders. We recruit the young and stupid with promise of being somebody important. We believe in law enforcement and its necessity and we are taught to praise those who are willing to risk their lives for it. Everyone should look up to the soldiers and crime fighters, because as Hollywood teaches, any single individual has the potential to save the day. Individualism means glory, heroism means getting people to love you. Is this really so? How many of us actually deeply think of soldiers as somebody to look up to? How many of us look up to single individuals in history and say 'I want to be like that person'? My bet is on not many. Because actions of the few get lost in masses of information that feed our brains each day. How is it then possible that still we believe our own actions will somehow be remembered and appreciated by people who we leave behind?

Despite of what we think, we cannot live and survive on our own. We are a part of the society and it nurtures us and it gives us balance. Yes, the society is made up of many individuals. But each of them is but a single drop in the ocean, insignificant in their own respect. Yet somehow we successfully manage to ignore the fact that there is over 6 billion of us and often believe we deserve the best, we know the best. Getting over oneself is something that is often not even considered these days. The question remains for how long we can ignore the reality as it is and how big of an impact it will have when it comes slapping us in the face. Perhaps one can only find a sense full self-realisation in the face of death. I would like to think it will be sooner than that.



Well there is a difference between individualism (which I am very much for) and egoism. I think thinking that you somehow matter in this huge pool of individuals is self-centered and egoistic.

Regarding policemen and especially soldiers I think we give these 'freedom fighters' a bit too much credit. Obeying a policeman and respecting him are two different things. If you want to respect a policeman on top of obeying do so because of his or her particular individual attributes not because you think you should think of them as heroes like the society/government likes to portrait them.
Ben Lowe
I can't say I agree with this, as personally I see the concept of individuality as a heroic attribute which would strip civilization to a homogeneous 'swarm' without it.

"We believe in law enforcement and its necessity and we are taught to praise those who are willing to risk their lives for it"

Are you saying we shouldn't respect those in law enforcement? :S

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