Egotism is the most common fault of mankind. Product of the perfectly natural desire to display oneself, egotism which is an exaggerated form of self-display can take such a variety of shapes that it is not always easy to discern them. Beyond any shadows of doubt, however, it is a personal defect that ought to be constantly hunted down and scotched, for it impairs the personality and frustrates all efforts at self-improvement. This is the easily recognizable form of egotism that is evidenced in the person who continually talks of his own affairs. You must all have met the kind of man who is never happy save when recounting his exploits and experiences in life and whatever subject he may begin discussing you feel quite sure that he will sooner or later arrive at himself. Although such a blatant kind of egotism is apparent to the onlooker, it may not be so easy for the egotist himself to recognize his fault.
Next we come to the individual who holds strong opinions and insists on forcing these opinions on to others. He constantly lays down the law he knows and he jolly well insists that one should accept his viewpoints. Here again there is not a great difficulty in recognizing the egotistical aspect of this conduct although it is not so easy to remove such a defect for a person of this kind is generally possessed by a fiery temper but again it can be done and recognition of the defect is the first step towards it’s cure.
There are two other well known types of egotists, the over precise person and the officious one. The former offends by his meticulous habits, his insistence on having everything just right, just right, generally connoting the way he personally wants to be. The officious individual succeeds in making himself most disliked because of his detestable habit of always showing or telling other people how to do things. He will glibly appeal to duty, he will continually find fault with another’s way of doing things and point out the immense superiority of his method. In his own eyes, he is always right. In the democratic countries intelligence is still being free to ask whatever question one chooses. Resistance to suggestion can be built up in two ways. Firstly, children can be taught to rely on their own internal resources and not to depend on incessant stimulation. This is doubly important. Reliance on external stimulation is bad for the character. Moreover such stimulation is the stuff with which propagandists bait their books the jam in which dictators conceal their ideological pills. An individual who relies on external stimulations thereby exposes himself to the full force of whatever propaganda is being made in his neighborhood. For a majority of people in the West purposeless reading, purposeless listening to radios, purposeless looking at films have become addictions, psychological equivalents of alcoholism and morphism. Things have come to such a pitch that there are many millions of men and women who suffer real distress if they are cut off for a few days or even few hours from newspapers, radio, music or moving pictures. Like the addict to a drug they have to indulge their vice not because the indulgence gives them any real pleasure but because unless they indulge they feel painfully subnormal and incomplete. Even by intelligent people it is now taken for granted that such psychological addictions are inevitable and even desirable, that there is nothing to be alarmed at in the fact that the majority of civilized men and women are now incapable of living in their own spiritual resources but have become abjectly dependent on incessant stimulations from outside.
How can children be taught to rely upon their own spiritual resources and resist the temptations to become reading, hearing, seeing addicts? First of all they can be taught how to entertain themselves by making things, by playing musical instruments, by purposeful study, by scientific observation, by the practice of some art and so on. But such education of the hand and intellect is not enough. Psychology has it’s Gresham’s law, it is bad money that drives out the good. Most people tend to perform the actions that require least effort, to think the thoughts that are easiest to think, the emotions that are most vulgarly commonplace, to give in to the desires that are most nearly animal. And they will tend to do this even if they possess the knowledge and skill to do otherwise. Along with the necessary knowledge and skill must be given the will to use them even under the pressure of incessant temptation to take the line of least resistance and become an addict to psychological drugs. Most people will not wish to resist these temptations unless they have a coherent philosophy of life which makes it reasonable and right for them to do so. The other method of heightening resistance to suggestions is purely intellectual and consists in training young people to subject the diverse devices of the propagandists to critical analysis. The first thing that educators must do is to analyze the words currently used in newspapers, on platforms by preachers and broadcasters. Their critical analysis and constructive criticism should reach out to the children and the youth with such a clarity that they learn to react to forceful suggestions the right way at the right time. What for eg, does the word ‘nation’ mean? To what extent are speakers and writers justified in talking of a nation as a person? In what sense can a nation be described as having a will or national interest? Are those interests and will the interest and will of the entire population? Is it not only advisable but also essential to think in terms of all the above details so that meaningful progress is promoted thus make democracy thrive better. One should surely try and leave the habit of egotism as it spells bad luck and disaster and can never do anyone any good.