This book showed me in many ways that I have become a very bitter woman. I don’t think I am an egoist because I am sort of filled with self-loathing aThis book showed me in many ways that I have become a very bitter woman. I don’t think I am an egoist because I am sort of filled with self-loathing and seldom know what the right thing to do might be, but I can still see the charm in this book of short essays and articles dealing with everything from egoism to the sexual lives of the disabled to selling used books.
Blake’s style is erudite yet irreverent and breezy, almost to distraction at times. And god this book could have been better edited. It actually fell outside of my bitchy upper limit of what I can endure in regards to errors in books, but it was charming and intelligent enough to make it still worth discussing. You will also encounter words like “siphonophore” (a sort of man-of-war water creature) and improving your vocabulary via arcane words is a good thing.
Let’s begin this discussion with Blake’s definition of egoism:
Egoism is the claim that the individual is the measure of all things. In ethics, in epistemology, in aesthetics, in society, the Individual is the best and only arbitrator. Egoism claims social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual. Such impediments may be tolerated but they have no special standing to the Individual, who may elect to ignore or subvert or destroy them as He can. In egoism the State has no monopoly to take tax or wage war.
Yeah, yeah, I see the appeal but in this respect I’m a pedant and anti-intellectual to boot – if I can’t see it working in real life I can’t really discuss it in much depth. Philosophies that end up stating that one of their tenets is that the State cannot tax or wage war cause me to want to discuss whether or not Ariel the Mermaid should have exchanged her fins for legs and if the exchange was worth it. Both discussions occupy the same head space in my brain. Let’s discuss how many mermaids can dance on the head of a philosopher!
But even if I am philosophically stunted these days, there is much in this book that resonated with me.
“My Crowded Fist Theater Shouting Fire at the End of Your Nose” is a very short essay on the egoist approach to freedom of speech. It’s an important chapter in an increasingly baffling world where people who claim to be liberals insist that limiting speech they don’t like is, in fact, a democratic good. That calling a fat person a fat person, however pointless or nasty such a statement may be, should be a hate crime. That college law classes need to censor the word “rape” in legal courses so as to avoid triggering rape victims who presumably decided to attend law school knowing that crime exists and they would need to know about legal remedies afforded rape victims and the legal defenses offered to accused rapists. Again, Blake’s glib tone can seem distracting at first but he summarizes very well much in modern discourse that annoys the everloving fuck out of me.