Thursday 21 July 2011

To be bouyed-up with conceit


I have met quite a few famous and eminent people, and my impression of many - indeed most - is of people buoyed-up with conceit - cheerfully and aggressively bobbing-about on the surface of the world; unsinkable; self-righting; indifferent to the vicissitudes of wind and weather - if pressed down, only to pop-up again somewhere else wearing the same fixed grin or grimace.


It is, perhaps, not exactly pride that they exude; but something lesser: an air of being enormously pleased and excited by themselves - of life as a series of opportunities for showing-off to themselves.

This is a disconcerting recognition when I have, for example, admired a book by that person - have perhaps even sought-out the meeting.

Disconcerting, and indeed dismaying; since there is not only an absence of human contact or of engagement but - apparently - no possibility of it.

Which is real-est, the book or the person? Going back to the book holding the key of the personality can also be a dismaying experience- because it often seems clear that the book was primarily motivated by the same conceit, and that I had been fooled into reading-into it, something what was not really there.

Perhaps I am sensitized to this matter - to the possibility that someone may have self-conceit as their modus operandi, dominating over decades, presumably unto death - since I have myself experienced it for short periods: a heady delight at my own wonderfulness such that little else seems to matter but that the rest of the world be allowed to share in it.

At any rate, my impression formed  over many years is that the Western intellectual elite - up to the most elevated level - consists mostly of people of this general type: irrepressible, smug, and fiendishly energetic.



dearieme said...

To which I might add: if you ask them a question - or advance an argument - that foxes them, they respond with astonishment and loathing. So emotional do they get that you can often pull off a second coup before they recover to imperturbable bull-shitting mode.

They don't like it up 'em.

Alex said...

Apart from their self-conceit which is indeed irritating, the intellectual elite functions as a Patronage Society. From inside this network of privilege, the members promote and appoint each other to plum jobs etc.

Chris Patten, (Baron Patten), is a pattern of what transpires within the Society. He has been MP for Bath; Minister for Overseas Development; Secretary of State for the Environment; Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; Chairman of the Conservative Party; Governor of Hong Kong; member of the European Commission; Chancellor of the University of Oxford; and is now Chairman of the BBC Trust.

Lord Patten may be a very able man, but it's doubtful he would have got his many preferments without being a paid-up member of the PC Club.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex - He was also Chancellor of the place I work - although I never met him so cannot confirm or refute his membership of the b-uc brigade.

Another type I have met is the charm irradiating type: celebs who are so charming that it is intoxicating, and you forget what you are supposed to be asking them. These people are often very selfish and very bad at their jobs (serially) - yet somehow people don't mind because the charm merchants make them feel so good.

The Crow said...

When you meet an ego, you know it.
A foray into the surreal, where one becomes aware that nothing is actually taking place, and this encounter leads to nowhere.
There can be no bridge from the real to the surreal.
No communication, no exchange.
I know a man who epitomizes this. Charming to a fault, and yet one leaves a splendid encounter with the feeling of being robbed. Empty. Confused. What happened there? Well: nothing.

Brett Stevens said...

While I think egomania is part of it, the modern symptom seems to me to be more competitive than anything else.

When you cannot construct anything, really, and must select from what exists, and are thrown in without a hereditary role among millions clamoring for the exact same objective, what results is a "crab bucket": a pile of people trying to climb on top of each other to get to the top.

This is why people use conceit, pretense and ego as -- in my narrow view -- a weapon: they use these things to find a way to be comfortably oblivious while they act selfishly. I think for the most part these are self-preservation instincts, although we do seem to be awash in predator-parasites and sociopaths.