Ego is Echocide before Ecocide — Işık Barış Fidaner

Narcissus-Caravaggio_(1594-96)_edited

Narcissism takes place in the imaginary but this is not its essential determination.

The Greek myth is usually summarized as follows: Narcissus falls in love with his reflection in a pool and he is thereby condemned to stare at his beautiful image until he dies. And the usual lesson goes like this: Your Ego is a dangerous lure! Always be suspicious of excessive self-love!

In Lacanian terms this translates into a generalized suspicion of everything imaginary and a determination to rely on the symbolic order instead. This is not a wrong approach but it’s a limited interpretation of the myth because it skips the beginning of the story. Narcissus’ regression to the imaginary actually has a prior cause.

Why did Narcissus fall in love with his image? Because he was lured to the pool by Nemesis, the goddess of revenge. Why did Nemesis do this to him? Because Narcissus had rejected and expelled Echo. The narcissistic trap of his Ego was his punishment for rejecting Echo. What does this mean?

Echo was a mountain nymph who was condemned to repeat the last words that she heard from her interlocutor. Echo loved Narcissus but she could only repeat what Narcissus said to her, which quickly annoyed Narcissus and made him reject and expel Echo.

In brief: Narcissus was trapped in his visual reflection (Ego) not because he turned his back to the other-in-itself, e.g. the natural environment that surrounds him (Eco), but because he was unable to bear his own vocal reflection in the other (Echo). This vocal reflection is the repetitive real aspect that delimits the symbolic order and induces desire.

Thus Narcissus’ actual intention was not to kill or banish the other living being in order to assert his own visual reflection. His true intention was to kill or banish his own vocal reflection in his interlocutor, in other words, he truly wanted to stop the propagation of his own desire. He wanted to tame his own desire and turn it into a pleasurable wish. Narcissism is not due to an imaginary cause, it is due to a real cause. In psychoanalytic terms, Ego is a fetishistic trap, but it actually owes its effect to the rejection of Echo, the symptom.

Isn’t the ultimate narcissist Otto Weininger who found women at fault (or rather, in default) essentially because they are unable and even unwilling to construct an Ego like men do [1]? Weininger rejects women just like Narcissus rejects Echo. To have an existential basis, the man excludes the unbearable symptom of Echo, but he is left with the fetish of his Ego. By obsessively eliminating hystericization, he finally finds himself in perverse waters, no longer able to maintain proper symbolic relations. This is the essence of neoliberal privatization which led to an age of post-truth.

Now let’s approach the climate crisis. Ecocide is surely a great problem, but Echocide is the more fundamental problem that is the true cause of the ongoing Ecocide [2]. As long as Narcissus continues his efforts to kill and banish his symptomatic Echo, he will remain condemned to be dedicated to the indefinite (re)construction his fetishistic Ego.

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner

Notes:

[1] Otto Weininger (1903) Sex and Character.

[2] See “Echology, Echosystems, Echocide”

Painting by Caravaggio.

6 comments

  1. Oh my gosh, I love the idea of the ego as a response to get away from the confronting echo (of himself reflected by the other).

    And I’m really curious about its link to ecocide and the ecological crises.

    Liked by 1 person

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