Tinkerbell, Egoism and the Structure of the Self Part 1
In the Disney movie “Tinkerbell”, Tinkerbell is born to be a tinker. She would love to be a garden fairy, but when she tries to be one, she messes it all up and eventually, she realises that she is meant to be a tinker. She is then a great tinker and she learns to value herself in this role, albeit an unglamorous one.
That movie disturbed me. Why couldn’t Tinkerbell be a garden fairy if she wanted to? Could the fairy community not have supported her with the training she would need to follow her dream?
There was a ceremony early in the movie, reminiscent of Harry Potter’s ‘sorting hat’ affair, where Tinkerbell’s role was chosen for her. It was as if her caste was cast in stone. She had to revert to it, in order to live a full life. One site about the movie concluded:
“Tink learns the key to solving her problems lies in her unique tinker abilities and discovers that when she’s true to herself, magical things can happen.”
But that isn’t what happens. If she was true to herself, she’d be a garden fairy. Tinkerbell learns to live inside the pigeonhole that had been there for her from her “birth”. If she is true to a self, it is a self constructed by and imposed on her by her society. She fulfilled the role society expected of her and she therefore found fulfilment.
All a bit “Brave New World”.
Do you think we should be true to ourselves? If so, what does that mean? What is your parting shot, your nugget of wisdom that you pass on to others? What would you say to the next generation? What would you advise?
In Hamlet, it is Polonius who, while advising his son, coined the concept:
“To thine own self be true”.
Many see this as a charge to be egotistical. There was a utilitarian spin though, that the purpose of being true to one’s self was so that:
“Thou canst not then be false to any man”
as a result of this honesty with the self.
I think that Polonius was recommending self-awareness and honesty with the self, rather than egoism: If one lives in the real world, then it is easier to be honest with others. Don’t live in denial and therefore dupe others into believing your self-imposed delusion. Fair enough. *Go Polonius*
If, however, “Be true to yourself” is about egoism, I have a problem with that. The self is so short-lived. There are so many of us that each self is so arbitrary. Being true to the self just becomes being self-centred. Which in turn is selfish. Which in turn is … not good. (I must be a utilitarian on some level…)
Maybe Tinkerbell was utilitarian. She perhaps realised that she should use her talents for the greater good and therefore saw fit to sacrifice her selfish ambitions. She was not true to herself – she was true to her people.
There is of course the argument that the egoist will behave like a utilitarian, most of the time – as by improving the greater good in general, the conditions will be more favourable should the egoist ever want to play the ‘self’ card in the future.
Perhaps altruists are secretly driven by egoism in the conscious or sub-conscious hope of some kind of karmic system kicking in.
For the Christian, the concept of the self is complicated:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galations 20 verse 2
So, it isn’t egoism, utilitarianism or even altruism in play. “To Christ’s self be true” would perhaps be the way forward. Now my brain is inverting itself:
In the Tinkerbell model, that would mean that you fulfil the role he would have you fulfil, therefore be of benefit to the whole community. In the Polonius/Laertes model, you would be honest with Jesus and would be therefore unable to lie to your peers. Ok That works.
However, what is the self? Each self is different – this we know. No one wholly shares an identity with another.
More to follow.
The structure of the self can wait.
The kitchen cannot.