Ego-fodder, colluding in crap activism and lousy parenting

All in a couple of hundred words!

is my term for the “audience” at any event that has not been designed for genuine cross-clique mingling. Ego-fodder is the people sat in rows listening to the sage on the stage. Ego-fodder is what is done to innocent people by….

Except… Stop the tape. It finally occurred to me today the level of collusion in this. Yes, the people at the front want their egos stoked and stroked. Yes that is endless and destructive. But the ‘audience’ wants – for the most part – to be infantilised, to be “taken care of.” We want parents to blame, we want parents who will take care of us. We surrender our autonomy, our ability to make connections, to forge (in every sense) our own paths. We allow ourselves to be seated, bored and patronised. In exchange, we get to offset responsibility for our own education, our own movement-building.

The parents (not “adults”) at the front of the room want children who will obey, and be dutiful and respectful. But it’s not as if the audience is all rushing for the door marked “adult.” Through that door are the horrible fearful rooms marked responsibility, uncertainty, self-mastery.

Better to suck the thumb, suck the dummy. Watch the powerpoint. Listen to the plenary. “There there, it was just a bad dream. Sleep. We are here to protect you.”

* With thanks to Sarah, for being ego-fodder for me. No, wait…

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6 Responses to Ego-fodder, colluding in crap activism and lousy parenting

  1. Antonio Dias says:


    Or, “they are there so we can blame them…” Applicable from either side of this divide.

    Insights are available in broken containers. Maybe that’s the only place we can find them.

  2. leavergirl says:

    John Michael Greer is organizing yet another “sage on the stage” event… ( and so I picked up the pixel pen and wrote to the man on the ground of the apparently lovely venue in Pennsylvania. And politely suggested Open Space. Who knows… he might even write back.

    But I think they will not stop until people refuse to show up.

    • dwighttowers says:

      I think you are right. As long as the ego-food keeps coming, why change your eating habits? That’s incredibly selfish and stupid and short-sighted, but this is humans we are talking about here, after all…

      • Antonio Dias says:

        This brings us full-circle to our first short conversation in LLangollen.

        How does demonizing one side of a relationship further a positive change?

        How does accepting and even defending the self-induced infantilism of the poor “consumers” of “Ego-fodder” do anything but confirm their right to be pandered to, only in a “nicer” and hopefully less obvious, perhaps more pernicious way?

        For myself, I expect, and work from the assumption that whatever there may be of value within any exchange is likely to be enmeshed in superficial, hell! even quite profound, confusion and noise. Signals are never clear, unless they are the result of a truly nasty effort to set up a particularly smooth form of manipulation. To expect that others are incapable of sorting this out, and that they need my “help” smoothing the way for them, to me, seems like a sign that I should be more interested in replacing one form of manipulation with another. It is a sign of a profound distrust in people’s ability to sort out their own situations.

        Many, hell most people! seem unable to do just that, but maintaining them in a condition in which they are only trusted to remain pawns, means to someone else’s ends – in this case “my ends” instead of somebody else’s – is profoundly unhelpful.

        How is this particular”injustice” any different from countless others? How does fixating on an ever expanding circle of “bad guys” help anyone at all? This appears to me to be an example of a willful insistence to maintain focus on frustration. It does a great job of keeping us occupied, but again, how does this lead to any useful change?

  3. dwighttowers says:

    Hi Antonio,
    not quite sure I understand what you’re saying here, so if I seem particularly unhelpful/obtuse, it’s probably that I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.
    I don’t think the injustice of being “ego-fodder” is any worse than lots of others. In fact, for the individual it is patently less bad than being bombed, jailed, having your reproductive rights chipped away at. Collectively, I would argue, ego-foddering is “Bad” for movements, but then I know you are no fan of movements.

    As to fixating on a bad guy/bad guys. I don’t think I do?! Despite what people like Paul Kingsnorth might (like to) think, most of what gets written on Dwight Towers is not about them. But I would argue that silence in the face of incompetent and/or actively malicious behaviour (and I think Dire Mountain was the former, not the latter) is collusion. Speaking out, saying that things could be better, cheaply, is not, imho “a wilful insistence/focus on frustration”.

    My vision of the way this leads to useful change is that we learn not to be ego-fodder, to organise events/meetings/conferences/etc that at least partially avoid the cultural tendency towards preening on one hand and passivity on the other.

    Or am I wrong? If so, how?

  4. rorandall2 says:

    Nice one [Dwight].
    The Transactional Analysis formulation might be useful here. It designates ego positions as parent, child and adult and then asks about any interaction whether it is a parent-child, adult-adult, parent-adult, adult-child etc etc interaction. Helpful in picking out just the dynamic you describe where both parties are ‘agreeing’ to a parent-child mode of interaction, rather than taking responsiblity for a more appropriate adult-adult one.

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