An egotist, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is one devoted to his or her own interests and advancement. Everyone is an egotist in one way or another. Even when a person commits the most selfless acts of altruism, the act usually benefits the person in one way or another. Humanity is not, by nature, altruistic; humanity is, by nature, egocentric. This is evident in Yukio Mishima’s “Patriotism Essay” with the main characters, Reiko and Shinji.
People are egotistical in the choices they often make: choosing friendship over patriotism, choosing to trust a spouse, and choosing one’s personal freedom.
The patriotism one feels for his or her own country is not as strong as the bonds of friendship. A country provides safety and a sense of belonging; however, in times of war this is all shattered. Shinji’s colleagues are among the insurgents. The war has, no doubt, caused these men to resort to extreme measures. Living in a country that can no longer provide the safety and sense of belonging that these men seek, they turn to each other.
Friends provide the safety and belonging even in times of war. People betray their country in their everyday actions, they deceive their employer, they lie to others, they cheat, and steal; but, one always thinks twice before betraying the trust of a friend. Shinji and Reiko remain loyal to what is important, their friends.
Not only do Shinji and Reiko choose their friends over their country, they also find happiness in choosing each other rather than continuing in a world in which the two could not be together. This perfect union between the two illustrates something people search for everyday. Everyone is looking for his or her own Shinji or Reiko.
This need to find a “soul mate” has spawned books, movies, songs, and plays. The “boy meets girl” scenario is a part of everyone’s life. In “Patriotism”, boy did meet girl, and this is a part of what makes this story universally appealing. People simply want someone with whom to share there lives.
Finally, one’s own personal freedom is more important that loyalty to one’s family or country. This is probably the most egotistical of all choices a person makes.
According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, satisfying the basic needs of one’s self comes before even considering the needs of others. Shinji and Reiko are simply satisfying their need for personal freedom with their suicide. Anyone, given Shinji and Reiko’s situation, will act in the same way.