Can This Widespread Human Condition, "Selfishness," be Good and Bad??
Love Thy Neighbour Above Thyself (If you can!)
I hate Selfish People, It Said.
This remark was found on a Facebook wall, and it soon garnered attention from watchers who approved of the sentiment.
Don’t we all, one thought. Then he thought, but aren’t we all that way? Then he thought, what is selfishness anyway?
So he thought and he thought, not being particularly introspective; not having psychological texts to hand and too lazy to Google the dilemma. What a paradox, he mused, we all say we hate selfishness and selfish people, yet we seem to be nearly all that way.
I wonder if there are more than one kind of selfishness, he thought.
I suppose one way to describe a disparity would be that one kind of selfishness only benefits an individual, but may disadvantage another. He thought, what about sex crimes, sale of pornography, terrorism? Someone’s getting a kick: self gratification or glory out of this, but someone else is surely suffering. Perhaps, he mused, for the sake of argument, I’ll call this “nihilistic selfishness.” He felt proud for remembering such a tricky word from somewhere.
Then, he thought, there is another sort of selfishness, isn’t there? A sort that benefits one individual, but also others as well. Ha! Making love, he exclaimed to himself, or at least having sex, that’s a supremely selfish pursuit, but, in a healthy relationship, two people are made very happy. Or in inviting a friend to lunch, the giver and the receiver benefit by feeling good, especially if the food’s great. Or a mother’s love for her child…I think….he pondered, I’ll call this “altruistic selfishness,”
There must be a third stage, somewhere between these two, he thought. Just the individual satisfying his needs above those of others, but not causing any suffering to other members of the human race. I mean, how many of us indulge ourselves and spend hundreds of pounds or dollars on clothes, beauty treatments, our car, etc., but only put a few pence in the poor box on Sundays, or count out the tip in restaurants like Ebenezer Scrooge paying Jacob Marley‘s weekly pittance. That’s selfishness, no? But as practised by most of humanity and considered the norm. So we’ll call this “everyday selfishness”
But the question still remains, why are we all like this, why don’t we give away most of what we have to others, especially when it is excess to our needs.
There can be no doubt that extreme nihilistic selfishness is criminal insanity, whatever the ideological motives. It may be a war, as terrorists maintain, but war itself is arguably the neurosis of the state, except perhaps in the case of emergency defence.
Behind all selfish acts, many argue, is survival, the strongest and most self-serving being the one’s most likely to survive; be able to secure top breeding mates and therefore promulgate the species.
Are the terrorists then, copying some spiders, and the mantis which eats their spouses after copulating, because how can you say you are benefiting the species as a whole, if you are denying the rights of individuals within it by crippling them, or taking their lives? Like terrorists do when they sacrifice the innocent to forward their own political ends.
Take religion. We are supposed to have faith and accept all sorts of individual and mass suffering here on Earth, because it is part of God’s greater plan and, ipso facto, for the greater good of mankind.
What specious claptrap, yet…it is only Darwinism carried to the nth degree. And based on blind faith rather that observable scientific fact; and perpetrated by a Supreme Being, rather that us on ourselves. I mean, so far, have we seen any Almighty Plan doing much good around this tired old spinner? A billion corpses, victims of religious wars and persecution throughout history, were they able to produce disembodied vocalization, would shout “Bullshit!” I am sure. Perhaps we should coin a new word to describe the above, I mean, these nuts often act in what they fondly believe is for the good of all. We might call this “Selfness, rather than selfishness” The law of, as a famous British comedian some years ago proclaimed to a straight guy, drowning, “F---k you, Jack, I’m inboard.”
We say, “If you can’t look after yourself, you can’t look after anyone else.” As an excuse for satisfying me first and you, second.
Or “Nice guys come last.” as an excuse for being “nasty” in the process of self-gratification. Or, “Treat ‘em mean; keep em’ keen.” Usual referring to how a man should behave towards the mate he wants to imbue with a feeling of undying affection for him. (Sadly, women seem to respond to this technique, perhaps they would be better following the lead of the spider and mantis!)
And we continue to expect better behaviour from our contemporaries, while continuing the self-serving behaviour for ourselves!
Women say, “All men are bastards” (The ones they lust for, that is).
Men lament, “All women are bitches.” A role which women unfortunately sometimes tend to relish. (“I’m a real bitch towards him!” Smiles).
And we relieve ourselves on Facebook, writing things like “I hate selfishness!” Perhaps we should add, as we purchase our third pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, or our new Aston Martin
“But I can’t bloody well help being this way.”