Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Is selfishness wrong?

Saturday, March 06, 2004

In practice, we should mind our own business.
In theory, we should connect with the whole universe,

What looks best: the theory or the practice?
The theory looks attractive but unrealistic because it is materially impossible to connect with all that exists (at least one person can’t).
Pure practice appears to be unrealistic as a connection between a human being and the air he is breathing is unavoidable, due to survival instincts... (He may be disturbed if he/she doesn’t have air.)
At the same time, a human being is a “social animal” who basically understands the need to connect with other people around him in order to achieve something. Therefore, even a “practical” person would acknowledge a need to get relationships with other people.

What about the attractiveness of theory? Well, a theorist would quickly acknowledge that as connecting with the whole universe is not feasible for one individual, he/she will be indifferent to most things around him/her. Being indifferent means:
à Not trying to be aware of the existence of something
à Even if the existence is known, no “resources” are used in order to know more about “it” or to know more about related events.
Therefore a theorist would acknowledge that some degree of selfishness affects all mankind. And it cannot be otherwise.
Adam Smith (economist) made a basic economic rule that people pursue their own interests and the common interest of groups of people is best achieved by letting them pursue their own interests (Adam Smith, (…) the Wealth of Nations). It is a fact that rapid economic growth in some areas is often accompanied by a social change in the form of more selfishness.
This statement look pretty much like pursuing our own interests is the practical thing to do. Does it?
Well, no.

After explaining these ideas to my wife, I came to realize that the consensus of “connecting with the whole universe” and “minding your own business” is to determine what matters most – for the individual – among all the events around him/her. This individual is aware that being indifferent is safe but “unproductive”. Therefore he will only get involved in events if he can identify clearly a positive outcome for his own interests. Then, I may say that tending towards the ideal “theoretical” goal of connecting with the whole universe is a matter of being able to identify interconnected past or future events that lead to our own personal interests.

Selfishness is a negative feature. It can be described as:
Refusing to acknowledge that events may affect personal interests one way or another and act…
In a broader sense, it is refusing to acknowledge that the society (group of people who have common outcome) benefits personal interests, and therefore that personal contribution to the society does benefit you.

I am going to change of issue…
I want to talk about the fact that the most urgent “connections” to be made by people is with all human beings with no exceptions.
This idea will comfort a genuine human rights activist in her/his work!
It is the fact that human beings have more in common with one another that with any other things that exist.

I remember the movie called “La Guerre du Feu”, (The Fire War).
A group of humans living about 50,000 years ago are under threat to be eaten by another specie: Wolves. They are aware that wolves are scared of fire. Therefore they try to find fire and preserve it but they don’t know how to produce it. One day they lose fire. Wolves kill and eat up many of them. When an “elite” group of humans are sent to find fire, they discover the existence of another group of humans. This second group is already organized as a tribe with some very basic technology. And there, they learn how to produce fire and a new era starts from them.

What I learned from this story is that the human society was imagined to have started when humans had the technology to avoid being eaten by other species and also gained consciousness that eating other humans is wrong.
From there, humanity was delivered from its survival instincts that consume all his available resources and started to build up a more and more sophisticated society.

Let’s make a big leap forward and say that humanity is not totally free from survival concerns because of 2 big issues:
à Diseases
à War
à Natural disasters

Progress against diseases and natural disasters are being made very quickly for the past few centuries.
However, what about war?
There may be less victims of war. But is it the point?

Other species don’t kill one another. They learn how to acknowledge who is the owner of a territory and local resources and don’t try to kill other species in order to get ownership of a territory and its resources.

Human beings still do such things under political cover.
Why not trying to achieve a total ban on killings of other human beings?

Within a short timeframe, a society would need to find incentives to keep law and order among all members.
If a society doesn’t have any police force, some members may feel under threat because they are weaker. And this is civil war and the destruction of the “society”.
A respected and genuine police force is therefore necessary. But is killing necessary?
Yes, it may be, if one person or a group of person attempts to murder other persons without being a policeman…
However, killing the murderer is not an incentive if we consider that human beings are not a threat to other ones in principle. They become such threats due to events affecting their personal interests and their own education standards.I conclude the aim of any social science is to help implement a world free of “inter-human” killing. There is no doubt such a society would achieve greater things than the present ones.


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