Conversations – Selflessness versus Selfishness

One of the things I like about Word Press is that our posts can generate some great discussion.  Unlike many other social media pages where, on occasion (ok, all too frequently) I see many hateful exchanges.

A couple of days ago a post of mine generated some great discussion on how governments and local communities attempt to shape social behavior.  The idea behind this is to favor what is usually considered the betterment of the whole community or the country at large.

Of course, this begs the questions, “Who gets to decide what’s best for everybody?”  And “Just because it’s best for everybody (if it really is), why should I be compelled to do it.”

It’s a balancing of interests.

And we can see some of these social policies, and the arguments for and against them, shaping up right now in the age of the current pandemic.  The big question, “Do people take precedence over economic issues?”

So here is one of my comments from that previous discussion:

No denying it, that we all will not get out of this world alive. Death awaits us all. The great equalizer. I found reading the book Homo Deus to be quite fascinating. Not in the sense of it containing a lot of original ideas, but in the sense that it coalesced a lot of ideas to extrapolate the human condition.

Humans, whether religious people like it or not, are pursuing immortality. Trying to conquer deaths from starvation, from disease, from violence, from all opposing forces. Ironically, the result has been death from obesity, there is still violence, and while some diseases are held at bay, others enter the realm, a continual process of mutation. Much stronger diseases, harder to combat, more lethal.

It is certainly arguable that modern medicine is a curse. That people should be allowed to die off and take their genetic frailties with them. Strengthen the gene pool. Government mandated eugenics is certainly not desirable, however. With humans, the stakes are a bit different and a “modern” society places a high value on life and protecting it. So much so it is a crime to commit suicide.

Individual liberties will always be in conflict with heard regulation. Do balances get distorted? Yes. If it’s an individual choice to walk off into the wilderness and die, it should be no problem. Should people be forced to be on ventilators? I don’t think so, but should they (ventilators) be available to those desiring to stay alive, as a universal right to health care? Maybe so. Does this concentrate resources for failing efforts? Maybe so. Should only the rich have these resources available? I think not. Should corporations be allowed to get insanely and obscenely wealthy by auctioning off cures to the highest bidder? I don’t see anything “fair” about that. Trying to balance – tough one.

In one of my college classes many years ago, I was in a discussion about the individual versus the collective. I said that I would gladly lower my standard of living to help raise others’. When I asked if anyone else in the class would do the same, my classmates all shouted a resounding NO! Selflessness versus selfishness? Where do you find the right balance?


In Metta

Photo: The Coyote, also known as the “Trickster” to the First Nation’s People.  The Coyote is such a master trickster that it even tricks itself.  Coyote, or “Medicine Dog,” is a great reminder of our own folly.  The cosmic joke.

Coyote gets itself into trouble from its lack of wisdom, yet frees itself by its great cleverness.  Coyote is also said to be a benefactor of people because Coyote stole fire from the Fire Beings and brought it to the people.

We are often so balled up with our own machinations that we can’t see anything for what it is.  The more we attempt to control, the less control we have.  At times, the best we can do is laugh at own folly. 🙂


29 thoughts on “Conversations – Selflessness versus Selfishness”

  1. Do you remember the tv show House? The general premise was about a diagnostician. He found cures for things other couldn’t. He did this mainly by working under the assumption that people lie. So here is where much of the problem lies. People lie, to others but mainly to themselves. They think they would act A, but in reality, rarely act like that. I’m watching people who swore they would be hiding Jews in France now hoarding toilet paper. I heard people complaining at the market that they didn’t have a particular brand of something. They’d make really good socialists…..good thing they’re wearing the Bernie button…. there are so many people here not even vaguely honoring the social distance pledge. People forget that without rules theres only anarchy. I know this doesn’t exactly correlate to what you wrote about or cited, but this is part of the issue. Great post, as always

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks ! I do remember House – fun show. And I always appreciate your insights. Your comments are on point. Thomas Hobbes (1600s) is credited with articulating social contract theory – that we give up some of our rights and liberties to ensure the safety and security of all. It’s good in theory and works in practice to a certain extent. We have to have rules, but if the rules don’t match societal expectations and conveniences they are often hard to enforce. Speeding on the highway is a great example. To exceed the speed limit is a criminal offense, yet most will rationalize and say they are not criminals even if they put other people’s lives at risk. The virus situation is no different in a sense. People who are not social distancing are putting other people’s lives at risk – for their own convenience. We have a mixed government with many socialistic aspects (like social security) and some oligopolies (like the airline industry). It’s not a true democracy, and it’s also not true capitalism. Big government can handle certain things with much greater efficiency. Boiling things down to individuals, though, is much less predictable. As you note, people you know are not behaving the way they said they would. When faced with the issue, or perceived issue, of their own survival, people become quite irrational. On a microcosmic level, say you go to a conference and they put out doughnuts. Most people will jump in line to get what they perceive to be “their share” even if they are not hungry. Even if they are obese and should lose weight. Even if there is a starving person standing in the doorway who could benefit more from the doughnut. They make an assumption that something is theirs and they must take it. They may even fight over the last doughnut. They may even hate doughnuts, but they are still going to grab one. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The donut issue is a great example. This morning via our building link we received an email that a neighbor got two milks by accident and cat food her cat won’t eat. While we drink milk and have a cat, my first thought was, I can still get out. I’ll save that for someone who may not want to go to the store. But am I naive? Am I not a survivor?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your post(s) today. It had a lot to say to me. I do not consider myself a spiritual person so much as I feel that I am a Unitarian Humanest. I too got a rant from a Jesus freak this past week telling how “we must all die anyway” and using the Bible to back up his statement. Of course we must all die and we do not need the bible to tell us this.

    When people put religion out as a force, using it to do as they feel is their right, then it becomes a negative instead of as it should be, a help for people who have no other way to face life. Such as that “preacher” in Louisiana.

    We should all live with our fellowman in mind and the current “me first” attitude hopefully will be looked at with more open eyes, as the current virus worsens. We must all give a little for the common good. Oh, and I find a lot of help just reading the philosophy of Kahlil Gibran.

    Again Thanks, wisely said~!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you ! And thanks for sharing your perspectives. I agree, we all need to pull together in this time. And I hate it when religion is used in divisive ways. I’m also glad you reminded me of Kahlil Gibran. I have two of his books and now would be a great time to re-read them ! Take care friend, be safe

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One size does not fit all. What is good for one is not good for another. What one person likes another will dislike. So many people, so much variety. I look for my niche then settle in. If it works I am good with it. If not I’ll find a way to adjust. I may take another’s advice, I may not. Play it by ear and hope for the best or closest I can get while remaining within the bounds of decency as I know it and have lived it. I Know from life experience that my way is not the only way but it worked for me. I helped when I could, backed off when I felt that was prudent … all depends on situation and circumstances at the moment. I will only be a player for less than the blink of eye in the scheme of things. I intend to play nice in the sandbox and there are plenty of sandboxes to play in where others play nice too.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Hurari is deep and all over Utube. Time to move on to Shosana Zuboff book “surveillance capitalism” who poses the question: “Who’s to decide who’s to decide?” If a human population remains after COViD-19, this is the next book worthy of your time.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. This “research” I do for my blog is totally an unexpected consequence of my writing efforts. That said, I’d rate her right up with Hari. It’s good to know SOMEONE can figure out what’s going on!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for the recommendation George sounds like a must read. I just put a hold on it at my local library. I’ll have to wait though, until when and if they open again.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Our Library has closed indefinitely during this crisis and won’t take back books for the time being. I happen to have “Surveillance Capitalism” checked out…apparently indefinitely. You are welcome to borrow it in trade for a Kahlil Gibran. See you in the grocery parking lot Thursday at 4PM.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Perhaps I am a bit off topic here, but your post made me think of the early Christians attempts to share and share alike forming communities not entirely unlike the communes of the 60s and 70s. We have great vision and aspirations. Unfortunately too many times we just don’t measure up to our lofty utopian ideals.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not off topic at all. Us humans often fall short of our potential. Sadly, some are content with that. How can so many of us live in the wealthiest country on Earth but children still starve, or people have no access to healthcare, or have to work three jobs and still can’t make it. It usually comes down to the greed of a few

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Quote: “With humans, the stakes are a bit different and a “modern” society places a high value on life and protecting it. So much so it is a crime to commit suicide.” But it’s not a crime to slaughter a million or more people if they stand in the way of corporate profit. Save one reluctant life, kill a million: the scales of modern justice.

    Liked by 2 people

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