Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Pertinent Question.

In the comments on an article, on the Gather blog site, by Anna G. entitled "Why We Can't Fix the World - Even When We Try" WM H. asks the question "Are we as individuals capable of exercising our "free will" to see beyond what we perceive as "good" for our individual selves and make choices that are good for the species as a whole?"

My answer to that question is a resounding NO! It is not humanly possible to be anything but selfish. Now before you all jump down my throat, hear me out. While I firmly believe that we are not capable of doing anything except what we see as 'good for ourselves', we are capable of coming to see "feeding the hungry" or "building a house for a neighbor" or "helping an old lady across the street" as "good for 'me, myself and I'."

Mother Theresa did not spend a lifetime helping (some would argue with that characterization of her work) the poor to help the poor. Mother Theresa did it because she felt God had commanded her to do so and it would be worth her everlasting damnation to refuse and besides she wasn't 'that kind of person'. The man does not run into the burning building to save the baby, he runs into the burning building to literally 'save himself.' Ask him! He will tell you most likely "I couldn't have lived with myself if I hadn't tried." Our experiences and training form our concepts of what is 'good for us' but there is no reason to believe that anyone ever, from Ted Bundy to Mother Theresa, intentionally did something they felt was 'bad' for them. We simply don't do that. We can't!

So before we get too worried about the fact that as a country or as individuals we don't do everything we could to help others (and we certainly do not in either case) let us keep in mind that the fact that what we do do 'to help others' happens because of our socialization and education and we can control those quite a bit.

And remember that the only effective approach is "Here's what in it for you." This is not crass, or cynical, it is simply what is. We are self aware entities and as such are, and can only be, self-centered. Don't bemoan that, just use it!

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