Monday, December 30, 2013

Why is Being Selfish Bad?

Greed is good. That's the line proclaimed in some movie. Basically it says selfishness is right. In a way it is, though. Everything's done for the self, even if it's helping cure orphans of cancer. What's done is done ultimately for your soul's satisfaction. By this theory, the term selfish is a misused word, actually meaning "unsustainable" or "insufficient" or "stupid" or "amoral." When people say selfish they mean things that go against the interest of the greater good.

By the end of your investment in reading this, I hope to have convinced at least one person there's a very real distinction between selfish and self-interest. For the sake of speaking well and with confidence, the person I must foremost convince is myself.

I look after myself, so I'm fit to take care of others

If there's a word truly selfish people don't like, it's deserve. Because, cous', if you've done extra credit, you've earned the extra merit. It's easy to call people who have a lot selfish, but if you want their lot in life just because they have more, that's as selfish as it gets. It's that old classic trope of calling someone else what you are. It's called psychological projection and it's easy to do, because all you have to do is describe the worst parts of yourself in a soliloquy of self-hate, and pin those flaws on the person you want to exploit.

"The idea that hierarchical structures shouldn't exist is the biggest problem facing the world today." - Me, just now

(Notice quoting yourself appears self-centered even within the context of your own article.)

Selfishness only gains a negative connotation when it's attached to antisocial, amoral activity. What would a self-centered lifestyle represent outside of those terms? Independence and self-sufficiency, both universally recognized as good things. Without shady behavior, the term selfish and selfless become more specific definitions of right and wrong, and hence, redundant. And yes I understand my definition of selfish in this article is lax and literal, but it's necessary to make these points.

An interesting albeit kind of evil lady

When Ayn Rand terribly argued her case for selfishness, it was not about taking away from others, it was about taking your due. It was about dismantling the idea of selflessness and exposing it for what it can become, servitude. Her words were taken at face value and dismissed. For that laziness, a lot of her good points were muddled or lost. But I know it's hip to hate her so I will save face by ending this paragraph calling her a twat.

Fashionable ethics

On the other hand, those who claim to be selfless are always the first to pat themselves on the back and take credit for their altruistic deeds and efforts. If you're claiming charity for some social advantage, you're the same as the others, just in denial about it. I'm not saying that's wrong, only the part where you feign sainthood.

Greed is bad
. Yet, no one argues with a person who does more and thus, expects more. They're admired. If you labor all summer planting crops, creating a surplus, is there an obligation to help someone who spent the summer fucking off and now intends to starve? Even if the excess food will rot, it's still less selfish than demanding some corn you didn't grow. Giving makes you feel good, but it might also set a precedent. Sure, I'd rather give it away, but not without stipulations. Saying that things aren't reciprocal will make way for parasitic behaviors and unsustainable practices. If I give you rice you better give me some lumber, or your wife, or at least appreciate the gesture. If not, come next year, your lot will be begged for by last year's man and a couple new people down the block.

Dude, don't be selfish

People don't want to give away what they earn? Selfish pigs. It's a backward aspect of our culture when we chastise and guilt-trip innocent people. There should be a moral obligation to cover your bases and do enough, not do everything you can. Extra is nice, but I would hate to see the fate of a person who lived just for others and ignored themselves to their breaking point. That would make for a bloody news story.

It's always irritating to hear "Money makes the world go 'round," or, "The love of money is the root of all evil." Money has no intrinsic value. What money represents is power. More accurately, money is a form of power and karma management. Capitalism is the perfect system for dealing with people outside of its major flaws: it was not designed with morality and sustainability in mind. Of course power in the wrong hands corrupts. Winning the popular vote means nothing if the people voting are corrupt. 10 out of 10 parasites believe in fucking shit up. If abuse is all you've ever known, how could you possibly judge right and wrong?

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

When people give money and power a bad name they're really just naming off their own insecurities about them. Let me quote two pieces of wisdom from popular culture. With great power comes great responsibility, and More money, more problems. Both are intoxicating and dangerous. It's not easy, but if you can handle the responsibility and problems, then you're free to dance around and quote Show me the money! You want to walk that tight rope, go ahead and walk the line. Fail, and like a power-hungry tyrant, you'll hang from it. If you wish to succeed and sleep on a pile of naked women, you better be a good city planner.

 This man was not a good city planner

What I'm trying to get at is a simple, often ignored fact: power enables.

Your ever-increasing standard of living correlates closely to your allocation of power. It's all about making your dreams come true. In a dream you're more in control, and when you're lucid, a thought alone can turn the sky from blue to green. A wish can widen the horizon. The premise is the same in our waking lives. Like it or not, money is only real democracy. Each dollar counts for exactly one bit of influence. For some, strip clubs are voting booths. You can vote for morality by spending on some charity you believe in. You can pledge money to another's idea on Kickstarter or the stock market. Or you can vote for yourself, by putting your money toward college, or some pot and a copy of the original Superman. Whatever it takes to inspire you.

Above: voting booth surrounded by ballots

Sadly sometimes people game that system. They steal and cut corners. They're tricked into thinking big numbers create value in them. Ideally they would use big numbers to create value. Some shitheel this year bought a $142 million dollar three piece painting. How could the last $132 million dollars of that price tag provide any value outside of the illusion of the buyer's importance? If that's your most creative use of $150 million dollars, you don't deserve it.

"Deserve's got nothing to do with it." - Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven

Some live their whole lives caught up in numbers, adding and counting compulsively until they die. They read notes and find nothing between them. They're on autopilot, as if money were the be-all end-all qualifier. And the mere numbers who believe that, give that notion much influence by popularity alone. Right and wrong don't matter if more people believe the wrong thing than not. Those people don't value deserve.

I'll end this by referencing a common example: Cutting someone in line is selfish.

Cutting someone in line is selfish.

Earning a first class seat isn't selfish.

Gaining a first class seat with the profits you made by poisoning a sea of cupid angel babies with toxic slime is selfish.

Can we at least make this distinction? Can we get the above three quotes written in stone on the steps of congress? In a properly calibrated world we could.

The reason I have such a gripe with the word selfish is that it's so often used by selfish people. They call you selfish to guilt you into giving them something. It's also a manipulation tactic to employ on the masses. Wax poetic about the virtues of charity and meanwhile rake in the dough. It's an age-old religious practice.

What I'm trying to say in all this is Batman's morality comes from within. Money has no power over him. He does good on his accord, and the purest form of charity is that which is less coerced.

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