Altruism

According to Scott Farrell, MD, altruism is “the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the wellbeing of others.”[1]

In contrast, egoism (a.k.a., egotism) is “an ethical theory that treats self-interest as the foundation of morality.”[2]

These two terms are about as polar opposite as two words can be. Black/white. Good/evil. Angel/devil. Altrusim/egoism.

Not to be a pessimist, but I believe I see the world that I know gravitating FROM altruism TOWARD egoism.

Self-centeredness seems to be ahead of charity in a lot of public forums. Politics is certainly a playground for egoism—“what’s in it for me” is apparent on a huge and very dangerous scale.

Although, just when I think there’s no selfless actors left on the planet, unbelievable tragedies bring out the best in our human reactions. In just the past month, I’ve seen people risk their very lives in three hurricanes, multiple out-of-control fires, and a mad-man’s attack on concert-goers in Las Vegas.

In the moment of crisis, it seems—for many, at least—that self-centeredness, even to the point of self-preservation, wanes. Race disappears. Gender disappears. Generational differences disappear. In our hearts of hearts, when we see a fellow human being (or in some cases a horse or a dog) about to be extinguished, for some reason a thought snaps people into action. The human chain in the Houston floods that saved a woman and her child 100 feet out in a swollen river. Not an ounce of self-centeredness there. Just confident, “can-do”, fearless, selfless, life-saving action.

Maybe the news media sees it as click-bait or advertising revenue. Maybe it goes on all the time and we just don’t see it.

So I’d like to play a little “what if” game: What if it DOES go on all the time? What if you and your well-being are more important to me than mine? What if I just let that guy cut in front of me in traffic?

What if the plight of African-Americans is more important to white politicians and indeed residents than their own, and vice versa? What if elected officials do make decisions for the good of the constituency, with no concern for the impact on their re-election? What if the left and the right consider giving in on some of their sacred cows long enough to have meaningful dialog? What if the big picture is more important than my Knower/Judger rule?

In my opinion, egoism is at the center of the current “great-divide” polarization going on in the U.S. It’s a scenario of self-centered extremes: Gun rights vs. gun control. Choice vs. life. Black lives matter vs. blue lives matter. Business vs. government. Obama vs. Trump.

I truly believe there is a middle ground on all these stances and many more. It’s possible, though, that you, the reader, do not.

Perhaps most of us don’t see this divide as a “tragedy.” It doesn’t measure up to a hurricane, fire, or mass shooting. And so it doesn’t meet the “emergency” test. So we just settle into our rock-solid, ego-maintained positions.

I urge an altruistic approach. Please, why not let the other guy cut in line once in awhile. Maybe empathize with a neighbor that believes in gun control (rights). Risk your Knower/Judger position in order to gain insight.

Altruism is a brave, courageous decision. Egoism is easy.

Now, why not run for office and put that level of confidence to work!

[1] From http://www.jogc.com/article/S1701-2163(16)32936-X/pdf.

[2] From https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/egoism.

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