Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I think of the frightening school shootings that happen every so often and most recently in Ohio. No matter how we raise our children, how we try to keep them safe, we can find our world totally disrupted by someone else. Someone, who doesn't give a damn about us and ours and shows it by a violent act. Can anyone, no matter how much wealth they accrue really live in a bubble?
The Ayn Rand philosophy, that permeates a lot of the right wing, sounds as though the only logical self interest is selfishness. It espouses the view that we should only care about what benefits us directly. There are those convinced that it is a sound philosophy for life. What needs exploring is what does educated self-interest actually mean?
Rand called for a philosophy, illustrated in her novel Atlas Shrugged with her hero John Galt, that indicated taking care of yourself was the most important thing you could do. Charities, any of the things that puts another ahead of yourself, are wrong. I saw a good YouTube where Christopher Hitchens was asked about this and took that view apart rather brilliantly, I thought.
Basically he was saying that we don't need to be taught to be selfish. That's inherent in man. Babies must be selfish as it's how they will survive by having others do things for them. What they must be taught as they grow is that the world does not revolve around them. One article I saw recently said a selfish attitude in the young doesn't really disappear until around 33. I don't know about that, but I think the real issue is to figure out what self-interest means. If we think it means doing everything just for us, we are missing the point.
Educated self-interest means we can see the actual results of something which might seem to be outside of ourselves but impacts us anyway. If we think that all we need to do is, what serves us, we don't grasp the interconnectedness of life.
Tribal living probably made interconnectedness more obvious than the way we live today. The consequences of our living only for 'me' in a tribe is we die ourselves when food isn't gathered and shared. Bad behavior in a tribe is immediately noticed and cannot be hidden. The consequences of being destructively self-centered in today's world may not show up for a long time. We may think we are gaining by a me-me-me attitude, but I think eventually it rebounds on us.
An example is how we see quality education. If I didn't have any kids in public school, no grandkids there, why should I care? Generations before knew it was not only a way for the young to rise up a level from where their parents were but also was a bulwark for our society because it makes a better environment for us all to experience. Caring about those schools is what you could call educated selfishness. We care because it will impact us and we see that.
When I saw Santorum say that sending off our children to college was dooming them to lose their faith and it was Obama's plot to get them educated and be atheists, I could hardly believe it. But then it's hard to believe a lot of what he says. Is this guy mentally deranged or just saying what he believes 20% of Americans and a lot of them Republicans believe?
If children go away from a home where education was not stressed, where exploring of ideas was not permitted, when they get to college, they might find a lot of facts that disturb their previous ignorant comfort zone. But it won't be college that did it. It will be knowledge. Literally it sounded as though Santorum thinks educated self-interest to him means ignorance.
People can go to college and come out of it stronger believers in their religion than when they entered. It all depended on what their faith was based upon.
When I favor health care for all, it is because I see that as better for me. The idea that some suffer with ailments that could be treated or die prematurely for wont of the right medicine, does that make me happy? Not hardly. So an educated self interest would mean we'd like all health care to be good and available.
I don't disagree that we have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. But that's not an either or. It's a not getting the cart in front of the horse. It is educated self-interest and understanding that caring about the quality of other people's life is to our own good also.