In praise of extreme selfishness for “the greater good” of humanity:
A daring question against morality:
Is it permissible that we direct all of our life energies to maximizing ourselves to the maximum — for the sake of ourselves (extreme selfishness)?
Or in other words:
Are we permitted to live an extremely selfish life?
Christian and Confucian morality says:
Thou shalt become an instrument of the crowd, the masses, and any action you direct towards yourself (which doesn’t benefit others) is evil, and you shalt be punished in the afterlife or become expelled from the collective.
It makes sense — humans cannot exist in a vacuum. The notion of an individual is a strange one. But in the year 2020 and beyond — what is limiting us? Fear. Also lack of faith in ourselves. Also, feelings of guilt are our shackles.
Let someone else do it.
You are you. You only got one life. To devote your life for the sake of others is a noble one — but a life in which you are only a service instrument — this seems dehumanizing. You’re not a tool, a beast of burden, or a slave. In ancient times, the hateful work was done by beasts of burden (oxen, animals) or human slaves (acquired through war and conquest).
But in today’s world, all you gotta prevent is death from the cold, death from lack of food, and death from lack of water. And the good thing — in modern society, food and water is so cheap it is practically free (consider how I can buy meat for only 99 cents a pound, and drink tap water). Also heating is still an issue, especially in colder climates, but we got the power to move our habitations to warmer places. For example, moving to Southeast Asia (Hanoi and Saigon), or Mexico City (you won’t die of the cold).
Why don’t we strive to create great individuals anymore?
Who is remembered in history? Great individuals. Alexander the Great, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Ali (the boxer), Napoleon, etc.
Why valorize great individuals? Because they drive the human race forward!
And it does seem that deep within our bones, all humans are striving to expand the power, influence, reach, and ability of the entire human race. There seems to be no other cardinal instinct as powerful as the drive to preserve humanity, and also to create continually-improving conditions to allow humanity to thrive further.
The individual for the sake of the collective, or the collective for the sake of the individual?
This is where things get interesting:
Is the goal of humanity to promote the collective thriving of every human being to the maximum (utilitarianism) or is the point of humanity to rear a few great individuals to drive the human race forward? (greatism).
Another way to think about it:
Do we want to increase the well-being of all humans by 20%, or increase the well being of a few individuals by 2,000%?
In America, we prefer the utilitarian notion. We believe that the purpose of humanity is to relieve as much suffering as possible from other humans (buddhism), to increase the well-being of the collective (Christian Protestant morality), and to increase overall wealth and prosperity for all citizens.
Now a country or nation is free to pursue any ideals it wants. But the question is:
What do YOU want or desire?
What are YOUR personal life goals?
There are no ultimately ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ life goals. You must just be brutally honest with yourself:
In my short life, what do I desire to do, create, or see manifested in the real world?
In order to achieve your epic life goals, it is a requirement for you to be selfish, ‘bad’, “self-centered”, or perhaps “evil” in order to accomplish what you desire.
When others disparage you, what are they really trying to say or do?
“How dare you do things which I deem as unworthwhile goals! How dare you do contrary what is to my biggest benefit!”
When others disparage you, they’re actually being selfish. Why? They don’t like seeing you do things which benefit you (without benefitting them). Or they don’t like you devoting any energy to yourself, which can be devoted to them.
So when others criticize or critique you, they’re actually the selfish ones.
Why do others try to change you?
It seems the purpose of society is to domesticate humans to become predictable, obedient, industrious, and un-beastlike.
What society tries to do is this:
Convince us that we have free will. And when we disobey the rules and norms of society, society tries to make us feel guilt and regret towards our actions. Then, society punishes us when we act ‘out of line’, and tries to train us to become more obedient.
But what if you didn’t have the free will to change yourself? What if we didn’t make ourselves culpable for our actions? What if our personality is un-alterable, very much like our sexual preferences? It seems when someone tries to change your personality to become something or someone else, it is just as bad as trying to convince a gay man to become straight (or trying to convince a straight man to become gay). Perhaps we cannot change the personality of someone, nor should we try to change the personalities of others.
Conclusion: Have the courage to be selfish, with a good conscience
It seems that in order to become great or to do great things, we must become perceived as ‘evil’, “an asshole”, “psycho-path”, or all of these other mean names. Consider all the flack Steve Jobs got during his life, but without Jobs, we would still be using ugly and shitty PC’s.
Consider the courage of a Rosa Parks. I’m sure she got insane amounts of heat from both the white and the black community for doing what she did. But her lion-like courage is what helped propel the Civil Rights movement forward.
It seems my personal lesson is this:
One courageous individual has the ability to change everything.
And what does it take? Courage, tenacity, and decided faith in oneself. And perhaps ‘extreme selfishness’ is also a necessary ingredient.
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