Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Upside of Altruism

Somebody, somewhere, once said that a truly altruistic act can be committed only by an immortal being. The cynic in me finds this absolutely true. And here's why.

Have you ever given money to the poor? Volunteered to read to the elderly? Helped out in a child's classroom? Waved someone ahead of you in line? Given your loved one the last cookie/pizza slice/piece of gum? Sure you have, unless you're a total jackass. Nice things to do, right? Selfless, even? Wrong.

Altruism is a complete fallacy, because doing nice things for other people, even if you get no monetary or tangible reward, makes you feel good. And that's not altruism. That's human nature.

The worst part about the whole altruism sham is that it's one of those things people need to tell themselves in order to sleep at night. "Oh, I'm not such a bad person! I did all these wonderful things for other people today!"

Yeah. Uhm, you can still be a bad person with a tendency towards generosity. If you sleep with your friend's spouse, but you put a quarter in the Salvation Army bucket, I don't think you can call it even. Sorry.

And if you're doing nice things out of guilt over other actions, once again, it's not altruism. It's covering your ass in case God is watching.

I think the closest form of altruism exists between parent and child, but even that is stretching it, because taking good care of your kid is, frankly, the least you can do for bringing them into this world and also: something you do so you don't feel like a jerk for being a bad parent.

Don't blame yourself. There's nothing you can do about the lack of true altruism in the world. And really, who cares? Do nice things, feel good, everyone's happy. Or do bad things, then do nice things to cover up. Either way.

But just don't try and call it altruism. Because unless you're some weirdo that feels like crap when they help people, there IS something in it for you.


Your Mama said...

well....that was interesting....and said a-- AGAIN! :) I'd make some brilliant remark but, frankly, I just don't have about....luv ya Erin!

Mark and Emily said...

What about when I do good and expect something nice in return, does that count?! Seriously, sometimes when I know I'm going to need spiritual help I'll start reading my scriptures more. That makes me feel bad. But good because I learn from reading more...

SongbirdMama said...

Thats a good question, Em. I'm not sure exactly how that works. Using your example, I think that if you were reading your scriptures more in the first place, you would already have the recognition when the need for spiritual help comes along.

But it's not always an easy thing to do, is it? I know.

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