12/5 2018

On Selfishness Tristan Johns

If you are a human with a belief in self, you are selfish. To deny this is to further prove selfishness, because it is an attempt at polishing the self. All beings except the Enlightened are, by default, selfish. I don't believe this disqualifies human goodness, and I will argue why.

What is selfishness? To be concerned excessively or exclusively of oneself. I’m not arguing that humans cannot be greatly concerned for another. I’m arguing for a different perspective on selfishness; one that both acknowledges and accepts selfishness as a characteristic of humanity, while also understanding selfishness does not disqualify human goodness.

Selfishness, as I see it, will always occur on some level in an entity that is conscious, or has an idea of Self. Because to that being, the self is everything. We see all through the self. And that self is selfish, for it’s the only self it’s ever truly known. Every moment, it is exclusively its own self. This makes selfishness in nature extremely hard to avoid completely.

A tree may grow and blot out the sun for surface plants, but the tree provides limbs for birds to nest on, and fruits for mammals to consume. The tree doesn't spend energy questioning whether it is being selfish; instead it focuses on what it knows, and in the process it benefits everyone to the best of its ability.

One argument against default human selfishness is parenting. Many parents have unconditional love for their children. They want them to grow and prosper to their fullest potential. Unconditional love seems the opposite of selfishness from the parent's perspective. Even this is selfish. (It should be noted I have never been a parent and you can take my opinion with a grain of salt.)

The child is raised by the adult, and the adult overlays the self onto the child, through the "child's performance", the parent's self is affected. If the child does something good (through the parent's-self idea of good), the parent's self is rewarded with accreditation. This is selfishness. If the parents had an idea of self that wasn't affected by their child, the parent would not raise the child in the traditional sense. And this selfishness results in parents having a biological reason to nurture their children. You can label this bad or good, I'm just observing what is.

It is okay to acknowledge that the self is selfish, for the first step to resolution is admitting you have a problem. Humans are selfish. Are we doomed to selfishness?

Money is the language of self-interest. With money the aim is to profit, in every transaction, for self-preservation. Evolving progression in the development of money has lead to exponentially increasing planetary profit. Profit of value, profit of information, profit of energy, profit of surprise. This has benefited human technology through history, and arguably the human race as a whole. Money, as an inextricable part of humanity, appears to be selfishness in its own form. The self is the primary perspective which requires a profitable transaction to occur, to continue existence. The self may create an unprofitable transaction (especially in the short-term), but one cannot be unprofitable forever. These unselfish transactions eventually cease, resulting in a Darwinist pattern. This is not to say this is the only possible mode of existence, but it is the one we have presently. So while the capitalist system requires selfishness, that selfishness enables many altruist acts.

We may not be able to stop selfishness top-down in society, but as long as we are aware of our own virtue and we cultivate it in our relationships and communities, we can work towards a selfish society that has a byproduct of altruism in individual lives.

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