Sunday, January 27, 2008

Promoting benign Selfishness!

A young boy is traveling in a metro-train and an old lady is intensely looking at this guy, as if she wants to ask for something. Before this lady could utter any word, the boy notices the unease on her face and stands up to offer his seat. The old lady impliedly accepts the offer by sitting. It seemed as if she wanted to say ‘Thank you’, but her eyes have already expressed the gratitude to him.

People might term the act of this gentleman as a selfless act, inspired by moral duties; however this act is no different than any other act, except the perceptual differences!

Why do people fulfill moral or ethical obligations? What motivates them to do so? How could any act be really selfless? So many questions, but let’s look at them in the context of one of the most natural laws of all time, the Law of Equilibrium. This law also dictates the terms of barter, and hence the sacrifices – either short term or long term – are traded for any benefit, either real or perceptual. Though perfect equilibrium may be usually unattainable, but the participants do try to achieve at least some sort of balance. In the case at hand, the gentleman must have achieved some sort of self-satisfaction, which is a good barter for offering a seat!

Now, there are two most important arguments – firstly every human action originates out of selfishness, and secondly selfishness should be promoted than condemned. Let’s verify both of them one by one.

As already stated by the example of the gentleman offering seat, there is always an equation of sacrifice and self-satisfaction behind every (so-called) selfless act. Self satisfaction in-principal is nothing but the mirror image of inner happiness. It is the quest for inner happiness, which guides people to chase any goal, either personal or collective. Moreover, it would not be wrong to assert that inner happiness is one of the most intense fuels behind every human activity, once the human being has secured at least his existence.

Eventually every act – either (so-called) selfless or selfish – aims to achieve the same thing i.e. inner happiness. Also, terming an act as selfish and another as not is a misleading notion, since apparently there is no difference between the two. Otherwise, one interesting observation is that one’s selflessness is actually another’s self interest; so while promoting the ethical principles and selflessness, the society at large is acting as selfish!

In any case, if there always is some kind of exchange, then it would be sensible to say that every act is selfish.

From a general perspective, selfishness is considered undesirable, and sometimes even detrimental. This viewpoint is further confirmed upon referring to any thesaurus. However the prevailing viewpoint is specious since selfishness has been more constructive than destructive.

Can you imagine that the educational systems are teaching the values of selfishness to their pupils? There are innumerous examples that prove beyond doubt that selfishness in its benign form has been equally beneficial to others.

To appreciate the benign form of selfishness, one needs to respect others’ well-being. Unless the actions, reaction and behavior of anybody are negatively affecting the physical, spiritual and mental interests of another person(s), others’ well-being isn’t compromised. Further, the larger benefits should always be preferred to smaller benefits. For example, by choosing one deserving candidate for a responsible job and rejecting rest others, the society may be acting for larger benefit, though rest other candidates may have to sacrifice the potential benefits. Thus, anything beyond the above-mentioned concepts can be suitably termed as malign selfishness, which undeniably is objectionable.

The question is why we should think of promoting selfishness. To understand this, let’s take the example of a ship wandering in an ocean, with no port to go. The ship is doing what it can best do, but no objective is being served! Similarly, a person without selfishness has no clear directions, no goals, since he doesn’t know what to expect from himself. Selfishness makes people aware of their self-interest and gives them the ability to judge good or bad for them. In addition, selfishness teaches one of the biggest principles of life i.e. exchange. The world is full of examples that highlight the importance of exchange. Out of the topics such as – Negotiation, World Politics, Aid & Loan Diplomacies, Friendships & Relationships, and Business & Commerce – one will find that they are all related to the principles of selfishness, in one or the other way.

An interesting observation comes out once we view the patterns of development across the world. The cultures, which have encouraged selfishness, such as American culture, have been more developed than others. Moreover, we can find resemblances in the capitalism and selfishness. So we now find evidence suggesting that selfish people may be good for economy too!

Over longer run, a selfish person learns to take most favorable decisions for himself. Selfishness may also assist in the transition of a person from being independent to being interdependent, the superior form of independency. This transition takes place because of the value of beneficial exchanges that people realize. Further, who he knows what is in his best interest can also decide the good for others! This might even suggest us that we need the politicians who are truly selfish for the larger interest of the India, the upcoming India.

Have you ever thought that the God is also selfish, since we are expected to behave as per certain rules & codes; otherwise we wouldn’t enjoy the maximum bliss of the God! It seems as if God also realizes the importance of exchange!

To conclude, whenever somebody tells you that are selfish, then you need not defend yourself by saying that you are a Jelly-Fish! Go ahead and target your selfish energies to overall good.


Anonymous said...

nice thoughts Dude!!!!!

TAMANNA said...

well- written...and scooped out an interesting topic out of a simple incident...if such things can make you think..u can very well aruge with your soul!

Rajat said...

hmmm...Didnt think you would also begin a blog..
I v been thinking abt starting 1 since 1.5 yrz now but my "aalas".
Well written buddy..I v also often thought that whats wrong in being selfish..and isnt everyone so?
Even Love and Friendship, the purest relations, are not sefless and are borne out of the need to bond and be loved.