‘New’ Golden Rule: Selfish Altruism

by stewart

The Path is none other than service of the people.


Each day as I grow a little older, the more troubled I become, over the seeming inability to solve many of our pressing, social and economic problems. While human’s can be extraordinary problem solvers often events have to rise to a crisis level before any real meaningful action is taken. Then for many events and circumstances, it is too late to avert a catastrophe of sorts.

Part of the reason for all of this is that by nature, we humans are basically self-centered and it is very difficult for governments, corporations, and individual citizens to move past their own individual interests.

Of late, there is a growing awareness of a term called selfish altruism; seemingly more and more social scientists, moralists, and everyday citizens are beginning to realize that it is in our own best interest to take care of our neighbor.  Part of the complaint of the Wall Street Protest movement seems to center on the very real fact that there are too many greedy people in the world, who have accumulated too much wealth at the expense of others. These takers haven’t come to the realization, that it is an awfully big world out there and we all have to learn to share and not hoard the earth’s resources.

Today in the NEWS, some problems and issues of concern:

  • One of the statistics being thrown around that in America alone, there are 45 million people on food stamps. These people are living at the basic subsistence level and across the world, thousands die of starvation each day. And I’m sitting here, trying to figure out how to loose 15 pounds; yes some of us have more than others.
  • Also, I received an e-mail today that quoted one of the Forbes Brothers stating that inAmericaalone, there is more oil in the ground than in all the Middle Eastern countries combined. If this is true, one has to wonder why gasoline will soon be $5.00 a gallon. I guess drilling inAmericais too much of an expense or problem for the big oil companies? Financially, it is easier for them to let the consumer continue to be gouged by inflated oil prices.  When you are wealthy, $5.00 a gallon is no biggie; if you are an average American family this rising price and its ripple effect on food costs, trucking, and everything else- can break your budget
  • Also today, supposedly, the seventh billion human being was born and arrived on this planet. How can anyone accurately keep track of this number of people, and what are we all supposed to do here? Look out for ourselves only or help each other share the earth’s resources. You know, each moment, we do have the choice to help or hurt?

No matter what we publicly say, I guess as a nation, we are not really interested in affordable gasoline or feeding our poor, disabled, and hungry. From my years of working in social service agencies, seems to me, this is something that we come to very grudgingly. These 2 problems have been with us a very long time now, and I guess will get solved, only when there is a crisis of sorts. Then, we will slip back into the old way of being selfish, again. We are fighting against human nature and people not realizing that in helping our neighbor we are helping ourselves. This sort of idea takes generations to filter to a level where it makes a real difference.

Or perhaps not? With the internet, maybe it will take less than one generation? After all, we can be hopeful that people will quickly embrace the ‘New’ Golden Rule and realize selfish altruism.

The selfish altruism principle is exemplified by a story of the great Indian nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi. It was known that once he settled in a village he would immediately begin to serve the needs of its people. When a friend inquired if his reasons for serving the poor were purely humanitarian, Gandhi answered, “Not at all. Rather,” he said, “I am here to serve myself only, to find my own self-realization through the service of others.” True compassion toward our fellow human beings simultaneously serves our selves-it is a mutual healing. Such generosity of spirit must be extended to all things, not just other human beings, to be considered ethical and merciful.*


*Selfish Altruism, Only one For All Makes One for One, Published on July 2, 2009by T. Byram Karasu, M.D. in The Mystery of Happiness, appearing online: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mystery-happiness/200907/selfish-altruism.




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