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On the Importance of Selfishness

black-hills-sd-traditional-dance(excerpted from The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries: Chapter 12: Zootown)

After a year traversing the planet and a few months of blue-collar reality working 80 hour weeks with a Pipefitters Union in Minneapolis, my plunge back into academia at the University of Montana in the fall of 1989 is reverse culture shock central.

I am a reader/grader for a Philosophy 200 Ethics class. The teacher is a wannabe aristocrat who plays violin in the city orchestra and worships Aristotle from the safety of his intellectual ivory tower.

My first tests come back and Aristotle tells me the kids are lazy and doomed to gas station employment, since they have forgotten the sacred commas and can’t spell teleology.

I tell him he is brainwashed and that modern Western culture is a product of centuries of dualistic and atomistic philosophies and their logical consequences. The primary result has been a substantial devastation of the diversity of life which existed on this planet prior to the adoption of said worldview.

One of the most dangerous dualities which emerged is the notion that our self-interest is naturally at odds with altruistic behavior. I write a paper titled The Importance of Selfishness for a more radical sane professor named Tom Birch. The argument goes something like this:

Indigenous cultures hold a high regard for gift-giving. The Lakota Sioux have a giveaway ceremony. The Athabaska conduct potlatches. In Ituri Pygmy society the hunter who makes the kill always eats last. In all hunting and gathering societies there is an understanding that giving is a means of gaining respect and is thus the ultimate act of selfishness. In such a society one’s self-interest coincides with the interests of the tribe, destroying the dualistic Western notion of self which facilitated the rise of Homer and Aristotle and other purveyors of the merits of pirate capitalism.

This same metaphysical harmony exists in all the world’s major religions. Hindu doctrine espouses a circular notion of karma, whereby a person- through good deeds and purity of heart- accumulates nirvana or enlightenment. Nirvana ultimately translates into being reincarnated into a higher caste in one’s next life, so acquiring karma through giving is most definitely in one’s self-interest.

Tibetan Buddhism- along with its counterparts Taoism, Confucianism and Shintoism- goes even further down the road of selfishness. The Dalai Lama teaches that compassion towards oneself is the primary component of compassion towards others and towards life in general- that self-interest is equal to the interest of the whole.

Early Christian sects believed that giving alms would result in eternal salvation and even the modern day passing of the tray at every Catholic Church in America symbolizes the notion that through giving one will attain to Heaven. Islamic and Jewish laws contain similar non-dualistic ideas on the subject. So what caused the emergence of this guilt and shame-ridden duality in Western scientific and cultural circles?

The reason probably has more to do with economics than it does with philosophical underpinnings or scientific consistency, though at some point the three have become inextricably linked. The market began dictating science and philosophy to perpetuate the consolidation of international monopoly capitalism.

It is instructive that when scientists cynically rail against the evils of human nature, while their philosopher cohorts chant down self-interest, both camps are quick to cite unjust economic schemes and relationships as their example. Rarely do they mention that these schemes seem to be confined to modern Western capitalist societies, where a skewed framework based on duality encourages the split between self-interest and altruism. Nor do they broach the question of whether greed is, on a long-term basis, a truly selfish act or one of self-destruction.

Their self-censorship keeps them well-paid spokespersons for the oligarchy, which profits from this mockery of logic via its never-ending international shakedown cruise.

In indigenous cultures buying and selling occurred only at a local level. Economy was based on sharing, reciprocation and an egalitarian dispersal of resources. Those whose kindness was greatest were honored and respected leaders of their communities. Since there was no perceived duality between the interest of oneself and the interests of the whole tribe, the village worldview remained un-fractured and intact – reinforcing a loving, sharing viewpoint towards all living things, rather than one of violence and suppression which has accompanied the rise of industrial capitalism. When resources are derived at a local level it is obvious that any hoarding of goods results in the demise of both community and self. Self-interest is furthered by a healthy respect for the ecosystem that sustains everyone.

As commerce moved beyond a local level, it needed justification for the short term greed which propelled it outward. Self-interest increasingly came to be viewed in terms of money and property, as a system of class sprang up. Equality and sharing gave way to colonization of resources in far-away foreign lands and the exploitation of cheap labor through a rigged international monetary system. Western philosophies which promote dualism and atomism are merely myths which were fashioned to rationalize this colonization process.

Self-interest became associated with this cunning colonial approach to attaining wealth, probably so that potential competition could be intellectually snuffed out. This supposed self-interest is now played out daily on the world’s stock exchanges and in corporate boardrooms around the world.

As capitalism reaches its final phase and internationalizes further, one can expect even darker views of self-interest to emerge, foisting additional guilt and confusion upon an increasingly atomized and shattered people. Self-destructive tendencies will become more prevalent as people become more alienated from the wholeness of self and from the planet, which operates on a basis of whole cycles.

Failure to recognize these delusions will result in an increased destruction of both the planet and its human inhabitants. Do we wish to survive as a species? Perhaps these deadly myths can only be destroyed if the economic structure which spawned them – namely monopoly capitalism – is destroyed.

I transfer into the more radical Environmental Studies (EVST) department and become involved with the local Earth First! Part of my attraction to Missoula had been an increasing belief that saving the environment was the most important thing I could do.

But the more time I spend with these people the more I realize that most of them have come from wealthy families and hold a general disdain for working class people. These misanthropes rail against loggers, ranchers and RV owners; but when I name the corporations who are actually behind the environmental rape of Montana, they become deaf.

Their upper-class upbringings make it taboo to talk about class. They are tools of Rockefeller’s “zero population growth” Club of Rome and the Rothschild-led banking cartel.

Dean Henderson is the author of Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network, The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries and Das Kartell der Federal Reserve. Subscriptions to his Left Hook blog are FREE at www.deanhenderson.wordpress.com

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3 Responses to On the Importance of Selfishness

  1. searching April 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    This article is full of hmm…balooney.
    Few things.
    Selfisness is a inherent part of a human nature.
    We all , obviously take care, for most part, for our needs , wants, dreams, wishes and desires. Nothing wrong with that.
    But there is a point that it may become wrong if All we want is to take care only of our own wants, needs, desires.
    If our “I,my ,mine” becomes the most important thing for us ,and our gaze is only fixed on us, or at best on us and those who are dearest to us (families for most part). Selfishness produces greed, vanity, pride, hubris, inflated ego (egotism), narcisim, cruelty etc.
    The Christianity teaches us: “Love yourself as your neighbor”,” which basically means :take care of your own needs (because probably nobody else will), but do pay attention to your neighbor’s, friend’s, another human being needs.
    It teaches us also “carry each other burden”, which means help the other person , especially if there is a strong need for it, if the other person is weak, sick, poor, disabled,depressed etc.
    Hindu relgion is a caste religion.
    It discriminates awfully those, who are on the bottom of the cast.
    “Untouchable” are perceived by most Hindu belivers as animals in a human body. According to them they don’t deserve any respect, they came on earth just to serve, to obey, and to do the worst jobs that nobody else want to do. It is a terrible human discrimination. Nothing to copy or admire.
    For a change, the caste of Brahmins is considered almost like gods. Ridiculous.
    Btw I’ve read that Talmud laws were kind of copied from the caste idea of the Hindu religion.
    But in Talmud there are two major castes ,( Jews and the rest aka goym). Goyim, according to good,ol’Talmud ,are nothing less than animals in the human body. Untouchables.
    Lovely.

  2. Somoe April 12, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    Searching, I think you missed the point that Dean was making. Western/modern culture has created a dichotomy of selflessness and selfishness when in fact they are fundamentally linked and it in separating them, this monstrous world in which many people don’t see their interests as connected to anyone or anything else has been created.

    I think his examples of indigenous cultures and how they have this understanding that there is a whole and the self/not self dichotomy doesn’t exist, illustrated the point well. Serving the ‘other’ indirectly serves my self because of the respect earned by being their benefactor and is therefore ultimately a selfish act. This is an understanding that i was brought up with myself.

    What you are discussing is pure greed which is this insanely unbalanced idea of selfishness that does not have the holistic vision described. When reason dictates that we are separate and not connected, not part of the whole – we are diminished, acting to benefit a limited part of the whole, and not the entirety of this wondrous creation.

    The line ‘It is my Joy to see your joy’ describes it perfectly. The self-sacrifice that understands that because we are all connected, anything we do that serves another benefits ALL, including ourselves.

  3. searching April 12, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    The subject of selfishness versus selflessness could be discussed untill cows come home ,and we would probably still didn’t reach any reasonable conclusions.
    Here is a sample of complexity of the above subject. Psychologists, philospherns, theologians know how to make any subject into a very complex one:)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_egoism
    I just pointed out a few things that I did not agree with.
    As I said a few times before , I try to be a realist, not too much of an idealist.
    In an ideal world, we would all live in a jungle, hunting for food that runs away, raising collectivly childen, who instead of going to school would chase the buterflies and other earthly creatures etc.
    Instead, we have what we have.
    21 first century, the newest technology that spies on us on every fricken corner, and a lovely perspective of being blown away by a bunch of psychos, who think that they own all the rights to humanity and earth.

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