Sunday, July 29, 2012

Screw Charity, It's My Money

  I've come to the conclusion that a selfless, self-sacrificing society is inherently a miserable society. It's really a simple train of logic; if everyone sacrifices their happiness to make others happy, then, very clearly, no one is happy. In other words, only selfish people are happy.
  I believe that people should give up the idea that it is their moral responsibility to give up their own happiness to make others happy, to go out of their way to save others. Rather, I think that we as a society should gradually develop the ability to feel happiness at making someone else happy. If we do this, then we can all be selfish AND happy, and it is in human nature to be selfish, so this would be a good thing to develop. I think that we are on this track, but we have a ways to go; in the meantime, I do think that we, as a society, should stop making people who have more than others and don't help those with less than them feel guilty about it. It is unfair for those of us who feel happy at giving a homeless person a dollar to fault the wealthy for not giving money to charity, for example, if that is not what makes them happy.

  Jason, Grant, and I came to the conclusion in past conversations that true altruism is a myth. Anything that anyone does is motivated by self-interest, we said, either by the happiness it gives you or by the prevention of the guilt you would have if you didn't do it. People who don't give money to homeless people on the street don't do so because it doesn't affect them one way or the other; people who do, do so because they would feel first pity and then guilt if they didn't. For this reason, Jason's proposed redefining altruism as foregoing a physical reward in favor of an emotional one.
  SPOILER ALERT for A Tale of Two Cities: Skip this paragraph if you haven't read the book. My friend has a theory that Sydney Carton, one of the classic examples of self-sacrifice, was a completely selfish character, for example. Sure, he takes Lucie's lover's place and is hanged while posing as Charles Darnay to keep Lucie happy, but it is shown repeatedly that his life is utterly meaningless and devoid of all reasons for living. He only agrees to be hanged, my friend says, because he will then become a martyr, and Lucie will love him forever in that way, which she would not have if he didn't.
  I, however, would like to make an addendum to that conclusion. One could argue that they do derive pleasure from doing something for other people, but I would point out that this person is not, then, being self-sacrificing; as shown above, they're only doing it because it makes them happy. However, you may not derive pleasure from doing things for other people, but you may still do them anyway, meaning you may be self-sacrificing, and this is where my addendum comes in. People may not always do things only in their own self-interest, but only those who do can be happy.

  In other words, only selfish people can be happy.
  This does say that selflessness and selfishness are not opposites. If doing something for someone else at your own expense makes you happy, you can be both selfless and selfish. Rather, selfish and self-sacrificing are opposites. You either do things that make you happy, or you do things that do not make you happy.

  I think I would like to propose that we as a people stop making it the moral obligation of everyone, even those whom it doesn't make happy to do things for other people, to be responsible for others' happiness. (Also, this is my own ideology, but I think this is a more suitable job for the government than for individual people.) We can have both selfless and self-centered people in the world, but we must have only selfish people in the world. Consider yourself more evolved if you are selfless, but it is ridiculous to force others to be unhappy. If everyone would do what it took for their own happiness, we have more than enough selfless people in the world to keep it running.

My money, darnit.

- Adarsh Nednur

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