If you want to be perceived as a caring person, be selfish (and of course, honestly care about other people as well).
It seems like an odd advice, doesn’t it?
Not entirely. It’s true self-interest is somewhat under suspicion these days. But I believe that we need more people who are honest about their self-interests, people who are openly selfish. I believe it’s not the self-interest or the selfishness which is bad, it’s the growing tendency to lie about it.
I lie because every one does it
Most people lie about their self-interest because they believe that what they want won’t be accepted. They believe that their deepest desire is not acceptable and won’t be perceived as humane.
So they lie and hide their self-interest behind public-interest stories. The paradox is that the more they lie, the more they indulge themselves in behaviour which is inhumane and publicly unacceptable and the more they alienate themselves from that same public.
Culture of distrust
This kind of behaviour is fueling the culture of distrust we’re living in. The result is that public-interest is regared with suspicion every time self-interest is involved. Which in turn even puts more pressure on people to ignore or even lie about their self-interest for the sake of appearing more honest an humane.
This won’t stop until we come to our senses and start to believe that it’s perfectly natural to be selfish and altruistic at the same time. That it’s not a matter of being good or bad, but that it’s rather a matter of understanding why we like being selfish and altruistic and how we can come to solutions which satisfy both personal and public needs.
Imagine … me, myself and us
Imagine we would be more honest about self-interest and selfishness. Think about ceo’s telling their board honestly why they want such a huge salary. And by honestly I don’t mean that they’d say “because I deserve it” but because they explain how it would make them feel, they talk about what they would do with all that money.
Imagine a society that would be respectful to people who are openly selfish. People wouldn’t be afraid to tell how they feel and talk about what they think they want and need. Speaking about what you really want would be a way to bond, a way get in touch with what connects all human beings, a way of showing how human you are.
You have the right to remain silent?
Of course it would require us to judge less. It would also require us to ask more instead of demanding. It would require us to accept that we are all entitled to this planet and to happiness just because we are here and that that would be the end of the discussion and the starting point for negociations.
It’s all like Jekyll and Hyde
In the end, it’s just like Jekyll and Hyde. They used to be one and the same person who wasn’t perfect but human, respected and loved nonetheless. Things went wrong when Dr Jekyll tried to separate his evil side from his good side believing that science (and rationality as such) could ban all evil from humanity. What happened was that Hyde got the best of him. And in the end both Jekyll and Hyde turned into monsters.
The more we’ll try to destroy our Mr Hyde (our selfishness, our greed), the more monstrous our society will become. I believe that it’s in our best interest to accept selfishness as a helpfull and valuable part of who we are. I believe that in doing so we will stand stronger against the lies and deceit that have brought us the economic, social and ecologic catastrophies we are facing right now.
Or in other words, don’t pretend to be superman, be superbly human.
This post was inspired by “Are you a Capitalist or a Creativist” by Rory Sunderland.