Friday, September 10, 2010

Self Interest

Okay, I am biased. Yes, a lifetime of watching hypocrites pretend to be something less than they claim has created in me a jaundiced view of organizations in general. I feel I have good reason to be such a sourpuss. Lord knows the negative vibes and negative results of supposed good intentions based on holier than thou opinions are more than just an occasional hiccup we barely notice. And besides if I am going to be honest, it is this tendency I find within myself that really drives my anger when others fail to admit their own tendency to  preach above their personal ethics and climb up on some pedestal.

We are all individuals.  Independent entities forced to co-exist with other independent entities.  If self interest was not a key motivator and stimulus for survival, we could all live together without the need for any organization looking out for our varied interests, political, economic, religious.  But we are at our core selfish.  We seem hardwired that way.  So, to protect ourselves from encroachments, physical and emotional, we form groups to create barriers so we can feel safe or aspire to goals that we would not be able to attain as loose dog individuals.

Self interest then becomes group interest.   We fool ourselves that giving up some of our individuality to the group, somehow we become less selfish.  But do we?   I contend that organizing into groups often increases self serving tendencies rather than the opposite.   Within the group, we feel good about ourselves and our efforts in the name of the group.  We begin to feel noble and altruistic. 

The insular aspects of a group builds barriers to anyone not in the flock.  And often the organization will develop a group mindset that harbors no tolerance for anything but total loyalty within the group.  This rigid code of behaviour will then be projected outward to other groups causing them to feel threatened or because of their own selfish set of rules, insecurities, etc - they will consider another group as attackers or invaders trying to take over their turf.  Instead of leaving each other alone, these groups will find or manufacture reasons to engage the other in some type of conflict, using the excuse that the other is in the wrong somehow and that "their" group is not only right, it is their duty to set the other group straight.

When all it really is about is selfishness.  High falutin notions and ideals are nothing but excuses for bad behaviour.  No higher calling from any idol, physical or otherwise, can justify the encroachments we humans have visited upon our fellows throughout recorded time.  At it's core, the reason we intrude and force our way into other's lives is because we are selfish.  Being selfish is a major tool for survival.  What we should be ashamed of though is our need to coat that selfishness with some kind of moral imperative to justify our bad acting. 

This is why I distrust organizations that pretend to be on some higher calling.   This is why I cringe when I listen to leaders contend that what they are engaged in are missions of national security or they are doing's God's work.  Bullshit.  They are working for their group, not their country or mankind. Yet somehow invoking God or country as an excuse makes it all okay. 

Okay, I'm done.  Not sure I feel any better, but at least there's been a pressure drop.


Demeur said...

Ah but you forget somewhere along the line we became pack animals. Much easier to hunt prey that way and care for the youngins and the mates. And in the process we developed a hierarchy where the strongest got the best of the kill while those at the bottom fed on the remains. Always wondered why they call it a "pride" of lions. :-)

Randal Graves said...

And here I was going to extend to you membership in the International Brotherhood of Brotherless Masonic Illuminati. Hmph.

MRMacrum said...

Demeur - As you say. we became pack animals early on. Strip away all of the explanations, definitions, and excuses for why we flock in sub groups and this is probably the reason. Many thousands of years of accrued embedding.

Randal - Well it appears I saved us both some embarrassing moments then.

John Myste said...

You used a single Elizabethan word, and yet the whole article seemed English.

MRMacrum said...

John Myste - Well we all 'ave ancestoral skeletons in our closet, eh mate?

Thanks for swinging by. I enjoyed your back and forth over on the John Galt blog.