Because I am grim, that’s why, part II

Posted: October 23, 2009 in Humans

Or, once again, mayhaps a hard headed realist.

Instead, for millennia there have been people looking for ways in which these negative aspects can be changed. And sure, a lot of the time they’ve only been calling for those things because they’re at the bottom of the food chain and they’re afraid or envious of those at the top, and sure, many of them when they topple that ladder have ended up being just the same or worse than the people they replaced. But equally there have been those who fought to make a difference also, to improve and elevate, and without them there would be no democratic societies in the world; there would be no philosophy of human rights; there would be no sense of justice except “might is right”. I believe we can be better than we are, and that we can be better than “eat, fuck, kill” – even though those are our primal urges.  -SnowdropExplodes

Whom I have henceforth dubbed in a friendly me sort of way Ozymandias.  Hehehe.  Follow me here.

Tis true, Ozy, er, SE is right.  There have been people who have done amazing things for humanity in their lifetimes.  In some very, very rare cases I think this was motivated by an altruistic actual want to do good things for humans.  Most of the time, I think it is motivated by a persons want to be worshipped akin to a god and they figure doing nice things for people will get them that.  Do the ends justify the means in these cases?  Sure, if a person does amazing shit for other people even though the drive is egomania, well then, on with the egomania, the net result is worth it.  However, that does not make the motivation for doing so pure and something to be idolized.  It makes the motivation the incredibly human desire for power, praise and popularity.  I am not even saying that is a bad desire, but it is not necessarily awesome either, and it is definitely selfish. 

You see why I am so much fun at parties now?  Hahahahaha!

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Comments
  1. Vladimir says:

    I don’t know if altruism boils down to a need to be worshipped and adulated. There is something to the egomania part of it though. It takes a supreme ego to think one’s small actions can make the world a better place, and a level of self absorbness to actually go out there and do all tghese things, despite society pulling at you to fit into it’s normal constructions of behavior (and superior altruism is not normal or else we wouldn’t need it or recognize it).
    I also won;t argue on some level people are satisfying a personal need, whether to feel good by doing good, or removing something they find offensive from the world.

    So actually I agree with you. I guess I am saying why ican’t it be awesome?
    Isn;t it amazing for anyone for whatever reason to try to bend the world to their will?
    We’re momentary sparks in the darkness of unbeing, why isn;t selfishness a virtue, selfishness when it allows the imposition of somethign upon the meaningless around us?

    Besides have you ever noticed most times when a person calls you selfish, irt’s becasue your so called selfish desire is preventing the fufillment of one of their selfish diesires?
    I tihnk selfishness and egoism get bad raps.

    Heck selfishness is better than selflessness. I know my desire for the good or morality arises solely from my desire for it, Therefore I work a lot harder for it to happen, and unserstand that the responsibilty lies within me. People who buy into some natural state of it, well they are all too content to whine about how selfish we are for not actign the way they claim is right, rather than just acting right themselves.

    Just because a desire is selfish doesn’t make it bad or taint it;’s positive outcome, just like good intentions don’t forgive horrible results. All we should judge are the ends.

    • Ren says:

      I think those things are natural, hence, not awesome. Awesome is reserved for things like Dean Winchester and Casti….not silly old real world human motivation.

      However, I do agree that things like selfishness and ego get a bad rap. Both those things are completely natural in the human animal and I would even argue necessary for survival, however, people who display them in manners others do not like are shamed for it…which is total crap.

    • Mary says:

      “… my desire for the good or morality arises solely from my desire for it.”

      Agree. I do what I want, even when I do things because I want others to like me or I’m wanting to avoid unpleasant consequences.

      Sometimes I think of myself as a spark in the darkness, but lately I’ve been thinking I’m a wave in an ocean so that I’m not as saddened by my death.

  2. Vladimir says:

    also for the record in my experience, you are actually fun at parties,
    and most goody two shoe do gooders are not, way too preachy and stuck up to dance, and they don;t get a joke, even if you beat them with a shovel

  3. Vladimir says:

    I’ll have you reading Ayn Rand yet

  4. Mary says:

    Many want to make the world a better place because they want an excuse and solution for the dissatisfaction in their lives. They want to be better. I’m satisfied when surrendering to my nature and to the Cosmos.

  5. I think that “The Watchmen” movie is a fantastic thesis into the ways different folks react in the face of the intractability of humanity’s problems. The Comedian embraced the problems, in a “if you can’t beat them, join them” way, taking pleasure in adding to the miasma of violence that he saw in the world. Rorschach sank into a dismal contempt for the world and a hatred of all who were not perfect – and thus also ended up adding his violence to the overall decay in a brutal vigilantism. Dr Manhattan chose to withdraw from the world because if the problems can’t be solved, why bother? Retreat to somewhere where the problems can’t affect you. Daniel/Nite Owl II is another one who withdraws – “We gave it our best shot and failed, what more do you want?” appears to be his attitude. Laurie/Silk Spectre II actually remains involved, initially working with Dr Manhattan on the renewable energy problem, then persuading Daniel to go back to making a difference; she also is the one who persuades Dr Manhattan that there is something worth fighting for still.

    Ozymandias had the highest hopes for “solving” humanity, and when it proved too difficult to find a complete solution, he ultimately chose the Alexandrian solution to the Gordian Knot: instead of working the puzzle through, he took a sword to it and tried to enforce a solution artificially. In so doing, he became a monster and inhuman himself (the moral dilemma of whether or not to allow him to get away with his mass murder, if it turned out the plan worked, is beside the point). This is the Lenin/Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot solution (also the solution of the French Revolution with the whole guillotine thing going on).

    So I don’t think I’m Ozy. As I said on the other thread, the problem with all of these approaches except Laurie’s, is that they all believed that there was no point in doing anything unless you could solve everything once and for always. That way leads ultimately to one form or other of contempt for humanity, for life: whether it’s Ozy’s willingness to murder millions to get the result he wants, Comedian’s embracing of the violence and selfishness, Rorschach’s hatred of others or Dr Manhattan’s indifference to them. But if you don’t look for some overall, once-and-for-always solution, instead dealing with the here-and-now, you can focus on the successes instead of the failures. When I do feel despair at humanity (as noted at the LJ place) my response is more likely to be Jigsaw’s from the Saw movies than any of these (I guess Rorschach’s is closest to Jigsaw’s).

    I disagree that many of the good things come from people wanting to be worshipped. If we look at the development of democracy, or of human rights theory, and the struggles to make these things real, then these have been driven not by individuals but ultimately by people acting together. Acting, yes, out of self-interest but also because their self-interest is also the interest of millions upon millions of others. And a realisation that seeing others’ interests met actually serves our own interests.

    This is why I believe in Communism. It’s why I believe in solidarity, in the trades unions movement, in the possibility of a feminist revolution (because I believe men’s interests are tied up in seeing Patriarchy overthrown just as much as women’s interests are), and so on. The communism I believe in is motivated by truly enlightened self-interest, and maintained by that same force.

    • Ren says:

      I might disagree with ya on Rorschach…but thats me.

      Oh, and mutual selfishness and self interest is the only way society works at all.

      I have a movie I am gonna recommend for you, SE, if you’ve not seen it. It’s called “no escape” and stars Ray Liota. It’s an interesting take on how societies evolve when given the options of mutal self intrest and preference for peace vs might makes right….and what happens when those societies are in close proximity.

      • I’ve seen it. Obviously, I was not convinced by the philosophy! It was a pretty good story though, and I very much get why it appeals to you (didn’t you have a tag at the old place called “Postcards from Absalom” based on it?)

        I guess you and I saw different things in the Rorschach image – figures!

        At base, I’d say that a functioning communist system, even if nothing else in human nature would make it work, would be supported and upheld by it being the ultimate form of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”, and knowing that as long as I provide a safety net for the other guy, he’ll be there to catch me if I fall, too. That, to me, is enlightened self-interest. Getting to the point where people trust each other enough to make that happen is another question entirely.

        Hey – one reason I like the NFL is because to my mind, it’s a pretty communistic sport: nobody can make a play all by themselves, if you’re going to do well, then your team has to do well, and vice versa. Now, I would hazard that there’s also quite a militaristic bent to the way NFL plays are called and run, and obviously militaristic communism is what turned out rather badly in an awful lot of Eastern European and Asian countries, so I wouldn’t call the NFL a model for a future society by any means (not least because also the NFL is a sport that requires an enemy to fight against) – but as a case study in communal enlightened self-interest I think it works okay.

        • Ren says:

          Except for Brett Farve LOL!

          Why yes, I did have that tag.

          Rorschach, IMHO, believes in justice and order first and foremost. He detests chaos and lawlessness and a society he sees chewing itself up more and more every day while offering no protection to those whom most need it. So he, with extreme prejudice, steps up to do that job.

  6. Roy Kay says:

    I’ll take my chances at one of Ren’s parties vs., say, one of Gail Dine’s anyway.

    SciAm has had a fair number of essays on altruism and they seem pretty much in line with Ren’s perspectives. Mostly altruism involves keeping an asset in play so that it may prove useful in the future.

    I really haven’t read anything by Ayn Rand, but the character of the anti-Randians, with their ease of ascribing a dehumanizing evil to people whose desire for liberty impede their schemes of domination, the more I’m inclined to support “Objectivism”, sight unseen – sort of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I hope the Randian’s appreciate my altruism.

    Beyond that, I generally tend toward the realistic view “Do the right thing. Virtue’s got to start somewhere.”

  7. Erik says:

    Help please with the references to Ozymandias. The only one I know is the shattered visage sneering with cold command and lying upon the lone and level sands that stretch far away. (I would trade any number of Rands, by the way, for one Shelley, though he is hardly a favorite poet of mine.)

    • Ren says:

      “Look upon my works ye mighty and dispair!”

      Okay, in watchmen there is a character named Ozymandias, the smartest man on earth, who has a bit of a Ramses II obsession (what, who doesn’t?) who decides, in order to save humanity from is war mongering ways it is necessary too wipe millions and millions of people off the face of the earth in one shot in order to get them to unite under a common banner of peace and rebuilding. He takes it upon himself to do this, and either uses or eliminates the other watchmen to do so.

      • Erik says:

        Thank you, Ren. I am not so uncultured that Watchmen are completely unknown to me, but I am not familiar with the cast of characters. My comics reading pretty much stopped with Galactus, who contracted kidney stones and had to stop devouring worlds. Now he just sits around drinking Caffeine Free Coca-Cola and watching the Weather Channel.

        • Ren says:

          “Galactus, who contracted kidney stones and had to stop devouring worlds. Now he just sits around drinking Caffeine Free Coca-Cola and watching the Weather Channel.”

          ROFLMAO. that was good.

  8. Stone Fox says:

    the only problem i have with this theory is that doing nice things for other people does NOT get you ahead. it gets you trampled. i agree that people are selfish and power-seeking; no matter the motivation behind it, if person A does something to benefit person B, person B is not automatically going to reciprocate, or elevate person A’s status. person B will use person A for whatever s/he can get and then move on to person C. person A has been sucked dry and left for dead.

    just sayin’.

    • All of this assumes that person C doesn’t know anything about what happened to person A. It also assumes that Person A has nobody else around to help hir afterwards, and to elevate A’s status because A did the Right Thing. Person B, in a proper community, would not get very far because hir attitude would be discovered and zie would find hirself isolated and rejected by all. But all the people who stand by one another and help each other out would still be advancing one another’s cause.

      Going back to the NFL analogy: if you have a WR who never ever blocks for anyone else carrying the ball, because he doesn’t like the pain, wants to avoid any risk of being injured, and is only interested in his own stats and big plays, then you can be sure that he will hear about it a lot from his team mates. If his reluctance to block for other receivers means that sometimes those receivers miss out on TD-scoring opportunities, or opportunities for big gains, then you can bet his coaches will also let him know how they feel about it, too. Now, if this WR happens to be stupendously good so that whenever the ball is thrown to him he catches it for a big gain, then he might get to stay on the starting line-up, but if he’s only average, if there are other players who can catch the ball nearly as well as he can, who can make good gains – then he’s going to find he has fewer opportunities altogether. Suppose he is that good, though: eventually, he’ll find his team mates less willing to make an extra effort to get him into the endzone – they’ll still make blocks, because they want the team as a whole to succeed, but they won’t go all-out to make the exceptional block that turns a short gain into a TD catch-and-run. Because the WR wouldn’t do it for them. Suppose this WR moves on, is traded because of the bad feeling in the dressing room. His reputation would follow him anyway, and his new team mates would be just as disinclined to make an extra effort for him, unless he proves himself to have learned his lesson.

      Users like person B can only sustain their behaviour when people around them fail to stick together. Enlightened self-interest says that if I want to go on getting things from other people, every so often I have to give something back. Otherwise, nobody will give me anything at all.

      • rootietoot says:

        “Enlightened self-interest says that if I want to go on getting things from other people, every so often I have to give something back. Otherwise, nobody will give me anything at all.”
        Well yeah, if I work 40 hours a week, I’ll get paid for it, if I don’t I won’t.

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