I had another in a long string of controversial thoughts recently. What if EVERYTHING is selfish, even when it helps?
People who pursue material wealth or power do so to validate their identity, effort, or status. We’ve all agreed this looks (and is) selfish.
But we rarely question why givers give. Whether they donate at church, help in a disaster, or tweet about social justice, they’re feeding a need – to help, to be righteous, to appear righteous. That $1 for the beggar on the subway, pair of Toms shoes, or re-tweet might not help the problem, but offers a quick surge of validation. Like a Hermes bag, helping is an identity, the basis of one’s inner self. That is SELFish, even when others benefit.
Sometimes, both impulses live inside the same person. Others, like Bill Gates, transition from one identity to the other.
And despite the endless battles between the selfish and (seemingly) selfless, both desperately need each other. Without the drive of the former to create or finance innovation, the latter would have little to redistribute – or enjoy.
The sooner we realize that love thyself and love thy neighbor are forever intertwined, the sooner we can go back to doing both.
More on the subject: Free Enterprise Combines Self-Interest and Love by Jeffrey A. Tucker