Article 43


Friday, December 14, 2007

The New Golden Rule

selfishness.gif charity.jpg

This focus on money and power may do wonders in the marketplace, but it creates a tremendous crisis in our society. People who have spent all day learning how to sell themselves and to manipulate others are in no position to form lasting friendships or intimate relationships… Many Americans hunger for a different kind of society—one based on principles of caring, ethical and spiritual sensitivity, and communal solidarity. Their need for meaning is just as intense as their need for economic security.
- Michael Lerner

The reason that we help others is to raise the loving atmosphere in this world. We want to symbolically and spiritually raise the energy of this world; bring, spread a loving atmosphere into our planet, so that our world becomes better and better, and there is increasing love among neighbors, and unconditional love for each other. That is the true meaning of charity.
- Master Ching Hai, The Method of Love

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.
- James 3:16

Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
- Ecclesiastes 8:11

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
- Matthew 7:12

Probably WITHOUT THINKING, most of us BABY BOOMERS would jump in front of a bus (OR TRAIN) and risk possible injury - to push a stranger safely out of harm’s way of getting run over.

The other day I got to listening to a nice, friendly, educated, college-graduate, thirty-something, express views about capitalism, China, the shifting balance of wealth in America, jobs, giving and taking.

TODAY’S corporate ATTITUDE of INDIFFERENCE towards workers, COMMUNITIES, and THE WORLD seems to be a CORNERSTONE of the thirty-something’s philosophy: take what you can get from others, let them take what they can from you, then move on.  An utterly selfish and PSYCHOPATHIC method for surviving and succeeding in THESE TIMES of spiritual DARKNESS.

I didn’t hear anything about giving, caring, empathy, love or compassion.

Would the thirty-something run in front of a bus and risk possible personal injury - to push someone safely out of harm’s way of getting run over?

Or help an old lady cross the street?

He said he wouldn’t.


Do Unto Others - The Golden Rule

January 23, 2006

All over the world, there exists a simple precept that, when followed, has the power to end conflict and banish strife. It is the Golden Rule, a key concept in many philosophies and spiritualities that admonishes us to ”do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” Its meaning is clear: treat others only in ways that you would want to be treated. However, the golden rule is not always easy to follow. It can be a challenge to honor others as we wish to be honored. Yet, when we do so, we bestow a gift of loving kindness on our fellow human beings. And, in honoring others, we honor ourselves.

It is as uncomplicated a tenet as one could wish for. When we live by it, harming another person becomes nearly impossible. The Golden Rule is rooted in pure empathy and does not compel us to perform any specific act. Rather, it gently guides us to never let our actions toward others be out of harmony with our own desires. The Golden Rule asks us to be aware of the effect our words and actions may have on another person and to imagine ourselves in their place. It calls on us to ask ourselves how we would feel if what we were about to do were directed toward us. And yet this rule invites us to do more than not harm others. It suggests that we look for opportunities to behave toward others in the same ways that we would want others to act toward us. Showing compassion, being considerate of others, caring for the less fortunate, and giving generously are what can result when you follow the Golden Rule.

Adhering to the Golden Rule whenever possible can have a positive effect on the world around you because kindness begets kindness. In doing so, you generate a flow of positive energy that enfolds everyone you encounter in peace, goodwill, and harmony.



The Generational Divide in Copyright Morality

By David Pugue
NY Times
December 20, 2007

Ive been doing a good deal of speaking recently. And in one of my talks, I tell an anecdote about a lesson I learned from my own readers.

It was early in 2005, and a little hackware program called PyMusique was making the rounds of the Internet. PyMusique was written for one reason only: to strip the copy protection off of songs from the iTunes music store.

The program’s existence had triggered an online controversy about the pros, cons and implications of copy protection. But to me, there wasnt much gray area. “To me, its obvious that PyMusique is designed to facilitate illegal song-swapping online,” I wrote. And therefore, its wrong to use it.

Readers fired back with an amazingly intelligent array of counterexamples: situations where duplicating a CD or DVD may be illegal, but isn’t necessarily *wrong.* They led me down a garden path of exceptions, proving that what seemed so black-and-white to me is a spectrum of grays.

I was so impressed that I incorporated their examples into a little demonstration in this particular talk. I tell the audience: “I’m going to describe some scenarios to you. Raise your hand if you think what Im describing is wrong.”

Then I lead them down the same garden path:

I borrow a CD from the library. Who thinks that’s wrong? (No hands go up.)

“I own a certain CD, but it got scratched. So I borrow the same CD from the library and rip it to my computer.” (A couple of hands.)

“I have 2,000 vinyl records. So I borrow some of the same albums on CD from the library and rip those.”

“I buy a DVD. But Im worried about its longevity; I have a three-year-old. So I make a safety copy.”

With each question, more hands go up; more people think what Im describing is wrong.

Then I try another tack:

“I record a movie off of HBO using my DVD burner. Who thinks thats wrong?” (No hands go up. Of course not; time-shifting is not only morally O.K., its actually legal.)

“I *meant* to record an HBO movie, but my recorder malfunctioned. But my buddy recorded it. Can I copy his DVD?” (A few hands.)

“I meant to record an HBO movie, but my recorder malfunctioned and I dont have a buddy who recorded it. So I rent the movie from Blockbuster and copy that.” (More hands.)

And so on.

The exercise is intended, of course, to illustrate how many shades of wrongness there are, and how many different opinions. Almost always, theres a lot of murmuring, raised eyebrows and chuckling.

Recently, however, I spoke at a college. It was the first time I’d ever addressed an audience of 100 percent young people. And the demonstration bombed.

In an auditorium of 500, no matter how far my questions went down that garden path, maybe two hands went up. I just could not find a spot on the spectrum that would trigger these kids morality alarm. They listened to each example, looking at me like I was nuts.

Finally, with mock exasperation, I said, “O.K., lets try one that’s a little less complicated: You want a movie or an album. You dont want to pay for it. So you download it.”

There it was: the bald-faced, worst-case example, without any nuance or mitigating factors whatsoever.

“Who thinks that might be wrong?”

Two hands out of 500.

Now, maybe there was some peer pressure involved; nobody wants to look like a goody-goody.

Maybe all this is obvious to you, and maybe you could have predicted it. But to see this vivid demonstration of the generational divide, in person, blew me away.

I dont pretend to know what the solution to the file-sharing issue is. (Although I’m increasingly convinced that copy protection isnt it.)

I do know, though, that the TV, movie and record companies’ problems have only just begun. Right now, the customers who cant even *see* why file sharing might be wrong are still young. But 10, 20, 30 years from now, that crowd will be *everybody*. What will happen then?



What Does Ayn Rand Mean When She Describes Selfishness As A Virtue?

By J. Raibley

Ayn Rand rejects altruism, the view that self-sacrifice is the moral ideal. She argues that the ultimate moral value, for each human individual, is his or her own well-being. Since selfishness (as she understands it) is serious, rational, principled concern with one’s own well-being, it turns out to be a prerequisite for the attainment of the ultimate moral value. For this reason, Rand believes that selfishness is a virtue.

In the introduction to her collection of essays on ethical philosophy, THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS, Rand writes that the “exact meaning” of selfishness is “concern with one’s own interests” (VOS, vii). In that work, Rand argues that a virtue is an action by which one secures and protects one’s rational valuesultimately, one’s life and happiness. Since a concern with one’s own interests is a character trait that, when translated into action, enables one to achieve and guard one’s own well-being, it follows that selfishness is a virtue. One must manifest a serious concern for one’s own interests if one is to lead a healthy, purposeful, fulfilling life.

Rand understands, though, that the popular usage of the word, “selfish,” is different from the meaning she ascribes to it. Many people use the adjective “selfish” to describe regard for one’s own welfare to the disregard of the well-being of others. Moreover, many people would be willing to characterize any instance of desire-satisfaction in these circumstances as “selfish,” no matter what its content. Thus, many people arrive at the following composite image: selfish people are brutish people who are oblivious to the negative consequences of their actions for their friends and loved ones and who abuse the patience, trust, and good will of all comers to satisfy their petty whims.

Rand certainly recognizes that there are people who fit this description, and she certainly does not believe that their behavior is in any sense virtuous. But she opposes labeling them “selfish.” Rand believes that this application of the word blurs important philosophical distinctions and foreordains false philosophical doctrines. First, this understanding of selfishness construes both whim-fulfillment and the disregard of others’ interests as genuinely self-interested behaviors, which they are not. Second, this understanding of selfishness suggests an altruist framework for thinking about ethics.

To elaborate on the first point: Rand believes that the elements of human self-interest are objective. All human beings have objective biological and psychological NEEDS, and one’s actual interests are identified by reference to these needs. Mere whim-fulfillment is therefore not constitutive of human well-being because one’s whims might be at odds with one’s actual needs. Moreover, the character traits of the “selfish” brute are not compatible with any human being’s actual, rational interests. Humans live in a social world; in order to maximize the value of their interactions with others, they should cultivate a firm commitment to the virtues of rationality, justice, productiveness, and benevolence. A commitment to these virtues naturally precludes such brutish behavior. (For the Objectivist view of benevolence and its component virtuesחcivility, sensitivity, and generositysee David Kelley’s Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence).

To elaborate on the second point: Rand argues that the conventional understanding of selfishness implies an altruistic framework for thinking about ethics. Within this framework, the question, “Who is the beneficiary of this act?” is the most important moral question: right acts are acts undertaken for the “benefit” of others and wrong acts are acts undertaken for one’s own “benefit.” Rand believes that this approach passes over the crucial ethical questions: “What are values?” and “What is the nature of the right and the good?” In addition, the altruist framework suggests a dichotomy between actions that promote the interests of others to one’s own detriment and actions that promote ones own interests to the detriment of others. Rand rejects this dichotomy and affirms the harmony of human interests (cf. “The ‘Conflicts’ of Men’s Interests,” VOS 57-65).

Rand writes, “[A]ltruism permits no concept of a self-respecting, self-supporting manחa man who supports his own life by his own effort and neither sacrifices himself nor others it permits no concept of benevolent co-existence among men Ņ it permits no concept of justice” (VOS, ix).

For her, the truly selfish person is a self-respecting, self-supporting human being who neither sacrifices others to himself nor sacrifices himself to others. This value-orientation is brilliantly dramatized in the character of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. The further elements of selfishness - the character traits that, when translated into action, implement a concern for one’s own real interests - are discussed and illustrated in that work, in Atlas Shrugged, and throughout Rand’s non-fiction.

Finally, one might ask why Rand chose to use the term, “selfish,” to designate the virtuous trait of character described above rather than to coin some new term for this purpose. This is an interesting question. Probably, Rand wished to challenge us to think through the substantial moral assumptions that have infected our ethical vocabulary. Her language also suggests that she believes that any other understanding of selfishness would amount to an invalid concept, i.e., one that is not appropriate to the facts and/or to man’s mode of cognition (see VOS vii-xii, and Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, esp. Ch. 7). In addition, one might interpret Rand as asserting that her definition captures the historical and etymological meaning of the word. But certainly, her praise of selfishness communicates instantaneously and provocatively the practical, this-worldly, egoistic, and profoundly Greek orientation of her ethical thought.



The Ten Biggest Myths of Selfishness

Myth #1:  In this world only those who know how to put themselves first ever succeed.

Myth #2:  Since you only live once, there’s nothing selfish about living like royalty.

Myth #3:  Lavishly indulging and pampering oneself sets a good standard for others, motivating them to work harder so that someday they can do the same.

Myth #4:  The best way to overcome feelings of alienation is to regularly indulge oneself in the finer things in life.

Myth #5:  Unselfishness is the work of saints, monks, nuns, ministers and priests.

Myth #6:  Wealthy people cannot be considered selfish because they usually buy nice presents for their friends and family.

Myth #7:  Families should not be expected to contribute to the communities in which they live.

Myth #8:  There’s nothing selfish about only showing concern for the members of one’s own church.

Myth #9:  There’s nothing selfish about caring only about the welfare of the citizens of one’s own nation.

Myth #10:  Its the responsibility of the politicians of the world to alleviate poverty, world hunger, and human suffering.


Posted by Elvis on 12/14/07 •
Section Revelations • Section Spiritual Diversions
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