The Root cause of our problems?

Posted by Dissol
Dissol
This time last year it was only February
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 07 June 2008
in Digital Blogs
Writing a blog post in between watching my son play Rugby!  Ah! multi-tasking!

But reading people's posts, reading about xenophobia, watching parent's on the side-lines,  and witnessing the truly awful standard of driving of people in Cape Town in the rain.   Is there a common thread?   There was a great documentary on British TV called "The Root of All Evil?"  which looked at religions.  I think (while very thought provoking) the producers missed the point.

We are all too selfish.   Too self-centered.  We drive without courtesy to other road users.   We don't want outsiders to take our jobs.  We want our sons to be the try-scorer.   We ignore others around us, happily standing, blocking other people's views.  It can become really serious.   We kill foreigners if they dare to steal our jobs.   We fly planes into "the enemy's" buildings if their belief in a supernatural being is different to ours. 

We complain when the fuel price rises due to the personal negative effect it has.   We moan when interest rates mean that we will have less cash in our can pockets.  We rarely give thought to others.

I think if we were all less selfish and more accommodating of others then the world would be a happier, safer place for us all.  Drive considerately; let people out of side roads, pull over for the ambulance,  stop rubber-necking at.  other people's misfortune.   Applaud the opposition team when they play better than our team.  Encourage all the children to enjoy the experience (which is the point of school sport).    Welcome refugees into our country, recognizing the dire situations that they are fleeing from.    Have a thought for the very poorest  of our society, who are struggling to survive and afford paraffin for their stoves.   Recognize that increased interest rates are hopefully in place lo make our economy stronger for us all in the future.   Allow, and accept, that almost everyone else in the world has a different view or belief in a supernatural being, & nothing are will do will change that.   Support organisations, like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch   who are trying to make a real difference.  offer a supportive hand to thoseless fortunate than ourselves.   Stop being so selfish!
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Comments

Guest
Jawellnofine Saturday, 07 June 2008

individualism, while desirable in some instances e.g. creativity, is the major destroyer of our social fibre.

Guest
Dissol Saturday, 07 June 2008

Jawellnofine, individualism is great, and should be encouraged. I am certainly not saying that we all should conform to an accepted norm. Just have less selfishness, and a whole lot more tolerance. Individualism is not the problem; in some ways it is the lack of respect for one another\'s individualism that is the problem.

Guest
CrazyCow Saturday, 07 June 2008

Firstly, well done on your ability to multi task. :grin

I agree totally with your idea of being less selfish, and more tolerant of the differences between all people. But, and it\'s a big but.... why should we be tolerant and accepting of things like fuel price and interest rate hikes, and how does tolerating this translate into \"giving a thought to others\". Or have I mis-read your post.

We are all negatively and seriously affected by these.

Guest
Dissol Saturday, 07 June 2008

CrazyCow, of course we are all effected. But, I would suggest that the vast majority of MyDL posters are from the more affluent end of society. Fuel prices and interest rises hurt, but for many families it is going to mean that they are going to have to go hungry. We regularly read about how it effects people in their lives, and demanding that someone (usually the government) should do \'something\' about it (often without usually explaining what that \'something\' is). But the reality is that the fuel rises, interest hikes will mean that some families are going to be even hungrier. Perhaps if we were all (and I include myself in this) less selfish, then we might do less moaning about our own situation? The government cannot really do anything about fuel, and I would suggest that they have very few options when it comes to interest rates too. The medicine is not pleasant, but many of us need to be discouraged from living on credit...

Guest
Jawellnofine Sunday, 08 June 2008

Ayn Rand was a great promoter of \'selfishness\' as a way of life. Her philosophies have been debated at length and are, in many instances, the back bone to the vast successes enjoyed by the corporates today.

The problem is that selfishness is the great aunt of individualism. A trait that does not serve human kind well.

Guest
Dissol Sunday, 08 June 2008

No, I disagree; I think one can be very individualistic, and not selfish, and it can be a mistake to link the two. I\'ll admit that many selfish people are individualistic, but I don\'t think that the reverse applies at all.

Guest
Dissol Sunday, 08 June 2008

No, I disagree; I think one can be very individualistic, and not selfish, and it can be a mistake to link the two. I\'ll admit that many selfish people are individualistic, but I don\'t think that the reverse applies at all.

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Aratus Monday, 09 June 2008

But unselfishness is not an idea, it\'s a goal, or an intention. If someone thought of HOW to not be selfish, now that would be an idea.
How do you propose we become unselfish people Dissol? Surely it\'s no answer to just pose the ideal, humanity needs to know how.
It\'s like saying Bafana Bafana needs to score more goals... ybh?
You list a whole lot of things we should do, but those are the very things we already know we should do, but we don\'t do them... how do we change into people who do those things? Is it will power, or medication?... What is your idea?

I think the word you\'re looking for in the debate is not individualism but interdependence.
An interdependent person can have individual goals while remaining unselfish.
but this is also a goal, it does not tell us how to be interdependent.
He is relationally driven.

Guest
Dissol Monday, 09 June 2008

Aratus, yes I do think it is will power, and also a certain level of self awareness. We need to be aware of when we are being selfish, and not taking other people\'s needs and desires into our actions. It is down to self control.

No, I do not mean interdependent at all. I am saying that it is possible to be an unslefish individual. I think we need to actualy make more room for individualism.

Sure these are all goals, but then so are many interpersonal issues. Being happy; leading a fulfilled life, respecting others...all goals. I am finding that certain sections of South African society is becoming increasingly selfish, and this seems to spread like a disease. Selfishness is matched with selfishness.

A clear example of this is that I tend to find that all the accessible parking bays are always filled with cars not displaying blue placards in Sandton. Previously, in Soweto the accessible parking bays were clear...other than taxis using them as drop off points, but there has been a noticable increase in abuse over recent times.

What stops an able bodied person from parking in an accessible bay? Fines? Maybe but rarely given (or honoured) in SA. Peer group pressure? Well, this seems to work elsewhere in the world, but it requires the peers to know that it is offensive to abuse the bays, and that does not seem to be the case in SA. So it has to come down to will power, and sensitisation to the issues in the first place.

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Aratus Monday, 09 June 2008

What you say makes sense, but then the question begs asking, if it is mere will power that curbs selfishness why are we so selfish?
It\'s not just that some humans have selfish tendencies. Humans, as a species, can be defined as selfish. We may go through periods of less selfishness than others. But we are never without selfishness.

I\'m inclined to ask if peer group pressure works to curb selfishness in other countries was it simply will power that initiated the social nonacceptance of able bodied persons from parking in accessible bays?
I battle to accept that because I don\'t see that working here.
It must be something else. What countries are you referring to where it is socially unacceptable to abuse the bays?

Guest
Dissol Monday, 09 June 2008

I cannot say if it was will power alone, as those other countries may not have been coming from such a selfish inital stance, as some sections of society appear to be here. But sure, if an able bodied person parks in an accessible bay elsewhere, then they are often approached by members of the general public telling them that their selfish behaviour is unacceptable. The other countries would include the UK, Eire, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, some states in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, in fact I cannot think of a country where this type of abuse is worse!! I was even sent a photo from an old friend which showed a British Challenger Tank parked in a rather demolished area of Basra in Iraq. The tank driver (or perhaps commander) had carefully positioned the tank so it was not encroaching on an accessible bay (which could just be seen under the rubble!). I guess once you get into the habit of not being selfish then it comes naturally.

In certain sections of society in South Africa it appears to be socially acceptable to be selfish. I had thought that sections of US society took the title, but I am not so sure anymore. Conversley, there are sections of SA society, where the opposite applies, and they are remarkable by their unselfishness. Common factors? None, that I can think of, although the better sections of society tend not to be urban communities. Rural SA is amazingly friendly, caring, supportive, and unselfish in their actions. These are all generalisations, and of course many, many exceptions can be found. It also shows quite markedly with some groups of students, so I do think that peer group pressure plays a major role.

I think you are asking why are certain sections of SA society so selfish, when other sections are not. I really don\'t know. What makes certain societies selfish and others not? I wish I knew. Because whatever it is, we need more of it! Often when I make a comment to a able bodied person who has abused a bay, I am met with a whole barrage of reasons and explanations why they should be parked there...none of them carry any weight whatsoever. In Sandton I have been told to F*** off more than once! In fact, even though I try hard to approach with some lightness, and jokes, I usually face quite aggressive behaviour in return.

Guest
Aratus Monday, 09 June 2008

Amazing, the response of people. The mind boggles!?!

\"I guess once you get into the habit of not being selfish then it comes naturally.\"
Nicely put, but how does a society get into the habit?

I think, for what it\'s worth, that selfishness is one of the key causes of poverty. But that it is not a \"route cause\"; selfishness is caused by something else.
We are debating the cause of unselfishness, if there is one there must equally be a cause of selfishness.

Your first sentence is interesting: \"...those other countries may not have been coming from such a selfish inital stance, as some sections of society appear to be here.\"
I am interested in this \'initial stance\'.
I recently read a book \"The Wilberforce Connection.\" The introduction describes living conditions in England 300 years ago. It was not much of a positive \"initial stance\". I would say it was worse of then in terms of selfishness than South Africa has ever been.

Guest
Dissol Monday, 09 June 2008

Sure, but although I am old, I am not talking about UK society of 300 years ago!

I think that people can get into the habit of not being selfish. But it takes good role models for the youth to aspire to. Which is something that the world as a whole is sorely lacking. Instead we see, and read about selfishness at every turn. Instead we have a world super power which is dominated by the sort of selfishness supported by Ayn Rand. We have various groups causing huge suffering on an enormous scale due to their personal selfishness and intolerance. We make \'heroes\' out of money grabbing sportsmen & women pop/film stars, many of whom choose money rather than representing their country, or making a meaningful film. We have truly awful \'reality TV\' which seems to idolise selfish behaviours and attitudes. I mean I cannot get excited about a group of mindless morons trying to stab one another in the back to win R1 Million or an Island or whatever. I cannot get excited about a \'manufactured\' idol (it was no surprise that we caught an idol\'s car parked in an accessible bay!!) screeching louder than others (what happened to talent?). As a society we venerate the selfish, it seems we admire people more for being a space tourist, rather than making computing accessible to large sections of our society (he has done both, I know, but he seems to be remembered for the former, and not the latter...). We have countries and peoples declaring war on one another because they do not share the same belief in a supernatural entity. The powerful nations act when there is the possibility of payback (oil), but otherwise sits back and watches genocide take place from afar.

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Wolfe Monday, 09 June 2008

Geeez guys....

I am lucky, I know I am selfish, so I don\'t have to worry about not being selfish...it makes things so much simpler, then again, I am an only child...funny that?

All jokes aside. One would be foolish to think that you can remove selfishness from humanity or an individual.

Before you can begin to suggest such an action, you first need to define \"selfish\" and you need to do so in detail to understand that being selfish means many different things to many different moral beliefs, religions and cultures.

Selfish is a term thrown around so easily. I give a kidney to a stranger and that makes me unselfish, but my personal ideals regarding donating my kidney may be selfish to my wife who could be concerned in-case my son needs it...is it selfish of me to not think of him/her or is it selfish of her to expect me to not save a life, incase i need to save one of our own?

Guest
Aratus Monday, 09 June 2008

I\'m just using UK 300 years ago to get a bit of a handle on an \'initial stance\'. If it was that bad then for them, then how will it be in SA in 300 years? is my premise.

But anyway good role models must have had some catalyst also. They were also youth with aspirations and role models of their own.
So role models cannot be route causes of unselfishness either. Though I do agree that they have a huge causal influence. But if they are a good influence we need to know what or who influenced them.

It is an interesting dilemma. I don\'t think we have got to the bottom of it yet.

Guest
Dissol Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Wolfe, I understand that a certain amount of what you say is tongue in cheek. But it also (I think) shows the problem; it has become socially acceptable to be selfish. People who act unselfish are viewed as slightly odd. I think that you and Aratus are over-engineering the solution. We all have a good idea of what makes a selfish act, and what doesn\'t (I agree that some issues may be open to debate, but let\'s say for 90% of actions). I have been increasingly trying to live my life in an unselfish manner, and I find it really rewarding. I still have a long long way to go. I don\'t mean that I am standing on the street corners giving my money away, but in other ways. I hope that I am having some small influence on those around me (family, friends, employees, clients, students, etc.). To be clear I am not doing it for human praise, or the possible promise of ending up in some afterlife state. I am doing it because I enjoy the lifestyle, and I fear that if we as both a national and global society drop into the type of selfishness as inspired by Ayn Rand, US foreign affairs, or reality TV shows, then the world will be a sad place to live for our future generations.

Aratus, I know which way you are trying to steer the conversation (looking for the catalyst!), but I think it is purely human in reason, action and execution. In fact the selfishness of some beliefs is also to blame for the present predicament.

Guest
Aratus Tuesday, 10 June 2008

But Dissol we have to follow the argument to it\'s conclusion, wherever that happens to be.
\"We all have a good idea of what makes a selfish act\"
Absolutely, this is a human issue more than a cultural one. But then Dissol you cannot leave it there and say that any further thought is \"over engineering\". Come on this is the pursuit you\'ve been advocating - critical thinking, adventurous Socratic delving.

I tell you what... I suppose a reason why selfishness is epidemic in humans and always has been. I believe it is a very reasonable argument.
Show me where I am wrong.
You think it\'s purely human in reason, action and execution - but how sure are you?

BTW - you left out telly-evangelists :)
Seriously, I have not been able to sit through a whole Apprentice or Survivor... But I loose my appetite with telly-evangelists.

Guest
Dissol Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The first time I watched TV evangelism in the States, I honestly thought that it was a comedy spoof show!!!

There is a huge cultural element to the issue too, and it cannot be only a human issue (the car parking abuse points to this).

I think you are right; selfishness has always been epidemic in humans. When we were hunter gatherers we had to compete for food. I think when it comes to survival then selfishness is often necessary for the survivors. But I am not talking about survival situations. I am talking about letting the person out of the side road, moving out of the right hand lane to let a faster vehicle through, making sure that you are not blocking the view of others when watching a match. Applauding good sportsmanship on both sides - ensuring that our children play their sport for enjoyment, not to win at all costs. Allowing other people to believe in a different supernatural being to the one we may choose to believe in.

It is simple. By becoming less selfish one enjoys life a bit more. One finds that stress levels drop considerably. In my experience one can receive kisses from complete strangers!

I do think it is purely human in reason, action and execution but I cannot be certain as I can only base that on anecdotal evidence (which is the very worst type of evidence). But also I see absolutely no evidence for any other factor (other than human & cultural). It is also very difficult to prove a negative. Of course, some, like you, may assume an outside force is at play here. You may be right (a good critical thinker should be constantly questioning), but, for me, there is absolutely no evidence. No wait, there is... There is a particular time on a particular day of the week when the driving standards are even worse than normal. Sunday morning at church kick out / final whistle time. When I rode a motorbike, I soon learned to be back home (after the Sunday morning breakfast run) before the various churches released their respective flocks onto the roads...

But seriously, I have tried to look for common factors when I come across particularly unselfish (or very selfish) people, and there are few common factors. One (very loose) denominator appears to be age. Either we become less selfish as we age (which I think would be a fair assumption, as we learn empirically), or (worryingly, if it is correct) the younger generation that we are producing is much more selfish than previous ones. I don\'t know which is correct, or even if this is a correlation.

Guest
Wolfe Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Perhaps you are right, perhaps we do \"over-engineer\" the subject, so let\'s take it to its most basic form.

Parking etc. does that not come down to manners and consideration? If so, can we safely say with 100% certainty that manners and consideration can be classified as being unselfish?

Guest
Dissol Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Wolfe, no, obviously not, as some acceptable manners to one, could be viewed as being selfish to another. Take the parking; recently (at a hospital, of all places) there was limited parking. Now, I am very careful in that situation as a person may need to use the space due to an injury, but not have the necessary placard. But I arrived to see a fairly sprightly 60\'s woman badly park her car in the remaining bay. Because I am a wheelchair user, I cannot park in a standard bay and have enough room to get my wheelchair out, and transfer. I rolled down my window, and very politely enquired if she was perhaps collecting a person who required the bay. She looked at me and smiled, and replied, \"no it is all right dear; I am a pensioner, and so I am allowed to park there\". She waved and disappeared before I could think of a good response. (I am still thinking of one)

But in most cases good manners and thoughtful consideration should lead one to act in an unselfish manner. I am not sure how we achieve this on a societal level, but I hope by practising what I preach is having some effect on others. I think it is judging by some of the comments that people have made to me during the course of my various activities. My business is involved in Disability integration, and so a part of what we do is to try to break down people\'s natural aversion and preconceptions about Disability. Many issues connected to that are actually caused by selfishness. People not willing to make the step of making reasonable accommodations and accepting people with different disabilities into their working lives, are often quite selfish and self-centred people.

Guest
Aratus Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Perhaps you could say \"Sorry, Pensioners only qualify for accessible bays on their very last visit to the hospital.\" :)

Funny, the first time I saw telly-evangelists I thought the same thing. Then I realised that it was similar to wrestling... there are a lot of people who think it\'s for real.

Guest
Aratus Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Ah! The difference being that the wrestlers when questioned afterwards will also admit that it is all for show, but the TV evangelists would never make such an admission...

But that is also a problem. Sadly it would seem that a large section of mankind are extremely gullible. And so a small section of society makes a killing from that fact. But that is another topic!

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