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I can confidently say that the most stupid decision I have ever made in my life was to go out and work for a missionary group in Louisiana. In my opinion, I was only doing it with good intention thinking that I would have a better view of the world. I thought I would experience the different cultures of the world while at the same time doing good things. The function of the group that I intended to work with was offering help in disasters through food provision, shelter, and medicine among other essentials. The organization was run by a religious ideology that was militant in its approach. I believed that working with the group would enhance my leadership and berate my actions. This ideological group offered the best training for inductees in getting supplies to people in the third world rural regions. To accomplish this objective, the team wanted me and others to go and offer training in the swamps of Louisiana.
The worst part of the tour was with training. The trainers put rocks into our backpacks and made us march through the swamp with these heavy packs on our backs. Some of my team members would fall behind, and our group leader would take their bag and add the weight to another member. I, unfortunately, was part of the group that had the most team member’s quit. Every person that quit added their load to mine. I was pushed forward by the leadership, always yelling at us to move forward. Any sign of exhaustion was welcomed by mockery and criticism if we stopped. Phrases like “letting the team down” and “failing the team” were used liberally at us. Like a work mule, using sheer will and determination, I tried to move forward with the heavyweight. Eventually, I could not hold the weight anymore as it became too much. I grew immobile, and my eyes were the only things above the water. The pressure from the packs pushed down on me forcing my legs more in-depth into the muck and mire. I was sinking, and I thought I had the last moments before witnessing my death. I had two options; continue the test with the heavy weight on my back and die or remove the burden to live. I choose to live and set myself free from the pressure, and the morass swamp I was in.
From my own experience with altruism, I believe it is not so different from our culture’s love for this idea. Particularly with my generation’s irrational adoption of this ideology, it depicts how the modern defenders of capitalism refer to it as a “common good” or “public good” rather than as the most rational response to man’s self-interested need to survive and thrive. I believe that this gives a good reason why we see college students sipping from their Starbucks coffee, and tweeting to their friends on their iPhone about their socialist ideals. (This is a laughable event if it wasn’t so scary that they can’t even see the hypocrisy in their actions.)
Altruism is the idea that a baker does not make the bread for his own needs but instead does it since it helps society (Batson, 161). They do it for the love of giving food for the common good but not because the baker needs to feed their families. They do not do it because they want to create something and create a profit for themselves or because the baker wants to live to their own highest standard of living but rather for the tribe, group, and society and the benefits of the social order.
To distill altruism to its core psychological-epistemology would be a straightforward equation.
The equation would be equal to this: “Bad” people = Selfish/self-interested people.
This is the main difference between Ayn Rand and the current altruistic moral ideal found in our culture.
Ayn elaborates this through her fictional work “Atlas Shrugged.” Atlas Shrugged explains what happens when the altruistic intentions and collectivist reasoning bind society at large to a mixed economy.
The book accomplishes this by giving a “what if” scenario. The “what if” scenario is what would happen if the innovators, scientists, and men of industry suddenly left a society that no longer valued their innovation and progress, but instead evaluated the swamp of stagnation, public opinions, and social groups. The world economy begins to crash. People start losing their jobs, and business opportunities start to dry up. Many begin to loot and steal just to survive. All of Ayn Rand’s heroes and heroines face this collective swamp of altruism they found themselves in. My personal favorite is Hank Rearden. It may be that we share certain personality traits and shared life experiences with altruism. Rearden speech to the Supreme Court hit a chord with me.
“I do not want my attitude to be misunderstood. I shall be glad to state it for the record…I work for nothing but my profit – which I make by selling a product they need to men who are willing and able to buy it. I do not produce it for their benefit at the expense of mine, and they do not buy it for my gain at the expense of theirs: I do not sacrifice my interests to them nor do they sacrifice theirs to me; we deal as equals by mutual consent to mutual advantage – and I am proud of every penny that I have earned in this manner. I am rich, and I am proud of every penny I own (Rand, 480). I have made my money by my own effort, in free exchange and through the voluntary consent of every man I dealt with – the voluntary consent of those who employed me when I started, the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product (Rand, 600). “
The speech is much longer, but the absolute beauty of his statements breaks down the essence of Capitalism from the haze of altruism. When Rearden said, “Mutual consent to mutual advantage,” She meant to refer to capitalism. If I want to get your money, social media likes word of mouth among other things; I need to bring value to value. The beauty of trade (if done ethically) is that it ends in a win-win. I have to respect the whole individual to receive what I want from that person. Rearden elaborates this by saying “voluntary consent of every man I dealt with….voluntary consent to those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product” (Rand, 600). Capitalism is the system of self-interested mutual benefit which cannot be coerced by force unless a third party gets involved but can only be accomplished through voluntary consent between individuals, and approval among groups of people. Capitalism happens through the respect of sovereign individuals.
Is man a sovereign individual who own his person, his mind, his life, his work and its products – or is he the property of the tribe (the state, the society, the collective) that may dispose of him in any way it pleases, that may dictate his convictions, prescribe the course of his life, control his work and expropriate his products? (Rand, 3)Does man have the right to exist for his sake or is he born to bondage, as an indentured servant who must keep buying his life by serving the tribe but can never acquire it free and clear?
In humanity’s history, capitalism is the only system that answers: Yes! (Rand, 19). To see what Ayn was trying to elaborate in Atlas Shrugged it is essential to consider the logical conclusions through a society that refuses to challenge their biases in altruism. For instance, it would be a great idea to get a world map set at night, look for South Korea, entirely lit up with lights. It would seem like a complete geographical feature adorned with jewels. North Korea, on the other hand, is in total darkness. The reason for this is for the last 50-60 years of barbaric communist doctrine that leads to a country that is entirely in an unindustrialized swamp. It is in these regions that citizens are always experiencing a food shortage that results in malnourishment or starving to death. In so doing the mental focus is concerned on how to feed their family and not on challenging their government. Citizens are always kept in a state of fear of their intrusive barbaric government dragging them away in the middle of the night where neighbors can turn a person in for perceived insubordination to the government. In the same region, people can at best be given a public execution or at worst sent to labor camps, beaten and worked to their deaths.
In my opinion, I like how Dr. Jordan Peterson explains what happens when an individual refuses to challenge their biases in their ideology. This self-generated swamp grows increasingly impenetrable, as time passes; become increasingly “uninhabitable,” as the consequences of long-term avoidance propagate (as the monsters of the bog sprout new and hungry heads). This ‘accumulation of cosmogonic potential” is tantamount to the reanimation of the dragon of chaos (is precisely equivalent to the reawakening of Tiamat, who eternally sleeps under the secure and familiar world). The more restricted, fear-bound, faithless and repressive the particular mode of adaptation, the more extreme the lie and the more horrendous, dangerous, intolerable and powerful the associated dragon is (Peterson, 332).
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