On selfishness

self·ish[ˈselfiSH]
ADJECTIVE

  1. (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure:
  2. “I joined them for selfish reasons”

One of my least favorite aspects of human nature is demonization. I don’t know if it is inherently human to seek ways in which to feel superior to others but it is absolutely everywhere you look. Racially, politically and socially we make assumptions and cast aspersions in order to well, let’s call it what it is, to feel better about ourselves. We call each other racist, rich, poor, spoiled, uncultured, and any other labels that seek to classify and denigrate others. One that has been sticking in my figurative craw is selfish.

It never ceases to amaze me how people, and this is a behavior that I suspect is here to stay, are compelled to compare value systems as if theirs and only theirs is the right one. How they have to weigh in on the way others live their lives. My take on this is simple and oft-heard. To each his own. If someone is happy, not bothering anyone, and not harming children and animals then I don’t care what they do or how they live their life. That extends to the extent of time and effort expended in the pursuit of their own interests.

Ayn Rand, the much-maligned Russian novelist known for strong and controversial opinions noted in The Virtue of Selfishness,

“In popular usage, the word ‘selfishness’ is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends . . . and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.
“Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word ‘selfishness’ is concern with one’s own interests.
“This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions.”

The long and short of it is that I think it’s ok to look after yourself. There are many popular euphemisms surrounding it;
You must take care of yourself before you can take care of another…
Put your oxygen mask on first…
Take a breather…
You can’t pour from an empty cup…

All of these allude to the notion that at some point you must come first. I find it to be a valid concept, especially if you are a person who dedicates a considerable amount of personal resources to the assistance of others. Yes, take care of yourself first. But what if you are a person who does the bare minimum, or maybe nothing at all in the service of others? Is it acceptable to villainize them for looking after their own needs only?

There are many people who, not out of contempt for charity or out of deliberate disregard for others, simply dedicate their lives to the pursuit of their own interests.

I believe every person has a purpose in life. Many people feel as I do and they strive for that purpose in building a career, growing or creating a business, and working towards countless goals. There are too many to list. But bottom line, they are comfortable enough worrying about their own lives. I don’t condemn people for this. The reason one person stands out as giving and generous and selfless is because there are plenty of people who are not. It’s just how we are wired as individuals and it is not always something that can be changed. Or villainized.

No person is more villainized along those lines than the person who has the brave audacity to admit in a crowded room that they don’t want children. I feel for these people because they are constantly forced to justify it. They are challenged;
“Don’t you want to carry on the family name…?”
“What about the joy of creating life…?”

The list goes on. It’s especially bad for women. It’s as if it comes down to the fact that because they are able to conceive then they must. How Catholic. It is perfectly valid, especially in 2022, to not want to bring a child into this world.
Parenthood isn’t for everyone. There are a lot of BAD parents out there. There are also a lot of children that are born into despair and poverty with little hope for survival, never mind a future. Raising a child is prohibitively expensive, physically and emotionally draining, and requires complete and total commitment. As I always said, once you have a child your life is no longer about you. It is not something that everyone can even do. Recognizing that and choosing not to make the leap is perfectly ok. It doesn’t make you selfish.

Selfishness can be a bad thing and I’m not defending it. But not everyone who is focused on their own life and goals is necessarily a bad person. In many cases a person is barely able to handle their own life, never mind assisting others. The term is used as yet another harmful and judgmental label. To me, it flies directly in the face of a saying that I believe should be in the Declaration of Independence…

“Live, and let live.”

Labels are for boxes

Superman is about to delve into previously unchartered waters…Politics. I briefly touched on it in a piece I did about civil war, inspired by a wonderful post by Bojana about her experience in war-torn former Yugoslavia. It’s amazing by the way check it out. here https://bloggingwithbojana.com/2018/03/07/welcome-to-absurdistan/

I have largely stayed away from politics in my blogs. After 9 months and almost 200 posts I now feel that I have established myself as a reasonable, civil guy and I have a confession to make. I am a Conservative…of sorts and I voted for Donald Trump. I believed in enough of what he wanted to accomplish to give him my vote. Immigration reform, crime reform, smaller government, a balanced budget, a secure border and the future of the Supreme court matter a great deal to me. On those, he secured my vote. Let the unfollowing begin. Or let cooler heads prevail. If you read to the end, you will likely agree that I am not a typical Conservative at all. Here’s the kicker, I’m not looking for your approval I’m just going to stimulate some conversation here.

I know some beautiful, smart and compassionate people that voted for both Donald Trump and Hillary. I love them all and I don’t judge or hate. I am in the minority. Our country is hopelessly divided. We have always had an ideological divide, but it has become intensely personal. If you are on FB you will see nothing but Vitriol spewed on both sides of the spectrum and it is so unhealthy on so many levels. My generation taught me that there are certain subjects never to discuss, but I disagree. Religion, sexuality, and Politics can be discussed if we were also taught the art of rational, intelligent discourse. Repeat after me, “I disagree but I respect your opinion.” Instead, we close our ears and raise our voice. We rear back on our heels and defend, for fear of losing, when instead we should be chin on hands, listening to each other. Tragically, we care more about “our side” than we do about real change.

“My side” is traditional William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan conservatism. I revert to that point in history because if you use the word “Conservative” now you will likely invoke the iconic MAGA hat worn by the “Trump Supporter.” The very words ”Trump Supporter” are hissed by liberals in the same manner that the Pope may utter “Contraception”. The words have become synonymous with Racist, Xenophobe, Nazi, Fascist and Bully. That’s not me, I’m happy to report, but it is a reality that a lot of Trump era conservatives live up to it and it’s a shame. I am tolerant, empathetic, polite and educated enough to agree to disagree with someone without shouting them down, closing my ears when I should be listening, or ignoring or exaggerating “facts” in order to win one for my side.

I am saddened that I have to avoid the subject of politics altogether for fear of being attacked. I’m actually pretty liberal on social matters. I believe in love between two people regardless of gender; I believe in immigration if it is done legally. I believe in law and order but not martial law. I believe in concealed carry but see no reason for anyone to own an AR-15. Go ahead and try to force this square peg into a round hole, you can’t do it. Criticize me, I can handle it. Just do it constructively, don’t shout and pay attention when I speak. I deserve that courtesy.

Roughly 24% of Americans identify as Republicans, approximately 30% identify as Democrats. What is left is the Independent voter. I identify as an Independent, despite the federal govt’s alternate term of “undecided voter”. I share this political distinction with approximately half of the country and I would like to think that we are independent because of our insistence on thinking for ourselves. We reject party politics and hate labels. But labels are all we have now. Whether it is driven by the media, George Soros, Hollywood, a basic lack of education, short attention spans or the absolute lack of critical thinking but we are mired in labels.

Republican, Democrat, Progressive, Liberal, Tea-Party, and Right-winger. Labels, Labels, Labels. Despite the numbers I stated in the previous paragraph, I see 15% of the country at the very far right, 15% at the very far left and 70% right in the middle, forced to pick between two candidates that seem to satisfy enough of us. But the extremes have defined Republicans and Democrats and forced those willing, not me, to be forcefully compartmentalized. Those unfortunate voters are the true Republicans, the true Democrats, and the Independents. The 15% on each side quarrel over extreme ideology and the rest of us vote our conscience and our wallets, the order of those 2 is up to you.

At the end of the day, it is all bullshit. Neither party of our broken two-party system stand for what they used to, the lines are so blurred and the aisle dividing the houses of Congress is as wide as the ocean and it doesn’t matter because no one is reaching across it. Fulfilling campaign promises and getting reelected take precedent over real legislative accomplishment. There used to be moderates, who believed that there was a compromise to be made for the better of all. They’re either gone or too afraid to stand up for fear of reprisal. If you watched the SOTU you clearly saw that when the President had his applaud moments, entire sides of the rooms respectively stood or sat with their arms crossed. Some Democrats were so resistant to standing for anything the president said they sat even when families of murdered children were honored. It was disgusting, and it said it all. Fear of breaking labels, that’s all it is.

What is a typical Democrat and Republican after all? Where does being a Democrat end and a Progressive begin? Where does a Republican end a Tea-Party Conservative begin?
Democrats, commonly known now as “Liberals” have always considered themselves the party of the working man. They opposed corporate greed and the Industrial Military Complex, and strongly focused on social issues. Today, the Democrats have become the party of bloated government, high taxes, massive regulation, and throwing tremendous amounts of money at problems in hopes that they go away. The focus of some extreme modern democrats on trans-gender bathrooms, abortion, open borders, the suppression of speech that offends their beliefs and the eschewing of religion has earned many to the far-left the label of “Progressive”. A progressive believes in social engineering, “hug-it-out’s” for terrorists, legislating income redistribution and, generally speaking, dwell on utopian ideals. I find great hypocrisy in the Democrats of today. Example, how can you champion yourselves the party of equality, while at the same time propping up Muslims who routinely deny women the most basic of rights, subject underage girls to marriage and stone homosexuals to death?

Republicans were traditionally known as the party of “family values”, believed in a strong military, a market economy, personal accountability, and were strongly aligned with the Evangelical Christians. Republicans are no better than their Democrat peers in their obstructionism, failure to reach across the aisle and to adhere to their core principles. I contend, despite my own identification as a Conservative, that the Republicans have drifted farther off course than the Democrats. Today, the Republicans are completely off message. They are trying to solve the complex problem of immigration through massive arrests. They are as guilty of allowing jobs to flee this country as the Democrats. Their alliance with the extreme-right Evangelicals is shameful. Their refusal to stand up to their major campaign donors, the NRA and the Pharmaceutical industries and their lobbyists have left them ineffective and blatant hypocrites who are blocking even the discussion of real reform on major issues. Also prone to hypocrisy, they lost me when they cut benefits to Veterans while touting themselves as the supporters of the military.

Instead of fixing the problems before them, the powers that be distract us by telling us what to hate and who to blame for it. Hence the labels. I for one am tired of it. I am a Conservative that was forced to vote for Donald Trump. It took every fiber of my body to do it, I almost skipped the vote altogether. I find that he cares about some things that matter to me while Hillary represents nothing I believe in. So I again voted against a candidate and not for one. I am not a Nazi, a Fascist, a Racist or a Sexist. But I stand to be labeled as one.

https://endsandbeginningsblog.wordpress.com/ a blogger I admire, posted recently about a reaction to Conservatives and their bad behavior, in particular, being called a “typical liberal.”
https://endsandbeginningsblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/typical-liberal/
I commented on the post, not realizing that I was having a visceral reaction to the post. I do disagree with a lot of what was said, but I felt like I was being called out. That wasn’t the case and I gave a balanced response along the lines of what I have written here. At the end of the day, I wanted to convey that  I am not a “typical conservative”. Even if that was the case, why do I care?

Because we are living in a fractured, divided culture and we are all on edge. Half the country is yelling at the other half and nothing is being resolved. The big picture is that the division in our society, as manifested in our behavior towards each other is based on all of us feeling that we are not being heard, so we speak louder.

My mother always said, “when you are speaking you are not listening.” I would further extrapolate on that and say if you are shouting you aren’t helping. Step out of your comfort zone, step out of our compartmentalized belief system, question what you’re being fed by the media, embrace another’s opinion. They’re not wrong, they’re just different. No one is smarter and no one is dumber. At least it looks that way until we speak. The way I see it, if we reshape our ways of communicating, it’s possible our leaders will find their lost direction in our new one.

Labels are for envelopes, not for people. We’re better than that. One love, baby.