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Humans are egotistical. This is, undoubtedly, irrefutable, no matter what the case. At some point in our lifetime, we make a decision based on what will benefit for our own sake. Not to be confused with the illusion that humans are only egotistical; this would result in a society where people would govern themselves, and nothing would be achieved; there would be no point in achievements for the good of humanity, and everyone would strive to be superior to everyone else. Why we are so self-centered is actually quite simple to follow. The brain wants to live, or your conscious tells you this, at least to some extent. This will to live generally follows along with our free will, a right any human being has. There are certain laws we follow, however these laws are broken all around the world, thousands of times a day. These actions are due to, mainly, ill-received morals or a poor history of events for that particular person. None the less, free will guided them to those actions. I would reach further into discussion on this topic, but it is irrelevant to the current discussion.
Think back. You may need to think back several days, or maybe as small as several seconds. Think of everything you have done in the past three hours. Now, think about why you did those things. Unquestionably, one of those reasons had something to do with you and your personal status, or well-being. For example, if you have consumed anything in the past hour, you did this because you were hungry, and you needed that food to digest and turn into an energy source so you may continue to go about your life. Thus, the action was done in benefit of yourself. This method can be applied to nearly any action done by man. If you choose to disprove me on this, feel free to do so. But first, follow the process and see if you are truly in the right. Take one of the most self-less acts commonly known today, donating to charity. If you have ever done this, start to think of why. Trace it back to the single instinct that lead to your decision. You may have seen an ad on television, urging you to donate $20 to the local animal shelter. Those types of ads are meant to appeal to your emotions (pathos is the term for it), and if you did end up donating, then the ad served its sole purpose, trying to get money out of you. Not to say that this is a sinful action, there is nothing wrong with donating your own possessions to benefit others, it is actually very gratuitous, but not quite what I have learned to call pure selflessness.
This term describes any action that was purely for the benefit of others. Now, you may be wondering what was not selfless about donating your share to help? Well, it was somewhat hinted at earlier, the fact that the ad was made to appeal to your emotions to get you to do something many people would not. Mainly, that type of ad appeals to the emotion of sadness. If the ad does its job, then you will consider the donation in order to ease your sorrow for the poor creatures featured in the images that were shown. Again, this is just one example.
Now, the extent to which one can appear to achieve pure selflessness all depends on (mainly) the person, their morals, and their motive. One individual that I personally see as closer than most to achieving pure selflessness was the renowned owner and a key contributor to the invention of most Microsoft® products, Bill Gates. In August of 2017, Gates announced his $4.6 billion pledge, bringing his total charity campaign donations to about $50 billion dollars. Moreover, Gates only keeps about 1% of his earnings for himself. With these facts, we can take the three terms laid out earlier, and give Gates his pure selflessness “score” (assuming each term is equivalent to the others).
First, let’s look at the person. Gates, as stated earlier, is a well-known philanthropist, and was one of the cofounders of the company of Microsoft®. He and his wife, Melinda Gates, created the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation with three other family foundations in 2000. These are all things that sound very self-less, yes?
Next term to look at is Gates’ morals. Evidently, the morals are associated with the person; ‘the morals of a man determine his future’. Now, before I go further, the subject of morals can be sensitive at times, because it can easily be seen as stereotypical assumptions about a person’s future, so for this I will refrain to purely statistics. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index conducted a study comparing to those living in poverty compared to those that live in a higher class of society. The organization concluded that those who lived their lives in poverty were two times more susceptible to living out their lives in depression, due to an ill-lived early life. Now, I do not even need to go into statistics when I make this statement: people are more likely going to make poor decisions if they are depressed, compared to if they are at a state of peace. Again, if you have doubts, think back to the decisions you made when you felt depressed or alone, versus happy and cheerful. Would you have made the same choices, had the emotional side of it been switched? For the most part, you can agree the answer would differ, depending on emotion, correct? Now that this has been cleared up, we can dive into more on Gates and his potential pure selflessness. Gates’ morals were mainly decided by key points in his past, where he learned what was morally right and wrong, just like the majority of us. With that, it is unarguable that Gates’ morals could be very similar to the morals many of us have. So what is the difference? Mainly, it is Gates’ astounding net worth of almost $90 billion that allows him to contribute what he does. You may think that this has nothing to do with morals, and that money is truly one of the keys to becoming a better person, but this is no such case. An example of someone with different morals than Gates, but the same potential to do so would be Donald Trump, a man with a net worth of about $3.5 billion. This is only a fraction of what Gates’ has, but Trump could still donate a majority of his earning to better aid many of those in need, however Trump chooses to not do so.
The third term on which Gates has now ‘been put to trial on’ is his motive. Only Gates could possibly know the true motive, and keeps it secret, or he can tell people, with the hope they will believe him. Gates true motives could be solely based on publicity, since he is an idolized figure in many parts of the world, or to ease a guilty conscience, or it could be none of these, and just be because he wants to do good, and encourage others to do good as well. Whatever the motive may be, he has inspired many to do more good, and has helped so many people across the world with his efforts.
To conclude on Bill Gates and his story, there is a slight, possible chance that he is very close to achieve pure selflessness, nonetheless, there are possibly millions of unknown factors regarding his true motives, and therefore we cannot say his selflessness is pure. However, just because his selflessness is not pure does not mean that what he has contributed is irrelevant, or selfish in any way. It is simply to show that no act is done under pure selflessness. There is always something in it for the party, or parties, involved.
With these items addressed, it is also very important to note that these imperfections are all a part of human nature. These such ‘defects’ are much more dominant than other attributes, thus, are much more difficult to silence. Unlike many behavioral traits that are somewhat learned, this side of human nature is a natural part of our daily lives. Think of it like math. We use math everyday, like it or not, and most of the population does not even notice it. In that same sense, we use our deficiency of always putting ourselves as number one every day. Because of this, we may not be able to give anything with no reason other than to do good, but it is what keeps us alive. Being egotistical keeps us as humans, sane. Without these characteristics, people would give and give until they are without property, or dead. It would be a dystopic society of endless giving. People would argue on who receives, and who gives for hours, so long as they end up the giver. If human nature were constructed on the idea of endless giving, our society could not function as it does today. We would have no leaders; nobody would want to be seen as higher than others. People would be putting others lives in front of their own, no matter what the cost. Nothing would be of value. If you have any disbelief in that statement, look at our society today. See the greed shown throughout the world. The main goal for most of the population is to attribute as much value to yourself as possible. This can be value in morals, as well as literal value; net worth.
So what do we as humans do in order to achieve pure selflessness, without giving up the practical society in which we live today? To be truthful, there is no way to handle both. The key is to find balance. We should generally put ourselves first when it comes down to life or death, especially if the case causes unnecessary harm. To balance, when it comes to the smaller situations, we should put the general welfare of others first. Give some, but not all. If you can achieve this balance, then you have achieved what, in this world, can be known as purity in selflessness, at its best.
“Give what you can, whenever possible.”
- Quote paper
- Jack Hoggard (Author), 2017, The idea of basic morality through the idea of selflessness, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/377041