Monday, August 29, 2011

Are You a Selfish Monster?

“John McCain and Sarah Palin they call this socialistic. You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness.”*

Are you a selfish monster? Do you always feel as if you are doing something wrong because you work hard and want to earn as much as possible? Are you guilty because you want to enjoy your life and get the most out of it? Are you constantly striving to do well only to have people criticize you for being selfish? Are you paying ransom to people who expect you to give your money away?

I think it is immoral and manipulative to make a person feel guilty for making his best effort and succeeding. It has been done to me countless times. In fact, demanding that I sacrifice for others is the best way for someone to lose my friendship. Some people call it “Guilt-Tripping” and I think that’s a good way to say it.

How does “Guilt-Tripping” work? I first experienced it when I was too young to understand how insidious it is. It started for me when I was told that I should consider other people to be more important than me; that my purpose in life should be to help others.

Like many young people, I struggled with the question of what is moral. I initially sensed that the advice to live for others was intended to help me be a good person. Yet, the idea made me wonder how I fit in, how could I decide what was right, and what about those people who were not living for my sake (which included the very people telling me to live for others)? I had not understood how it was possible that I should always think of others while never thinking of myself. How did that work?

So I thought that maybe my teachers didn’t really mean what they were saying. Did they just want me to be nice to others or to be a good citizen? Maybe they were saying it because they loved me; they didn't want me to be anti-social. But no, I was told, the sign of piety and love of God is to be totally self-sacrificial. I should live like the saints such as St. Francis who dedicated his life to others.

Somewhere along the line, I even heard that true sacrifice should be all-consuming – if I really loved God, I should be like Jesus who died for man's sins on the cross. Jesus had sacrificed himself completely and suffered; so should I. I also heard that, in order to be moral, I should derive no personal pleasure from self-sacrifice but do it merely because it was right regardless of how much I suffered.

When I read Ayn Rand, I developed a new view of self-interest and morality. Her critique of altruism revealed to me that the method of promoting altruism involved the denigration of the individual and self-interest. She averred that the purpose of life was to live and be happy, not to suffer and die. Almost, without exception, she taught, the entire history of ethics had been founded on the idea of sacrifice. The manipulation was real and they meant their attacks on self-interest.

As a youngster, I did not know that “Guilt-Tripping” was based upon an entire philosophical system that had dominated men’s societies for centuries. I was just another hapless young victim walking into the carnival’s House of Horrors not knowing what terrors I would find. Needless to say, Rand has exposed the scam being played by moralists. From Plato to Kant, the ritual of sacrifice had been nurtured and protected until the 20th Century when Hitler, Mao and Stalin managed to kill millions in the name of sacrifice for others.

Today, I’m amused when I hear people say that the rich should pay higher taxes and give more money to charity. Most rich people accept the guilt and give in because they have been “guilt-tripped”. They can't figure out who's right; they for wanting to do well or their critics who accuse them of "thinking they're so good". They are going through the house of horrors too and eventually they decide that the best way to handle the guilt is to buy heaven. Do you feel better, Warren?

Over the years, as I’ve said, due to the influence of Ayn Rand, I have developed a different conception of proper human action. According to this view, what is important about a man is not that he dedicates his life to others but how he uses his mind. What does he do to develop and enhance his intellectual capacities, how correct is his thinking and how has he used knowledge to advance his own flourishing? This is what I admire: not how many people a person has fed, but how well he has fed himself?

“Guilt-Tripping” is a form of moral intimidation. It is cruel and unfair and no person should go through life thinking there is something wrong with him if he decides to enjoy his life and revel in his ability to produce wealth. Too many of these men lack the intellectual stamina to understand that they have been “Guilt-Tripped”, duped into feeling guilty for doing well and loving their success. They have done nothing wrong.

There is only one difference between the “Guilt-Tripped” average person and the “Guilt-Tripped” rich person. The rich person gets rich in spite of his unearned guilt while the average person doesn’t get rich because of his unearned guilt.

Unearned guilt is a destroyer and too many good people fall for it. They should learn that their “Guilt-Trip”, imposed upon them by people who supposedly love them, has caused them serious psychological and monetary damage. And they should learn that there is nothing about which to feel guilty. If they decide to spend their money in the most ostentatious display of wealth, they should not be afraid of what people think. Even if they decide to have the most lustful parties, spending millions on ice sculptures, enjoying the most beautiful and expensive toys, automobiles, electronic goods, mansions, etc.; good for them. They should enjoy it; they deserve it. They should get more of it and look envy straight in the eye and say, “You’re jealous because you can’t afford it”.

Of course, I know the "Guilt-Tripper's" standard response to the above statement: "How could you live so ostentatiously when so many are starving?" The correct answer to this "Guilt-Tripper" should be "It is my money. If people are starving, that's your fault not mine. Your ideas created the victims of poverty. You feed them."

Yet, whenever I advocate for this view of man, the old “Guilt-Trip always seems to come up. It is, in fact, a cultural institution. Say that you advocate individuality and you’ll hear, “I hate that person”, “How cruel”, “He must be in favor of “dog-eat-dog” capitalism” and “I’ll bet he loves Nietzche”.

Lately, I’ve realized how hateful it is to criticize a person for not giving to or “caring” about others. The recent statements made by billionaire Warren Buffet that rich people should pay higher taxes are cases in point. I think Buffet is totally wrong. Somewhere along the line he has lost a respect for how difficult it is to become rich, how hard most rich people work and, especially, that the money they earn belongs to them. They should not apologize for it nor should they give it away. Buffet, who should know better, has somehow forgotten that “unused” money usually goes into a bank or investment vehicle. Doesn't he know that such investments return more money and do more good compared to money that buys food for consumption? When money is invested in creating companies, jobs, better products and better lives, the result is long-term benefits to people rather than a mere block of cheese.

Why should a person who knows how to invest money give that money to people who did not make it and who have no right to it, and more importantly, who don’t know how to improve peoples’ lives with it? The capitalist investor is the one who cares about people because he treats them with respect and expects them to make buying decisions with their self-interest in mind. That is true love for mankind because it starts with a love for the self and extends to a respect for the human mind. Sacrifice is not necessary to prove that you love mankind. To fall for the “Guilt-Trip” only means that you don’t realize you’ve been conned by people who trade in guilt. They give you guilt; you give them money.

But the most dastardly aspect of "Guilt-Tripping" is what it does to young people who are struggling to learn about morality. It is a travesty of justice to give a child "sacrifice" as a moral injunction. To call a young person selfish; to excoriate, vilify and insult him for seeking accomplishment and pride is the worst form of evil. For parents, peers and teachers to punish children for wanting to do well is akin to murder. These children, all children, should learn the value of self-respect and should be praised, not vilified, for doing well. In fact, those rich who have earned their wealth are the most moral people on the planet.

On the topic of the rich, I was recently involved in some Facebook bantering about Buffet’s statements and was making some pretty good arguments for letting rich people keep their money when someone I did not know made the following statement:

“You guys are funny, in the end [we’ll] ask what did you do for your fellow man, not how much did you get from your fellow man. Yeah funny as a heart attack.”

My response:

[Name], your post is an example of how to induce guilt in honest people. I'm not falling for it. Rich people have a right to their money and they do not NEED to give it to anyone. I don't care what you ask "in the end" makes no difference and I don't think successful people should feel guilty for making, earning and enjoying their wealth. They deserve every pleasure they can buy. Most rich people get rich not by "getting" from their fellow man but by offering products and services that improve their fellow man's lives. If their fellow men buy from them, then their fellow men "get" improved lives for their money. For those who want to take money from the rich and have not earned it, I say, "in the end" we'll ask whether you were self-sufficient or a parasite. If there is a Hell, the lowest rung should be reserved for people who think they have the moral authority to tell other people what they should do with their lives and property. Your guilt-inducing game is coming to an end. People are wising up to the scam. I dare you to go to your bank, draw out every penny and give it to the first person you meet. If you don't, you're a hypocrite.”

Interestingly, another person monitoring the thread responded with the following:

“Yes, and if he does not give all his money away voluntarily, he is a hypocrite. After all, it doesn't belong to him according to his philosophy. He stole it from them and quite readily admits it. If he stole it, he should give it back... all of it. He should practice what he preaches.”

I enjoyed this thread and I’ve decided that when every leftist in the world gives away every penny he owns, regardless of how much he got from his government job or government grant, I will then give away all my money. Until then, anyone who wants to be successful should practice his or her selfishness as selfishly as he or she can – proudly and without guilt.

Go ahead, say it.

*Senator Barack Obama

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