Do not confuse altruism with stupidity

| Friday, July 16, 2010
There's nothing wrong or stupid about helping others. There's even nothing wrong with sometimes putting personal benefits aside in favor of group benefits. These are good, admirable things. Delaying personal benefit is the foundation of any stable society.

But do not confuse altruism with outright stupidity. While collective gain is good, do not value it so much that it ruins personal gain. There's no point to helping a collective which does not help in return. Or an individual.

So while it's good to help friends, it's also good to have good friends. The person that you always help and never seems to offer anything in return, is not a friend. Friends are mutually beneficial, not one-sided leeching interactions. At times friends may ask a bit more and may give a bit less, but when that becomes a pattern, it should not be ignored.

I'm sure you have your stories of lazy friends, stupid friends, bad guilds, all manner of situations which seem to make friendship and altruism look stupid. Notice the adjectives? Lazy, stupid, bad. These are not inherent characteristics of all friends or groups, but of specific groups. To avoid all connection is to be as stupid as those who embrace all connections.

Maybe you had a bad experience in high school or middle school with all the cliques and arbitrary exclusion. I remember the annoyance of drama. My solution wasn't to reject all friends and all groups, but instead to have good friends and join good groups which did not sink into the mess of stupidity which dominates young social interaction.

It just is
Altruism, friendship, kindness, being helpful; these are generally good. Like water. I'm a fan of water. Drowning isn't so good. Should I reject water to avoid drowning? Of course not. That would be as stupid as swimming with an undertow. But I avoid times and places where I cannot safely swim. Similarly, I avoid damaging social relationships.


Bold - Runetotem said...

I guess that probably your analysis misses the point where you underline that it's admirable to help "good friends": you see, neither Altruists nor Anti-altruist are saying something different.

The question is: should the average guy you happen to meet once in a lifetime be considered "lazy, stupid, bad"? Or should we consider him "good"?

In the last case you are an "Altruist": he is good, so i'll help him guessing that he will eventually do the same for me when the occasion rise. Maybe this will never happen, but surely someone else will help me for the same reason if i will spread out enough my altruist mood...

In the first case you are an "anti-altruist": he is lazy, stupid, bad, so i'd better avoid him like a non-swimmer avoid deep water. Is he in some needs? Well, it's his problem not mine...

Got the point? There's no debate about how to interact with relatives and "good friends". There's a lot of debate about how to best approach a complete stranger.

Klepsacovic said...

The anti-altruist doesn't seem to have a method for interacting with strangers as much as a way of characterizing strangers in a negative manner.

It's a cost-benefit analysis. If the stranger is assumed to be bad, then it makes sense to avoid helping them. While if the stranger is good, then helping is good (by that I mean beneficial to me). If the stranger is neutral (as I believe most humans are, or are on average), then helping is a waste of time except as a means of creating an overall helpful society.

Bold - Runetotem said...

I don't agree with your belief that most humans are "neutral". I think it neither fits well with your post: how do a "neutral" person behave? neither "good" nor "lazy, stupid, bad", i guess... but this doesn't help in answering the question: will he, in a future when/if you are in need, remember that you once helped him and help you back? or don't?

It is a logical question, there's no midland - at least I can't see any.

Klepsacovic said...

The neutral person is able to be modified, learning the behavior of those around. A good person will already be kind, while a neutral person will become kind, and a bad person will abuse the kindness. So yes, he will. Perhaps not me specifically, probably not me specifically, but the goal is to create a society. Think of it as being similar to police: no officer has ever directly stopped me from being robbed, but the general presence discourages crime, even if the obvious direct action of stopping a crime in progress doesn't appear to me.

Post a Comment

Comments in posts older than 21 days will be moderated to prevent spam. Comments in posts younger than 21 days will be checked for ID.

Powered by Blogger.