Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Synonymous to Selfishness, Opposite to Altruism
By Paul Balles
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 24, 2012
THE MEANING OF ALTRUISM
When I was a college freshman, I
became completely enamoured with Ayn Rand. As a literary heroin, she
surpassed so many of my early heroes.
The self defence in The
Fountainhead of Randís hero, architect Howard York, stood on trial for
dynamiting a housing project he designed.
It was such a
captivating defence that I insisted on sharing it with everyone who would
listen. Many of my classmates who would listen came to the same
conclusions, becoming Rand fans.
Six million copies of The
Fountainhead provided evidence of the following that Rand developed. Many
of us couldn't help wanting to be trial lawyers who could make as
convincing arguments as Roark (and Rand) could.
Over the next
decade of subscribing to Rand's "objectivism", I realized that I had been
infected with the worst kind of selfishness.
Objectivism was the term that Rand used to describe selfishness.
To Rand, altruism reflected the evil she opposed.
Altruism is the opposite of selfishness, and involves doing for
others without any expectation of reward.
Rand declared, "From her
start, America was torn by the clash of her political system with the
altruist morality." This is a near-perfect description of the present
conflict between America's two political parties.
To her, "capitalism
and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites;
they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society."
perceived a choice between ďa morality of rational self-interest, with its
consequences of freedom, justice, progress and manís happiness on earthóor
the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery,
brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces."
to Rand, "the basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to
exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification
of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty,
virtue and value."
Martin Luther King Jr. opposed Randís
philosophy: "Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of
creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."
Presaging opposition to Rand's ideas, 19th century British Prime Minister
William E. Gladstone said "Selfishness is the greatest curse of the human
Apart from anything else, when asked about her position on
the Middle East conflict Rand firmly supported Israel with a rationale
that could have come out of a typical hate-Arab speech by Benyamin
Netanyahu, Abe Foxman, David Harris or any AIPAC speaker.
rationale: "...because it's the advanced technological and civilized
country amidst a group of almost totally primitive savages who have not
changed for years and who are racists and who resent Israel because it's
bringing industry and intelligence and modern technology into their
Current Republican candidates for president and vice
president of the U.S., Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan,
both subscribe to a "morality of rational self-interest."
avowed fan of Rand, hasn't grown out of the enamoured college freshman.
Ryan not only tried to get all of the interns in his congressional office
to read Randís writing, he also gave copies of her novel Atlas Shrugged to
his staff as Christmas presents.
Should the Republicans win the
coming elections, there's little doubt that they will carry Randís
philosophy and politics with them.
Economist, teacher and diplomat
John Kenneth Galbraith complained that "The modern conservative is engaged
in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search
for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
Professor Richard Dawkins offers some sage advice: "Let us try to teach
generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish."