It’s Valentine’s Day, so I guess I ought to think of something vaguely love-related. I was reading an interesting blog post by Eseld Bosustow about her motives for helping underprivileged students and arguing against MRAs, which got me thinking about my own, I guess, “rational self-interest”. I’ve always distrusted classical economics because of terms like that. If you conflate rational behaviour with selfishness, we wouldn’t have people helping others for the sake of it, right? And yet I can’t help but wonder if my own desire to help the underprivileged stems from my own selfishness.
There was a time in which I felt guilty of my own existence, feeling that I was only capable of making others miserable. At worst, I felt that I was an error of a human being that would do the world a favour if I disappeared. Part of it was because I was slow to learn social cues to understand when I was upsetting people, but it still didn’t help that I was a narcissistic brat back in junior high. That’s a reason I place a high value on empathy; it’s a reaction to my past self both hurting others and being hurt emotionally. My one disappointment with regards to this is learning not to be so narcissistic only to find out that society places a high value on narcissism for the select few, like businessmen who mistreat their employees such as Steve Jobs and racist, bloodthirsty warmongers such as Chris Kyle (I can’t believe American Sniper is a thing considering that the Iraq War was a crime against humanity based on false premises). Still, I don’t want to be like that anymore because it would upset me too much to see others suffering.
Later in my life, when I started having friends, I was surprised when people said how kind I was. So I started thinking, maybe I can make a positive impact. Maybe I wasn’t created for the wrong reason. If I have any selfish motivation for trying to help and understand others, it’s so I can tell myself I don’t exist for the wrong reason, that I can make others happy instead of miserable.
There’s also the fact that we’re all going to die someday, and when we do, all the money and possessions in the world will mean nothing. After passing, the only things that survive in this world are memories and legacy, to be held by the people whose lives we’ve touched. So it logically follows that pure selfishness is a losing investment. Sure, you can build up an illusionary legacy like the aforementioned men, but your victims won’t forget your trail of blood and pain. Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife, is it not worth it to leave a positive footprint?
For me, my life has no inherent worth, because I am aware I will die someday and accept it when it comes. My life’s meaning is to give others the chance to find their own meaning. So, whether it’s selfish or altruistic, I guess that’s my motive for fighting against racism, sexism, climate change, and the modern capitalistic structure that enforces these ills by valuing money over people. I will always want to end the suffering of others and give everyone the chance to find and fulfill their purpose in life, not as a narcissistic martyr, but a piece of the solution. And I hope one day, I can eventually die without regret, knowing that I have made a positive impact on the world.
I guess talking about death is a bit morbid for Valentine’s, but this year, I decided to celebrate Friday the 13th instead. And I wrote all this because I felt similarly to Eseld. It’s nice to have a fellow traveler in life, especially with regards to relatively unorthodox perspectives.