Altruism: Simply Myth and Evil
I’ve come not just to believe that, apart from the many pervading wicked elements in our society, altruism, which was considered and trumpeted by some altruists and philanthropists, including the charitable, as a necessary fiber of morality, is indeed an evil.
This assertion was officially made over half a century ago by American philosopher Ayn Rand who claimed without blinking an eye that altruism is one of the origins of all evils in human history. Ayn Rand, of course, was speaking of her time, but her objectivist philosophy, which attacked the then [but still] philosophical penchant of America, including other worlds, for altruism, withstood the test of time.
I’ve come to embrace the idea of Rand and other non-believers of altruism not because of their popularity and reputation. I love her novels, particularly The Fountainhead, which successfully evinced man as creator and selfishness as a virtue, however, I do not believe in some of her ideas.
Rand’s strong opposition to the then prevailing social dogma opened my eyes wide to reality. Her mostly controversial ideas helped me understand the incoherent and jumbled pictures of today’s social and political structure.
American living intellectual Noam Chomsky, on the other hand, illustrated a wider picture of United States of America’s altruism. His political ideas showed a wider view about how the world’s biggest imperialist exploits altruism in its favor.
Relying on Rand’s and Chomsky’s clear conceptual frameworks, this opinion of mine is an attempt at explaining my new-found dislike of altruism and all its attributes.
Altruism, which is often described as the Golden Rule of Ethics, is defined in the wikipedia as selfless concern for the welfare of others.
The word derived its origin from French word autre which means other, in its turn derived from Latin alter“other”. Its origin can be traced to French philosopher Auguste Compte, the founder of positivism, who believed that men had a moral duty or obligation to serve the interest of others of the “greater good” of humanity.
He then illustrated this view in his Catechisme Positiviste, which states that: [the] social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service…. This [“to live for others”], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, who we are entirely.”
Compte’s ethical doctrine now called Altruism is based on the concept of service, that “man must serve”, and that he should live for others and live only according to the “greater good”.
His philosophy later on became part of society’s ethical norms. It was also adopted as a political rubric by developing countries, particularly those subscribed to democracy.
Several ideologies like Communism and Collectivism conform to the principles of altruism. Communism in effect advocates that men must live for others, and that service must be dutifully given to the central government.
Communist China, for example, demands that loyalty must only be given to the communist government and men should only live in a communal system. North Korea, on the other hand, is also under the same system where people are forced to adapt to the ways and beliefs of the communal state since birth. To preserve the status quo, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il ordered the regular carrying out of mass games, the country’s highly regimented performance that highlights group dynamics rather than individual skills. This propaganda aims at preparing the youth for a bigger role in the communal state, like military service and such other activities necessary for the preservation of the regime.
It is the political avenue of altruism where America and communist states meet halfway. Many political scientists claim that the true political system in America is polyarchy, which also emphasizes the great importance of collectivism in arriving at decisions that affect the collective community.
The Philippines, which, in my own opinion, is under oligarchic system, also subscribes to the same altruistic ideals in the pursuit of its political goals. Its constitution and political frameworks, which were mainly based on the US constitution and political system, emphasize the importance of service and altruism in meeting its national goals.
I have nothing against the preservation of the state and of the rights and properties of others. It is but the inherent duty of the people to protect their motherland, and it also their natural obligation to respect the rights and civil liberties of others. In fact, the true purpose of the constitution is to remind men of these duties and rights. Common sense tells us that “we” are created equal, that no man is above the law.
But let me make it clear that that rubric “all is equal” is not synonymous to the communistic meaning of “equality”, where all properties, both public and private, must be owned by the state.
When I say “all men are created equal,” what I mean is that all men has the natural capacity to make a difference, to excel, to create and compete. This, of course, remains a myth particularly in today’s status quo, because the gospel of altruism is strongly embedded in our educational and religious system.
Altruism, indeed, is now a dominant ideology sponsored by the superstructures (e.g. Governments, educational institutions, religious entities, media, and the dominant class.) The world really is under the vast protective behest of this dominant philosophy. To me, altruism exists in most prevailing political ideologies.
Without a doubt, its primary goals are the following:
To preserve and perpetuate (political) power;
To instill patriotism and sense of service in and among the populace;
To counter individualism;
To manufacture collective thought and communal truth according to the will of those in power, thereby suppressing free thought and the capacity of every individual to decide and think on their own;
To control the populace and to make them serve the interest of those who control power;
To make the concept of majority the true basis of decision and truth.
It is best and safe to understand the meaning, history and consequences of Altruism with an open mind. We must remember that this word was coined by Compte in order to exemplify or explain his philosophical concept of Positivism. Meaning, altruism is just similar to any material object. Spoken words are created to give meanings to things that stimulate our senses, including things that are beyond our reach, perception and imagination. It can be created similar to a machine to serve the purpose of its creator. Words have shades, and these shades have also their own meanings (signifier.)
One good example of this concept is the word “Islamofacist” coined by the Whitehouse to describe the so-called Muslim radicals who allegedly spread terrorism. The word terrorism, on the other hand, although already existing, was redefined by America and all the signatory-countries to US-led anti-terrorism campaign.
There is a great evil that lies in altruism. The US-led war on Iraq was based on sanctimonious and hypocritic altruism; it was premised on American’s patriotic duty to serve their country against another sovereign state that never harmed a single American. In fact, the Iraqi government under late dictator Saddam Hussein was a former ally of the US. Patriotism, which is one of the deceptive disciples of altruism, is always used by a regime to mobilize an unsuspecting public through the use of media and fear.
To die for the motherland is just one of the patriotic slogans that rang all throughout history. In the Philippines, our Lupang Hinirang includes patriotic words “nang mamatay ng dahil sa ‘yo…” This is the reason why several marines were killed like a “sitting duck” in an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan few months ago. Perhaps, they had to offer their precious lives to serve their country.
This reminds me of the failed coup against Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez in 2002 led by the country’s old-rich. The coup, allegedly sponsored by America’s Central Intelligence Agency, was ignited by Venezuela’s wealthy businessmen who were opposed to Chavez’s economic programs. The coup was characterized by deceit and evil motives on the part of the elite power-grabbers. They used the media, the Radio Caracas Television in particular, some anti-Chavez generals, and the power of money in sowing anger among the people.
RCTV, along with another media institution, strongly criticized the regime of Chavez. In 2002, the putschists succeeded in getting the people on the street and staged their rebellious plan. Pedro Carmona, the president of the country’s main chamber of commerce, was later on installed president. His very fleeting government composed of his handpicked appointees (which only lasted for 48 hours) abolished the constitution, including several vital government instrumentalities like the supreme court, the ombudsman and the office of the electoral body.
An RCTV video which shows those who masterminded the coup revealed that the plan “was to get the people on the street” and then mobilize the military. That disgusting interview footage logically shed light on the massacre of over 10 anti-Chavez protesters who were shot by unknown snipers during the April 2002 protest. The deaths were later on blamed on Chavez. But thanks to independent video footages (which are available on YouTube) that suggest the massacre was indeed part of the coup plotters’ rebellious design to paint Chavez as a murderous tyrant.
This Venezuelan experience shows how the media (owned by ambitious businessmen) and the demagogues can exploit altruism for the purpose of either grabbing or preserving power. The coup plotters through the use of media succeeded in deceiving a small segment of Venezuela’s population in the name of patriotism.
Meanwhile, American altruism is closely related to American imperialism. It is the first that carries out the imperialistic goals of the second. The US-led war on Iraq masqueraded itself as America’s brand of altruism. The Bush administration projected the US as a generous superpower that only aspired to liberate the Iraqis from the claws of Hussein’s despotic regime.
And so the coalition of the willing, via the use of the politics of majority, ratified America’s empire project. In the name of mythical patriotism and holier-than-thou altruism, the superpower country sent its unsuspecting children to war. Thousands of Iraqi people, young and old, women and children, died owing to America’s brand of generosity. Now, hundreds, if not thousands, of enlisted American soldiers have to pay the high price of America’s benevolent salvation (or perdition?). Almost everyday, American soldiers are being killed by the same people they helped liberate.
Why the excessive torrents of blood and the continued loss of precious lives? Well, it appears so clearly now that America went to war not because of altruism, but because of Iraq’s rich oil reserve.
This is the reason why I consider altruism a delusive myth and evil. Altruism is not real; it is but an illusion created by men to either gain or preserve power.