The Legitimization of Selfishness (An Ill-Tempered Week Part Four)
“Mine mine mine!” has become watered down in modern society. While Daffy Duck above is very honest about his greed, willing to do anything to anyone to get what he wants, today such a work ethic sounds a lot more like “Gimme Gimme Gimme!” in our selfish, whining age.
Let’s consider this for a moment, starting with our children, the very future of civilization.
Or what about adults?
But this is not going to be just another rant about the toxicity of advanced technology and what it does to us, transforming a once social world into a closed space where we invent non-personalities in order to deal with the harsh, bloodthirsty world. I want to talk about actual people, and not the growing threat of AI taking over every aspect of our lives. Not only would that make us even lazier than we have already become, but it could honestly set up some bizarre science-fiction scenario where the robots actually do conquer the planet.
But what does this actually do to people, this obsession we have with narrowing down the world into safe spaces where only one person is allowed? How did this
The title of this piece, “The Legitimization of Selfishness,” is a mournful declaration, all about how people have come to justify their behavior and actions. The greed of Daffy Duck shoving Bugs Bunny back down into a hole in order to claim all the treasure for himself is an antiquated idea, someone so comically selfish that we don’t just consider him wrong, we laugh at how far he is willing to take his greed. But imagine how this scene would go today.
I can just see it: both of them pop out of the hole in the treasure chamber, following a pre-set GPS route into this room (thus the motive is already clear prior to their setting out for Pismo Beach). They see the treasure. Both of them want it and are unwilling to share (remember, Bugs Bunny is far from a hero). They start grabbing things, disregarding each other. Neither of them even exists as far as they are concerned. Now it is all about the money and who gets more of it. We can even see subsequent lawsuits over whose possession is more justified, Daffy stating how Bugs made that wrong turn in Albuquerque, while Bugs dismisses Daffy by saying that he was the one that found the treasure in the first place. After all, it was his directions from Google maps (who sue the pair of them and most likely eventually claim the whole wad of gold and jewels), and how dare Daffy think he deserves more of the treasure!
It is the indifference that is truly galling, this backdoor escape from human consideration and the self-justifications spurned on by the solipsistic ideology that has invaded our souls. Everyone and everything is there for you alone, we think, our ability to see anything else in the world clouded by the dust of our lost history. People have started thinking–even believing!–that anything that happened before they were born is meaningless or, even worse, probably never happened. This is the behavior that allows cliches like “If we don’t learn from history we are destined to repeat it,” to be endlessly repeated over and over with the same meaning and the same dismissal from people not interested in what went wrong in the first place. After all, it wasn’t your fault, now was it? It’s those other jerks, and what can you do? What can you–hey, watch it! That’s mine!
How easily distracted we are
and how petty so much of our thinking is
because we no longer believe in anything worthwhile.
And yet even this is challenged, usually in condemning another person’s beliefs to justify our own not as more legitimate, but as unquestionably superior. This is the gauge of our politics today, smears and exaggerations and outright lies, or misunderstanding of what other people claim to stand for. And when all you stand for is that those who disagree with you are evil and the cause of everything wrong in the world, who does this say more about, them or you?
It is very easy to attack religion (I do it all the time), but it is also on the most part unfair. Sure, we can trash acts of wickedness that every religion has committed, but it really isn’t the entire group, or even the majority of people who are at fault. And while some of the followers may justify the deeds of their elders, this, too, is an act of selfish self-preservation. It holds your own ideas above the damage the very same ideas may have caused to another. The suffering is secondary to the faith, it seems, and thus it becomes very easy to dismiss the stories that someone you support has done wrong.
We can see this perhaps most clearly in President Donald Trump and the cult following (cult of personality) that has spread around him. Followers of the man know that he has committed crimes and they know that he is hopelessly corrupt, and yet they refuse to acknowledge this for fear that they will be proven wrong for supporting him.
The term “double down” (a gambling phrase, slang, about taking a blind chance in blackjack to double your winnings or loss) has become very popular when a statement or idea is called into question. “I’m doubling down on this because what I said is right.” It does not matter what evidence disproves this, and it certainly does not matter if Trump changes his statement and denies that he ever said the first thing. Followers need to believe without question or else face the chance they will be laughed at and scorned. People take themselves far too seriously, and they need to “double down” on their feelings because if they change their minds someone might think they are weak.
And so how do we justify such ignorance, refusing to check the facts and denying that any contradiction is valid? How has such selfishness become the norm of human behavior (and if we make the legitimate claim that selfishness has always been one of our primary motives then we can discuss the puerile sophistication modern technology has provided, allowing lies to develop followings as versions of absolute truth)?
Do not get me wrong. It is so easy to mark up the President of the US as a selfish creep because he does not bother to hide it. We all know that, to him, everything is his and he believes he can do anything he wants. His followers agree with this too while, somehow, still managing to call themselves patriotic. The think tank intellectuals who have been promoting this collapse of morality in the guise of morality are students of Ayn Rand,
an incredibly greedy and selfish person in her own right.
She even wrote a book justifying this credo called The Virtue of Selfishness (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780451113832&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used)
But of course the left is every bit as selfish in their philosophical justifications:
The message on the left is “we will save you whether you like it or not.”
And while I object to the asinine parenthetical addition to this absurd actual quote (regardless of its validity; it is just cheap and unnecessary. The words speak for themselves), this sort of nonsense is what gives the left a bad name and gives them their reputation as whiny, demanding, selfish pricks.
Another problem on the left, with their girding self-righteousness, is what so many loud voices demanding things exclusively to justify their own ideas have done to our colleges.
Fuck you. Who doesn’t want to say fuck you to people like this?
Safe space . . . what lesson can anyone ever learn if they are never challenged, if their beliefs are never questioned and someone outside of themselves is always protecting them from being offended or having their feelings hurt? What kind of automation would people become? It is selfish, just selfish, telling people they cannot say whatever they want, whenever they want, no matter what. Sure, you have to deal with the consequences, and of course there are plenty of times when saying something is profoundly inappropriate or even wrong. But censorship in any form is self-righteous bigotry itself. Defending the diminishing of language, regardless of how crude, gets to the very heart of the point I am trying to make.
Somehow we have gotten into the habit of justifying everything we do or say as correct no matter what. We are a petty, angry civilization, and while certainly great social progress has been achieved in race relations and gender equality, none of this was accomplished because of brazen censorship and a refusal to accept the reality that other people think differently. Sure, legislation was applied to offer equal opportunities, but do not mistake the world as a glorious place of equality. It never will be. Know why? Because people continue to justify, to legitimize their selfishness.