Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Selflessness vs. Egoism: Or, ‘Real Education’ vs. Real Education

Last October, the New Jersey Star-Ledger ran an editorial titled From Kentucky State U., a lesson in real education. The first sentence:

Nancy Astor, the complex American socialite who became the first woman ever to sit in the British House of Commons, once described “real education” as something that “should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us to all humanity.”

I left these comments:

“Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us to all humanity.”

Translation: Everybody is important, as long as it’s not you. You are nobody. If this principle applies equally to everybody, then all of your self-renunciation is for a bunch of nobodies.

But this begs the question: For every act of selflessness, there is someone profiting from your selflessness. Basic logic. “Humanity”, after all, is made up of individuals. Just who is “humanity”? It turns out to be every moocher who thinks the world owes him a living. Who are the people who get stuck selflessly serving “humanity”? Anyone who takes this rubbish seriously, makes something of themselves, and finds—as his “reward”—a hoard of parasites waiting to drain him of his dreams, efforts, and wealth. The “educational” lesson: To the extent you succeed and produce, you are a slave; to the extent you fail, you get the unearned. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The “educational” lesson: Why bother trying? Other people owe me. The ultimate triumph of vice over virtue.

The biggest winners of all: power-lusters who claim the title of “public servants”—the politicians who get the job of distributing the largess of the selfless serfs who play it straight according to the ethics of selflessness. Convince a person he doesn’t own his life, and you’ve got him. Convince everyone of the morality of selflessness, or altruism, and everyone ends up living for the state.

Collectivism is the ultimate fraud: It crusades under the banner of benevolence and good will, to clear the way for the reign of parasites and power-lusters.

After the horrors of 20th Century collectivism, it is shocking to see these ideas once again openly espoused. Reject it, and embrace rational self-interest and self-reliance; not in the conventional mean-spirited, lone wolf sense—which is a straw man—but as a means to peaceful coexistence and mutual benefit.

The real purpose of education should be to prepare children for an independent, self-reliant adulthood so they can take care of themselves. They should be taught not to be a slave to “humanity” nor wait greedily for “humanity” to give them something they didn’t earn. They should be taught how to rationally choose their values and goals, work to achieve them, and be proud of what they do achieve—not for lesser achievers, or for “humanity”, or for “something far finer” than self—but precisely for self. One’s own life—the only life any of us will ever have—should be one’s highest value. Live for yourself and your own long-term happiness and rise by your own thought and effort. The Declaration of Independence, not the Communist Manifesto. That will breed self-respect and its corollary; respect for others and their achievements—and, by the way, genuine generosity toward people one cares about, rather than guilt-ridden handouts.

That is the ideal education.

Astor’s quote has nothing to do with a CEO taking a salary cut to give out a few raises. The issue is much more fundamental: Does your life belong to you, or not? “Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime.” The question is not linkage, but the basis of that linkage. The choice has always been either-or; selflessness and mutual predation, or self-reliance and mutual respect. Live for others and demand others live for you, or live for yourself, and respect others right to live for themselves. Deal with others as slave and master, giver and taker; or as equals exchanging value for value, neither self-sacrificing for others nor demanding others self-sacrifice for you. Lose-win, or win-win. Mutual profiteering on sacrifice, or self-reliance. Chains or freedom. Altruism or egoism. Run from anyone who preaches the former, for they are not lovers of humanity. They are either moochers or power-lusters—the collectors and/or distributors of your sacrifices.

Selflessness in education has political appeal for power-lusters. The purpose of an education based on selflessness is to create adults who will readily submit to authoritarian rule, because they are not morally equipped to selfishly defend their values and their rights to life, liberty, and property.

Related Reading:

The Comprachicos—Ayn Rand

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle

Teaching Johnny to Think—Leonard Peikoff

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