How Real Is Altruism?
I am often accused of being selfish. From the very early age I was made to believe that it is a bad thing. Now, as an adult (more or less) I have started to question the concept of “being selfish”. In order to understand it better, I decided to learn a bit about a principle opposite to selfishness – altruism.
Altruism – is the practice of unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Over the centuries the best minds of human kind tried to find out what drives people to be altruistic. They’ve come up with quite a lot of theories, and I picked the most interesting ones:
1. Kin selection
This is one of the oldest theories about altruism. It suggests that the only reason we can show self-sacrifice is the urge to successfully pass on our genes. This is more common among animals. Humans are much more complicated (as usual). It explains why we are overprotective when it comes to our close relatives, but what about other situations?
2. The pseudo-altruism.
Supporters of this theory think that any kind of altruistic act has got a selfish side to it. Any healthy human being will feel quite satisfied after helping someone. And that is egoism already.
It suggests that the main cause that drives people to kindness is the expectancy of getting it back at some point. “I’ll help you, but only if I can count on you later”. I think, this is the most popular form of altruism in our world.
After reading quite a bit about this principle, I couldn’t decide which theory attracted me most. But then it hit me: altruism and egoism can never live separately. Altruism is always selfishly motivated one way or another. And that’s OK. I don’t think we should be ashamed of it. If applied correctly, altruism won’t be an act of self-denial, it could be a way to unleash our humanity and make our world a better place to live in.
Altruism is not some kind of thing that only the best of us can do. Everyone is capable of it. AND EVERYONE SHOULD PRACTICE IT. You won’t be left with less by sharing with others. No one expects you to give everything you have to the homeless children. Giving your seat to an elderly lady on the bus is altruism, throwing an empty bottle to the bin is altruism, planting a tree is altruism. Trust me, all those little things matter.
Charity is a very popular form of altruistic behaviour and there are plenty of organizations who give us an opportunity to impact the lives of people less fortunate than us. My personal favourite is ShareTheMeal app by World Food Programme. https://sharethemeal.org/en/index.html With one tap of a finger I can feed a starving child for a day just for 0,5$. And I know that it will make an impact if more and more people will join in. Read more about it here: https://sharethemeal.org/en/values.html
In modern world, altruism might be about giving to others, but it is one of the main ingredients in solving global problems. For example, caring about future generations will help us deal with climate change; erasing poverty and providing education for everyone will finally give us equality. I can go on and on. Altruism is an investment to brighter future which will fulfill our egoistic needs. We need to care about ourselves in order to survive, we need to care about others in order to live in a better world