Re: Selfishness (Was: Re: Polemics for longevity)

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 17:07:15 MST

On Sun, 23 Jan 2000, Menno Rubingh wrote:

> I've been raised in an environment that taught me to be terribly
> self-less and to 'believe' that "happiness" is the only goal in life,
> i.e., to always strive for the happiness and well-being of your neighbour,
> even to the extent where this is detrimental to yourself -- and to believe
> that altruistic selflessness is the most important cause for happiness.

I've had some of the same upbringing and would probably say that making
others happy is something that makes me happy. Somewhere along the
way I seem to have lost an entire set of things involved in generating

> > I wrote:
> > Big mistake. I would say that being raised like that is in a fairly
> > direct way responsible for costing me amounts ranging from 6 to 7 figures.

> Being
> altruistically helpful like that does nothing else than hinder the overall
> chances for survival both of yourself (you give away your money before you
> get a chance to do eanything useful with it) and of those other people you're
> helping (it makes them dependent on you).

Just so my comments aren't misinterpreted -- my experiences in Russia
involved a very calculated equation utilizing the resources I had to
do research I viewed as necessary in aging. The fact that it could
benefit scientists in difficult situations was not a primary motivating
factor (unlike say the activities of George Soros). Initially there
was a strong motivation to transplant some Western research approaches
and business concepts (ala the parable of teaching a man how to fish
rather than giving him a fish for diner), so I wasn't trying to make
people dependent.

The parts left out of the equation were (a) the fact that Russia is
has waters populated by sharks (previously unknown to a middle-class
raised American, even with experience in the New York finance industry)
and (b) you should be very careful about branching very far from your
known areas of expertise.

Some lessons that eventually surfaced:
(a) Always have plan B and perhaps plan C (essential for Russia).
(b) There are as many sharks in America as Russia (if you look closely).
(c) There are concepts that cannot translate across cultures.
(d) Knowledgeable management is crucial.
(e) Never structure your business strategy towards a single primary

I walked past a woman in the metro tonight. She had one young child
standing beside her and another infant in her arms. The arm holding
the infants head ended in an outstretched palm. At the end of
the passage was a seemingly talented flutist playing not sad, but
not happy tunes. I noticed a 10 ruble (~$.30) note in his flute case.
Whom should I have helped -- both, neither? I really don't know


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