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

From: Menno Rubingh (
Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 15:13:11 MST

On Sun, 23 Jan 2000, Robert Bradbury wrote:

> 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
> anymore.

Why "should" you have helped either one ?

If you had given the woman money, then what would your reasons have been for
giving her money ?
If you had given the flutist money, then what would your reasons have been
for giving him money ?

Additional question to both of the last questions: Are your resources not
better spent on yourself -- or on not worrying about issues like this --
rather than on these people ? Is the single fact alone that they bother your
peaceful and non-offensive existence and beg you for money a significant
reason why *you* should waste precious seconds of brain CPU time on ethical
qualms concerning them ?

A rational selfish person might consider doing something like this: do not
give any money but invest in the child(ren) the woman is burdened with by
giving a list of easily-avaiable (from public library e.g.) books with some
basic math and philosophy. Or give a short ''fatherly'' :-) talk about the
very real possibility of lifting yourself from misery through self-teaching
available to even the poorest person with just a minimum of belief in 'Dynamic
Optimism' :-). Or some other thing in that vein. That kind of solution
doesn't even cost you any money. -- And maybe gives you a bigger satisfaction
about just possibly having done something real (I mean: some investment which
might in some way pay off to you yourself !) than giving money which probably
would only bring some very-short-term alleviation of pain/hunger/etc. and
thereby only help prolong their misery.

I mean: turn the situation around and try to figure out how you can expoit the
situation to further your own position/interests. If investment in them and
construction of a cooperation with them in such a way that *you* also benefit
from it is not possible, then the best (and incidentally also the kindest
and most 'humane') course of action (IMO) definitely is **not to interfere** --
just ignore them and don't run the risk that by interfering you might only
contribute to prolonging their misery.

Very best greetings, Menno (

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