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Why So Courteous?

Might helping others be selfish?

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

December 10, 2013 - 10:00 am
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Why So Courteous

This will come across sanctimonious, like I’m trying to flaunt how good of a person I am. So let me start by offering the assurance that I prove no more courteous than anyone else, and may even be a bit below average. I use an example of my own courtesy because I remain well-informed as to its motivation.

I went to the gas station the other day to pick up a couple of snacks which I should not be eating. I was in no hurry. It was one of those meandering stops where you spend more time than you really need applying more thought than is rationally due to whether you should experiment with a new flavor of Combos.

When I finally completed my selection, I made my way to the register, where I stood in line behind one other person. A women rushed in from the arctic weather (uncharacteristically cold for this time of year, even in Minnesota) clasping onto a ten dollar bill and signaling without any sense of entitlement that she was in a hurry.

I stood next to be served and could have taken that privilege without objection. But I made the decision to yield my place in line to her. She paid her ten dollars for pump four and went on her way, delaying me mere seconds as opposed to the minute or so I may have delayed her.

As I left, seven layer dip tortilla Combos in hand, I pondered why I had stepped aside. Here I am, an admirer of Ayn Rand, an advocate of individual rights, frequently evoking rational self-interest in my analysis of politics and culture. Was my tiny act of courtesy a violation of that principle? Did I fail to act in my own rational self-interest by allowing a stranger to take my place in line? Did I sacrifice something of value for something of lesser or no value?

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All Comments   (26)
All Comments   (26)
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Amazing. All that effort to explain away the law of God written on your heart.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Everything any of us do is motivated by self-interest. It matters not if someone shares your values..... if you "help" them, it is primarily because doing so will make you feel good or provide some other reward to YOU.

We are a pretty simple species. Try to know thyself and exploit who you truly are in pursuit of the one thing that matters most to a civil society.....freedom.

It has been said that a truly good deed is one done when no one is looking. For believers, what moment is that?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For believers, it's every moment of every day.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So there is never a moment when no one is looking.....that's my point.

Know thyself!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What point are you trying to make? You seem to be obfuscating for the sake of obfuscation. Do you want me to say that I try to live my life as though Jesus Christ is my constant companion, then, yes, someone is always looking, Christ sees and understands. He is my companion and His love is everlasting.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I mean no disrespect. I'm along for this wild and crazy ride, too.

My point is simply that we are a creature that cannot possibly do anything for selfless reasons. The man who runs int the burning building
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"If I had been either of those young men, and I had seen a mother and her child struggling to lug a stroller down a flight of stairs, I imagine I would have offered to help. So why didn't they?"

HAd they been raised properly they would have. And that sums up the death of Western Civ in a single thought.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Too bad Krypton blew up -- you could have returned to your home planet, living next door to Superman's superior father Jor-El.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
thank you for the article, well enjoyed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In the 1800's the concept of "altruism" was invented by an atheist French philosopher, Auguste Comte, to replace the concept of Christian charity with something superior. Christian charity benefits the giver even more than the receiver, and was always understood as a "win-win" value.

Altruism means "to the other," and was designed as a "win-lose" concept: the receiver alone benefits, and the giver either loses, or at a minimum, gets nothing.

Altruism was adopted enthusiastically as a "scientific" secular replacement for Christian love (caritas/agape), and once it left France for English-speaking shores, it's origin was quickly forgotten. A generation or so later, altruism was a fixture in the cultural landscape, which is where Ayn Rand found it. She was Jewish, and seems to have assumed that altruism was a Christian concept.

Unfortunately, at this point, many Christians do too. A quick look at either the Jewish or Christian Scriptures shows the opposite: endless variations on "do good and you will benefit" run throughout the texts.

Look it up for yourself. Altruism is not and never was a religiously based concept. Quite the opposite.

If science were trying to explore a "caritas" gene, in which the giver receives, and benefits from giving, there would be far less confusion and pretzel-like bendings of the original concept of altruism.

If Ayn Rand had understood the history of altruism, she still could have attacked it with gusto, but she would also have known that the alternative was not necessarily selfishness.

Aristotle was right, as usual: virtue is the rational midpoint between two opposite, irrational extremes.

Ayn Rand's critiques of altruism have convinced millions, while her own philosophy, based on the opposite extreme of Comte, seldom work as a lifetime philosophy.

A friend of mine was a cadet at the West Point Military Academy when she was invited to speak there. Ayn was very honest, and bluntly told them that she had no place in her philosophy for them, who were giving their lives to serve others.


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Arrrgh! I hate strollers! They are huge extravagant status symbols with tons of stuff for Mommy and baby. I would take my boy for walks and sometimes skiing with him in a backpack carrier with noting more than a spare diaper stuffed in my waistband in case of emergency. He and I survived and four years later I did the same with my daughter.

Walter, go to Europe or Japan and see how many fat clueless mommies are obstructing pedestrian traffic and doorways with Sherman tank sized strollers. Your wife was in the fricken way with her unmanageable stroller thumping down the stairs. SHE was being rude, not the young men. They probably rolled their eyes at the totally ridiculous predicament you put yourself in, like a cat with his head stuck in a shopping bag, and figured you got there now get yourself out 'ya fricken rocket surgeon'. Don't blame them for your wife taking up WAY more space than a normal human baby needs.

I also wonder since you had a free hand why you simply didn't grab the front of the stroller and your wife the handle?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Walter, please don't construe that I said your wife is fat, I never met her and don't know if she is a lard bucket. I was simply relaying my experience at Wall Mart or the mall or any American airport. I hate strollers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Arthur - Where is the down button when you need it?

Who gives a f--- what you think you selfish git. Do the rest of us a favor and begone troll. Yes, nasty foul creature that lives under a bridge is what your soul resembles.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Agree about hating strollers and the people who think they automatically should have preference over everyone else. I have seen 2 and 3 women side by side sweeping down a sidewalk with their strollers ahead of them, like a moving battering ram. It's also interesting to note that in Black Friday sales at the big box stores, women use their strollers to crash through crowds to get what they want faster.

Finally, I'd like to say something about people who choose to have children and then demand that the rest of us twist ourselves into pretzels to aid and abet them in their parenting duties. This time of year, every store I go into has someone outside it begging, and frequently that begging is something about feeding hungry children or families ... the hungry children that someone else CHOSE to have and now is demanding that I contribute towards.

The comment above about "got yourself there now get yourself out" sums up what a lot of us feel when we have to deal with these screaming situations on our sidewalks or in our movie theaters or strapped down in our airplanes.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You "hate strollers" and you don't seem to have much empathy for those who sit in them or who push them. I say God bless strollers and their occupants and pushers because every child born is a miracle, a renewal and a reason not to despair.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I can't resist passing along this vignette from Dale Carnegie's classic "How To Win Friends And Influence People:"

---

I was waiting in line to register a letter in the post office at Thirty third Street and Eighth Avenue in New York. I noticed that the clerk appeared to be bored with the job -weighing envelopes, handing out stamps, making change, issuing receipts - the same monotonous grind year after year. So I said to myself: "I am going to try to make that clerk like me. Obviously, to make him like me, I must say something nice, not about myself, but about him. So I asked myself, 'What is there about him that I can honestly admire?' " That is sometimes a hard question to answer, especially with strangers; but, in this case, it happened to be easy. I instantly saw something I admired no end.

So while he was weighing my envelope, I remarked with enthusiasm: "I certainly wish I had your head of hair."

He looked up, half-startled, his face beaming with smiles. "Well, it isn't as good as it used to be," he said modestly. I assured him that although it might have lost some of its pristine glory, nevertheless it was still magnificent. He was immensely pleased. We carried on a pleasant little conversation and the last thing he said to me was: "Many people have admired my hair."

I'll bet that person went out to lunch that day walking on air. I'll bet he went home that night and told his wife about it. I'll bet he looked in the mirror and said: "It is a beautiful head of hair."

I told this story once in public and a man asked me afterwards:"'What did you want to get out of him?"

What was I trying to get out of him!!! What was I trying to get out of him!!!

If we are so contemptibly selfish that we can't radiate a little happiness and pass on a bit of honest appreciation without trying to get something out of the other person in return - if our souls are no bigger than sour crab apples, we shall meet with the failure we so richly deserve. Oh yes, I did want something out of that chap. I wanted something priceless. And I got it. I got the feeling that I had done something for him without his being able to do anything whatever in return for me. That is a feeling that flows and sings in your memory long after the incident is past.

---

Food for thought.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've got a cart full someone behind me has one or a few items, I almost always ask if they want to go ahead of me. That's the way we grew up & is more or less automatic.

"Behave towards others as you would want them to behave towards you" works very well on several levels, yours, theirs, the universe's :)

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This used to be called "common courtesy" with the emphasis on common. Respect for other individuals was a given in the world I grew up in, before the left decided it was time to jettison everything that had infused the American character. When they reached their cultural ascendance in the '60s they coarsened everything, they vulgarized our world, but, thankfully, Walter, the human instinct for empathy is stubborn and I see evidence of that in public all the time. Common courtesy is one of the few things that left hasn't been able to destroy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
artghost, You're right. But the problem is deeper. When we threw away all the old rules on how human beings should interact, we didn't replace them with anything. We now have many generations of youth who think someone who is chivalrous in behavior is someone to be mocked, who look for and are instantly ready to retaliate for some assumed sign of disrespect. We have regressed to a society that either prowls the streets looking for victims or who often chose to be or pretend to be alone in order not to give offense. When a boy flirts with a girl, will he be arrested for sexual harassment? When someone gives first aid to another thus saving their life, will they be sued? When giving a hand to someone in need is viewed as smug superiority not as a neighbor helping neighbor, why are we surprised that everyone is confused by what is acceptable behavior and what is not? The only reason common courtesy hasn't disappeared yet, is because there are still some who observe it. That courtesy is in danger of disappearing I offer Walter Hudson's article where he feels the need to explain his actions in this regard.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...because it brought me a small degree of pleasure to make her life a small degree easier."
I submit that you have just defined a decent person.
Speaking of the young men on the stairs: it's possible they hung back because they were concerned that offering to help would be intrusive or even scary. Sometimes a spontaneous offer to help gets taken poorly.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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