Humans are basically selfish. This is true of all of life. Existence is to protect what one has received. If one is to continue to exist, selfishness is necessary. One's concern and actions for oneself are to one's advantage. Those who are soft-hearted will be used and the kind will be losers in the competitive reality in which we live. Existence is a fierce struggle: deceiving, pillaging, and even killing.
With these words, a Peace Weekly columnist gives us a topic for the readers to reflect on. We see how in many cases those who are selfish maintain their lives and wealth. In the recent ferry tragedy, the captain was one of the first to leave the ship. The teacher that hesitated went down with the ship. A president of a company before failure and the news became known, sold his stock.
When a nation is perishing to work for independence is foolishness for the chances of losing one's life are great. Those who are unmarried lose their chance to have children. The married will lose their means of livelihood and the family will scatter and be in desperate straights. Better is it not to surrender to the invaders and cooperate with the plunderers: hoping for success and advancement in life, and prosperity of the clan. Independence? Someone will work for it and we will benefit from the results.
Strange, however, even though gain and loss are rather clear we have people who act quite differently from what we would expect. Recently we had the young man who was dreaming of a bright future who escaped from a burning building only to run back in, notifying the different tenants of the fire and ending up dying after going up to the top floor and collapsing on the stairs.
The number of those who sacrifice for their fellow brothers and sister is not negligible. We have those on the Titanic who while the ship was going down stayed on deck to help others take the lifeboats to safety. In the concentration camps, we had those who gave their lives to save others. Altruism is not dead.
Within us is both the selfish and altruistic character, in conflict and at cross-purposes. When selfishness is the winner the individual appears to win but society suffers. When the altruistic character takes the upper hand and sacrifice is made the whole community benefits.
Altruism: honor, virtue, and conscience are the medicines that invigorate and support society. When leaders in society throw their responsibility to the wind and nourish their own greed that society falls apart from the inside.
When the leaders of a society begin to have their banquets and' love shots' ( two people hook arms and take a shot of liquor)-- when money and power interact the just persons turn their backs and we have the breakdown of society. "When the pillars are overthrown what can the just man do?" (Ps. 11:3).