Diaries Magazine

Self-satisfying Philosophy

Posted on the 22 July 2019 by C. Suresh
You know, the problem with most philosophy is that it wants you to do things that you do not want to do; and not do the things that you do want to do.

Religion, for example. I mean, like, you are not to allowed to gorge yourself, not allowed to boast about how you got the better of your neighbor, not allowed to leer at anyone other than your own spouse...No wonder it took burning at the stake, and other such raps on the knuckle, to keep you sticking to it; and no wonder that you stopped paying more than lip service to it the moment you knew there was no punishment in the here and now for it. (Eternal damnation? We will finesse our way around it when the time comes or, perhaps, it is only bad PR that makes it sound that terrible. Anyway, all that is worrisome only if this thing about our having souls is true.) So, when I first came across capitalism, it was a breath of fresh air. You know how it is in your teens. You can hardly believe that anything matters other than your own needs and wants. And, honestly, you really do not need the aggravation of people telling you how you need to be less selfish, less self-centered, whatever. And here was this economic philosophy that said that the greater good of society would be achieved even if you were selfish. In fact it almost seemed like you HAD to be selfish in order for society to prosper. So much for the 'unscientific' views about being unselfish. And then came Ayn Rand. Wow! What a philosopher! At last a philosophy that vibed totally with me. As long as the 'markets' were willing to pay me money to make a living, I was being useful to society. And I was entitled to all the money that came my way. You know, I used to have that niggle about not being charitable. Rand made it clear that charity was almost a sin. I mean, if someone is feckless enough not to provide value to society and, thus, is poor, then it is only right that he starves. At last a philosophy which made me feel quite comfortable being who I was and did not pester me about becoming a better person or guilt trip me. There is a lot of problem with growing up, it messes up your happiness. I mean, you tend to ask yourself all sorts of idiotic questions like 'Is it Ok for the children to starve because the parents are feckless?', for example. Or, 'If someone gets cancer early and has no means to treat it, is it Ok for Society to allow him to die untreated?" Or, 'Is the value I am providing society not a function of the expensive education which my dad provided me? So, how can I call that guy lazy just because his dad could not afford it?'. Or, even, 'What if AI displaces me from MY job? Should it be OK for me to starve, even though I am willing to work, because the world has no work for me?'

Then it starts seeming to you that, maybe, not all solutions for all possible problems lie with capitalism, or any 'ism' for that matter. And you find that there is a lot of need for you to tune your way of life, that you cannot merrily be selfish and expect the world to become a utopia thanks to your selfishness. That it is your clamoring for packaged goods that creates a demand for plastics; your love for luxury cars that pollutes the atmosphere. And, even perhaps, your untiring efforts to grow your company which, by fostering consumerism, is destroying the Earth. You know, growing up is a pain. I mean, there I was, happy that all I had to do was please myself, as long as the 'markets' paid me enough to please myself with, and also help Society. Which meant I did not need to worry about pesky things like purpose in life and all, for did not whatever I did to suit myself automatically make for a better life for others? Was not whatever the 'markets' gave me fair for me to get? And, then, I grow up and find myself doubting if it really did serve society, if it was really fair. A philosophy, propounded by someone in such terms as seem erudite and worthy of respect, and also leaves me self-satisfied with exactly who I am! When will another such come my way?

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