It's Cannibalism!

in philosophy •  last month  (edited)

Today, I want to share with you an interview with Ayn Rand that I stumbled upon.

The first time I heard it, I found it quite shocking, but the more I listened to it, the more I began to understand and even agree with what she said.

I've decided to transcribe the first part of the video so that it will be easier to examine what was said.

I'd like to warn you, what she says might seem rather harsh and shocking:
Time: 0:00 - 4:31

Interviewer: You don't go for altruism and charity and do good and liberal and...

Ayn Rand: No..and might as well add it all..

Interviewer: You don't like the conservatives either?

Ayn Rand: No. Not today's conservatives.

Interviewer: Alright. I want to help people. I want to do good for other people. What's so bad about that?

Ayn Rand: Nothing. If you do it by your own choice and if it's not your primary aim in life and if you don't regard it as a moral virtue. On those conditions, it's fine to help people if you want to.

Interviewer: Why isn't..why can't I think of it as a moral virtue? I mean, can't I take some bows for myself for doing all these good things?

Ayn Rand: Because that would be cannibalism. Because that would mean that you preach altruism which means not merely kindness but self-sacrifice. It means that you place the welfare of others above your own. That you live for others, for the sake of helping them. And that justifies your life. That's immoral according to my morality. 

Interviewer: Ah, I don't understand why you have to be so harsh in your you your evaluation of those people.  Why why call it immoral? Why don't you just say..why why you'd say it's a waste of time? Why pass judgment on me?

Ayn Rand: Because look at the state of the world today.

Interviewer: Yeah. 

Ayn Rand: And, you cannot be harsh enough on those who created it. And, those who created it are the philosophers of altruism. It's also: Preach self-sacrifice, selflessness, self-aggregation, all the anti-self theories(which means anti-man). All those with a man-man sacrifice, they have succeeded and look at the results in the world.

Interviewer: That's a theory or a way of life or a philosophic idea which is advanced by religions: That we should sacrifice for others.

Ayn Rand: That's right.

Interviewer: Alright, I want to make sure you, Ms. Rand, why is it so, I am still not sure why you're so harsh on those who would sacrifice for other people.

Ayn Rand: Because I look at them. Just look at them. Because, they are, they don't hesitate to sacrifice whole nations. Ah, look at Russia, communism is based on altruism, look at Nazi Germany. The Nazis were more explicit than even the Russians in preaching self-sacrifice and altruism, and self-sacrifice for the state, for the flock, for the people. Every dictatorship is based on altruism. Now, you can't fight it by merely saying it's a difference of opinion. It's a difference of life and death.

Interviewer: Your, so your view is that with if if we all became more comfortable which with our natural ah tendencies, that is to say, selfishness, there would be less horror, less war, less Hitler.

Ayn Rand: There wouldn't be any.

Interviewer: So, the more selfish we are, the more kind, the the more kind and tranquil and peaceful the world in which we live.

Ayn Rand: And, more benevolent toward other people, if we're rationally selfish. By that, I mean a selfishness which can justify one's every action rationally, not the kind of win-worship as I call it, which consists of just indulging your own desires umm urges of the moment. And, there is no innate natural idea, you know.

Interviewer: There isn't?

Ayn Rand: No.

Interviewer: Well, I have an innate, I have a lot of innate tendencies.

Ayn Rand: You think they are innate. You know what I would say? Check your premises.

Interviewer: Check my premises?

Ayn Rand: Yeah. Check the basic ideas behind any feelings you might feel at the moment and you'll see that your feeling comes from your premises. Good or bad. But, they help subconsciously, they will direct your feelings and you will you think it's an innate, but, it isn't.

Interviewer: How do you avoid, let's take your thesis then and accept it. Now I'm going to be selfish. You know what I am going to do? I'm going to be real talented and charismatic and I'm going to develop a lot of wealth and I'm going to have a lot of money and a lot of banks and pretty soon no one's going to be able to compete with me because I've already purchased all my competitors. And now I have dictatorial power over people and now I can name the price of bacon or a price of oil or whatever it is the commodity I'm selling.

(it goes into another discussion of sorts)

My interpretation:

1.There is nothing wrong with helping other people.

-As long as you're not doing it to virtue signal (to tell other people or yourself how good you are).
-As long as you are not comparing yourself to others.
-As long as you are not competing with others.
-As long as you don't do it because you feel obligated/pressured to.
-As long you don't center your life around helping others (it's not your primary focus and/or you're not trying to be a martyr).
-As long as you don't preach altruism to others(by bragging, showing off or telling them what they should do/by shaming them/by pressuring them, etc).
-As long as you are not self-sacrificing to the point where you are giving up your self-care, the things you require.

If you do it out of kindness, it is perfectly fine.


-Because who are you to dictate what other people should do and how?
-Because how is worrying about what other people do going to help you?
-Because does it matter if you are better than other people? (Remember, it's just a matter of perception anyway.)
-Because doing things that you feel you should or must generally don't make you feel very good about doing them, or yourself for doing them.
-Because self-sacrifice is not sustainable in the long-term. You must also look after yourself.
-Because it's unhealthy to promote living by comparison.
-Because if you compromise self-care, you will suffer and not be as effective.

We live in a world where things have become a bit skewed. Many times we may hear that self-care is selfish and that self-sacrifice is noble and good.

However, self-care doesn't mean you don't care. It merely means that your number 1 priority in life is to take care of yourself. It is putting your needs first. There is nothing selfish about engaging in self-care. Self-care is not an indulgence, it is necessary.

3.What happens when you continuously self-sacrifice?

Well, not only do you neglect your care, but you also suffer the effects of that neglect. Your health, your ability, will be impaired. But, more than that, you will create an imbalance within yourself. A sort of volatility. You will on some level know that you have neglected yourself. You will on some level have some resentment (even if it just subconscious).

What happens when you walk around carrying this volatility? Well, in a nutshell, you will probably not be a pleasant person to be around. Whether it is because you are tired, cranky, or just feel depleted.

You may experience resentment that others are not helping, or helping enough. You may feel underappreciated. You may feel as though you are not making a difference or enough of a difference. You may feel that there is too much to do. You may feel overwhelmed.

All of this will bleed out of you. You might be irritable, abrupt, impatient, rude, angry, or just generally unpleasant to be around.

You may also give people the impression that you think you are better than others, superior somehow. You may come off as being judgmental.

On the other hand, when we engage in self-care, we operate at a higher level. We are rested, we feel better, we can be more present, we can make better decisions, we can do more, we have more energy, we have more compassion, we are more patient, and so on and so forth.

In short, you really could say that self-sacrifice is akin to cannibalism.

4.Is it immoral to sacrifice the life you have been given?

I think that's a very interesting question. Don't you?

Your life is a gift to you.

Is it your gift to give away?

Or, is that paramount to spitting in the face of creation?

Perhaps, it really is immoral?

Image by Grae Dickason from Pixabay

5. Ayn Rand makes a very strong case by inviting us to look at the state of our world today and asking us to examine what has brought us here.

How did we end up here?

What do we see people being asked to do constantly (now and in history): to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

But what does the greater good often end up being and bringing?

War, death, oppression, repression, violence, shame, hate, fear, anger and so on and so forth.

Us versus them. Them versus us.

We must sacrifice for what we believe in versus them, against them. And, them to us.

And back and forth and back and forth it goes.

My country is right, yours is wrong. My religion is right, yours is wrong. My ideas are right, yours are wrong.

The problem, of course, being that every side is saying the same thing.

Everyone can't be right.

6.The real question is: What if we all dropped all of that?

What if instead, we began focusing on ourselves: self-care, self-acceptance, self-love, self-development, etc.

What would happen?

Perhaps, if we ourselves were not struggling (internally and externally), we could be more mindful. Perhaps, we would make better decisions.

Perhaps, those better decisions would lead to a better world. A better world where there wouldn't be as much suffering.

Perhaps, self-care would be a more effective strategy with which to help others than self-sacrifice?

Or perhaps, it's all just idealistic wishful thinking...

What are your thoughts about this topic?



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