Actions that result in the best outcome for anyone can often be viewed as selfish acts because they help themselves or selfless acts that help others. As President BillClinton and then Joey from Friends, explains, selfish and selfless are the same thing…
Most importantly, helping others helps improve the whole system which in turn is personally beneficial. Selfless is selfish. My favorite NYT columnist Thomas Friedman made this point again in his October 9, 2018 linked Column that I encourage you to read, “Donald Trump Versus the Jungle: The president’s fantasy is that the U.S. can ignore the global forces of nature.”
In the article, Friedman suggests America, for the last 70 years since WWII has been providing a leadership role to encourage countries to make good choices for its citizens instead of hoarding resources and letting their citizens be poor and disadvantaged. He suggests because of this, “…we have been living in the greatest prosperity ever known — globally — and we’ve witnessed the most widespread booming of democracy and the longest period of great-power peace ever known.”
Why did we do this? According to Friedman, his writing seems to suggest selfish, selfless, synergistic motives:
We did not do all of this out of an abundance of generosity, or the post-World War II statesmen saying, ‘Gosh, how do we make the world a better place?’” he added. “It actually came from them saying: ‘How do we prevent the world backsliding into the kind of world war we just survived?’” This was not charity for them, but cold, calculating self-interest. They knew any order they created would pay back a hundred times for the world’s biggest economy.
In other words, this liberal world order “is not the product of human evolution” — as if human beings have somehow learned to be more peaceful with one another, Kagan argued. It developed because the most powerful nation on the planet, the United States of America, “was born of Enlightenment principles,” and, after being dragged into two world wars in the 20th century, it decided to use its power to spread and maintain those principles — not everywhere and always, but in many places a lot of the time.
In other words, he seems to be suggesting we should work to generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits! Please share your thoughts.
If you are interested, here is a short video about selfish selfless synergy:
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