I don’t think human beings understood what they were doing when they came up with the concept of “altruism”. The thought that someone can actually do something for someone else without considering their own self-interest at all? That’s madness, but I’ll come back to this a bit later.
I was lying down on my bed recently one night, listening to “The Brilliant Idiots Podcast” by Andrew Schulz and Charlamagne Tha God (he insists on being called that but idk) when Charla said something interesting. They were talking basically about success and why he feels guilty about his own success. He said something to the effect that he loves helping other people because he feels like he doesn’t deserve his success. Andrew questioned him on it, and it basically became a weird session where they were trying to deconstruct things that I basically deduced were part of the impostor syndrome. What I took away from it is that at the end of the day, we’re all good drug dealers.
For some time, many supporters of moral ethics have been telling us that an act is not defined by its effects but by its intentions, which I kind of agree with… to an extent. So in Charlamagne’s case, he helps people not out of any selfless drive to benefit someone else, but because he feels guilty that he has so much success and he doesn’t deserve it, so he spreads it around. Great. At the end of the day, people receive the benefits of what he has done, and they’re able to elevate themselves in whatever work they do, right? We’re all good drug dealers.
Another example: if a mother loses their child through death, and starts adopting many kids and eventually starts a Children’s Home to fill the void left by the death of her own blood-child, is this altruism? Or is she just being a good drug dealer? The effects to the kids receiving a family is unquestionable, but the intention is born out of a perceived state of weakness; so how far should altruism rely on purity of intention?
There’s an interesting bit of research that suggests that when one person helps out another person, the one who did the helping usually feels better than the one who has been helped. So if one person feels good and feels like they’re achieving their purpose on earth by helping others, is this intention focused outward or inward? More importantly, does it really make a difference where the hell the intention came from?
Now to my good drug-dealer analogy. Drugs in this case refer to hard drugs that are illegal in some countries such as cocaine, heroin, bhang, ecstasy, crystal meth and suchlike drugs. The dealers who sell these drugs, who do it purely for the money have families to feed. On top of that, they may be uplifting their communities, think Pablo Escobar. If I was a drug-dealer, and my intention is to help redistribute wealth from the rich people to the poor people by selling rich-people drugs (ecstasy, crystal meth, cocaine) and giving a percentage of the poor, am I not a socially-conscious/good drug dealer?
The point of this short essay is to denounce the notion of altruism in our current society as well as “high-minded morality”. Sometimes, looking at the effects of an action is enough after carrying out an appropriate cost-benefit analysis. Governments redistribute income many times; in fact, sometimes rich people are targeted with higher tax rates than their poorer counterparts, which may leave the rich in a worse position than they were. Some who have an unhealthy addiction to money may end up committing suicide or falling into depression because of such corrective measures by the government, the same way addicts get hooked on drugs.
We don’t have altruism because altruism is an ideal, a standard that you can’t just uphold once because it requires consistency. You can’t be altruistic by having Jesus slapping businesspeople in the church one day and have Him sacrificed for our sins the next day. Some people do things that seem selfless but within they know there’s an insecurity they’re trying to fill, or an objective they want to fulfil, or they want to get that feeling that comes when they’re helping someone else, or they feel like they’re accomplishing their purpose when they’re helping someone else. There’s nothing wrong with all those things as long as we call them what they are: instances of enlightened self-interest. We can’t say we are better than drug-dealers or prostitutes simply because the effects of what they do may not be as rosy as the effects of the good things we do. The difference between one person’s desk job or business and a prostitute who sells her body for sex is the salary, because at the end of the day, you both have bills to pay and mouths to feed. If anything, he/she makes a bigger sacrifice of their body than anyone with a desk job ever can.
So maybe we should do away with “altruism” and instead embrace “altruistic acts”. Maybe we should all embrace that at the end of the day, we’re just good drug dealers.