The question then arises, how come we have arrived at the present state of chaos, with human activities threatening our very survival as a species? The answer to this is actually well known; it is a result of the struggle between egotism and altruism, in which egotism usually wins. In an imperfect world the individual puts his own interests ahead of the group’s.
This is not altogether surprising, because the bottom line is that nobody else is responsible for your life. There are exceptions to this rule. People will sacrifice their lives for other people if they are driven by love or loyalty. Mothers will die protecting their children, so will fathers perhaps, soldiers will risk their lives to save comrades in arms etc, but in the general course of life, when push comes to shove, most people will save their own skin. It is human nature.
But, whilst in matters of life and death, it is understandable that individuals should put their own interests ahead of the group’s, in other matters that are less extreme, it is less understandable. In fact it is often short-sighted and counter-productive, the result of stupidity and wrong-thinking, an inability to see clearly what course of action is really in a person’s best interests in the long run.
This may be true, but the fact is that it happens and it is widespread. Unfortunately human behaviour is dominated by the ego. What can we do about it?
There is no short term answer to this question. Ever since man became a thinking animal, with the invention of speech, the best minds have been applied to finding a way to transcend the ego. In the past this has led to the creation of religions, in which a higher purpose than personal gain is proposed and the reward of a place amongst the blessed offered for the postponement of immediate gratification. This has had limited success and has often led to the establishment of ecclesiastical hierarchies as tyrannical as the temporal ones they attempt to transcend.
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