Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Community service" and help in good will

Yesterday, September 11th, Obama made a speech to the nation claiming the significance and meaning of the day is "community service".

Take a moment to ponder: what exactly is the meaning of "community service", and is it really the reason so many American citizens helped others during the event 8 years ago?

To "serve" means "work for or be a servant to", "do duty", "devote (part of) one's life or efforts to" another person.
Is this what was the help about? Were those who helped saw themselves as servants of the ones under the ruins? Did they see it as their duty to selflessly serve the men in need?

I don't think so. Those people were proud, not humble. They saw themselves as soldiers, not as servants.
"Community service" and what was going on there that day and in the days that followed were complete opposites.

Those people who helped others did not do so because they thought their duty is to sacrifice their lives so that others may live. I believe they did not do it out of moral duty, but out of a spiritual, selfish reason - they valued the lives of the kind of people under the ruins, who shared their values and the American love of freedom.
They were angry at the terrorist attack which stood directly against what America is stands for, and by helping others they were fighting for and reaffirming their own spiritual values.

This was not service to the state or the "community". It was devotion to their own ideals and values.

This is a very important distinction to understand: If someone is doing something for someone else, it could have two opposite meanings. The "Stalin" meaning of "you are not important, live for the greater good", and the American generosity.
If both are "doing something for someone else", what is the distinction between the two?

It is this
distinction that Obama wants people to lose. He wants to take the second meaning of genuine generosity and replace it with the "Stalin" meaning of "live for others".

He wants to scare people that if they don't agree to his idea of "community service" that they are not generous, when in fact generosity and "community service" are complete opposite.

Generosity is an extension of one's spiritual values toward another human being who shares them. It is those spiritual values that allow a man to truly value human life, and thus see them as worthy to preserve.
The man whose sole value is to sacrifice his life for the "community" is incapable of valuing human life.

When I help someone, I do so because their own well being is a selfish value to me. I do so because I see in them the spiritual values I respect and have in me: integrity, courage, determination, honesty.
Does Stalin ever helped anyone? He talked a lot about "service of the greater good", "service to other men", "service to the state" - Did he ever help another soul?
His kind is a void. He has no spiritual values. Human life means nothing to him. This, is the meaning of true selflessness, of "community service", of living for someone else.

Yes, the help is extended to someone else, but the reason is not selfless service, but pride, justice and profound individuality.

Keep in mind this important distinction: Selfless service or selfish generosity? The two could not be further apart.


  1. This makes a lot of sense. I tell you "altruism" is a pseudo word. No one really lives for others. No one makes sacrifices. It's only self-pleasing act. I like your deep analysis.

  2. "Altruism" is not a pseudo word. Nobody practices it consistently (because then it would not be possible to live) but to some degree and in some cases people do act by this idea. They see it as their moral duty to sacrifice something to others.

    Also, thanks for the compliment.

  3. Every deed that anyone does is a selfish deed. it may even be for moral satisfaction, or coz of ego, or belief or the values someone believes in but unless it really satisfies you in some way you will never do anything at all.

  4. No, not every deed is selfish. Selfishness is a principle by which the beneficiary of one's actions is oneself.
    You cannot say "well, but I have arbitrarily decided that it will benefit me to give everything up for someone else" and then call it selfishness when you give your house away.

  5. There is a lot of philosophy behind this. If you are interested in a deeper understanding of the subject, I'll refer you to Ayn Rand's book "The virtue of Selfishness" to the article "Isn't everyone selfish?"
    A better introductory book though would be her novel "The fountainhead".

    To give you a sample of her writings on Selfishness visit:

  6. The tag of altruist is what society gives one but deep beneath it is always a motive craving to come to action to justify one reason of existence.Had written two posts in past . Take a look if you have time ....

  7. I read your first post.
    You basically think that everyone is selfish.

    Ayn Rand has a full article on the issue you are talking about: "Isn't everyone selfish?" (in the book "The virtue of selfishness"). She answers your criticism in elaboration. I suggest if you criticize her philosophy on this point you should at least read that article and answer her arguments.

    I'll try to give a concise answer here to "isn't everyone selfish?".

    Your problem is in what you understand selfishness to mean. You seem to think that every action that goes after the satisfaction of one's emotions is selfish. That is not selfishness, it is simply the nature of human psychology that action requires emotional motivation. Motivation is an emotional state: We either wish to avoid pain or desire (long or short term) pleasure. Everyone are like that.

    This is not what selfishness means. Being selfish means one acts on the principle that one is to be the beneficiary of one's actions. That one lives for oneself and one's happiness.
    One can give and benefit others in the process, but the goal kept in mind is one's own values.

    Altruism is the principle by which one lives primarily for the well being of others.

    Emotions have only an indirect role to the application of these principles.
    One experiences one's values through emotions, so one might get confused and think that acting to satisfy one's emotions is automatically the same as pursuing one's values - it is not so.

    Pursuing one's values requires thought, it requires planning and principles.
    Selfishness is a *principle* by which one leads one's life. I hope you can see that it is very different than simply acting to satisfy any emotion.

    This is why if you feel like giving your house away and become someone's slave you are not selfish if you do it.

  8. By the way, I appreciate your comment. Don't get me wrong, I disagree with you, but I still welcome you to my blog.

    Feel free to comment some more, it may produce more interesting discussions.

  9. Mr. Glassman,
    I think you need to read the posts before you reply .
    Which line in the above posts appears critical towards philosophy of objectivism. It is not philosophy of Rand that I have doubts about .It is its implementation that I am skeptical about. I can only wish that there were people like she sketches in the novel. Selfishness is a virtue no doubt but being self centered is not possible for a compassionate soul.
    Btw ,I am great admirer of Ayn Rand and I have read and seen most of what Ayn Rand has written but I don't think she is completely right .Her philosophy makes outstanding individuals but can be implemented only in Utopian society.

    Life is continuous endeavor for truth seeker . He does not stop at a truth and calls it the truth.

    Thanks any way for visiting.

  10. You seem to have the idea that ideas and philosophy are not connected to earth.
    You say that her philosophy is great, but it's only when you try to apply it to reality that it doesn't "work". Well, but what is a philosophy good for, or how can it be true if it is not applicable to this world?

    Anyway, I don't wish to start a discussion here about it since it's outside the topic of this post. I don't want to turn this into a discussion of what you think of Ayn Rand's philosophy - so let's leave it at that, shall we?

    If you want to talk about selfishness, feel free.

  11. Your conclusions about my ideas are based on your interpretation ,and I have no desire to argue about your and mine subjective view point.

    consider this ,You have a dog and you love that pet more than any other possessions , now the situation is on the driveway your house you come across a situation where you have no alternative but to rundown either a strange child or your pet .who will you choose to save?

    Hope you will answer .....may be then we can discuss more about selfishness , morals and motives driving our actions...


  12. Why is that question important for the subject of selfishness? What is the point you are trying to make by this situation?

  13. Never mind.Your recent comments on my blog gave me a fair idea what values you stand for.

    I am teacher so I learn everyday .Thanks for the lesson and suggestions.

  14. Yes, I stand for responsibility and discipline in thinking.

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. I do not wish to turn my blog into a discussion of your general beliefs.
    Beliefs, opinions and ideas which ARE related to the topic - are welcome.

    Let's sum things up by saying you are a subjectivist, you believe any opinion by any man is subjective.
    If you wish to argue about knowledge as subjective or objective please do so when it is actually the topic or part of the topic, like in the following post:

    There you can make your case that knowledge is subjective. Please focus on the topic and leave the rest of your opinions of various subjects (including me) out of it.