PJ’s Q & A

This is a set of questions and answers that I included in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men and later removed because the book worked better without them. And even though I’d write it quite differently today (I wrote this 20 years ago), I still think it’s a meaningful discussion. And so I’m passing it along.

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Q: PJ, you are founding your version of good and bad upon self-interest. How can you leave doing things for others entirely out of the picture? No selfless deeds? Sounds like hell to me.

            Seminary Steve

A: Steve: First of all, using the phrase “doing things for others” creates confusion. Who you do something for does not make an action good or bad. It is what you do that makes it good or bad.

Everything people do is for self-interest. That includes giving to charity and nursing the sick. You do it because you value the people you are helping. You think it is worthwhile to birth some kindness into the world. You are doing this because it makes you feel good. It may make other people feel good, too, but you are doing it for yourself.

Choosing not to use other people wrongly – to treat them well and to be benevolent – that is not selfless. That is an expression of integrity, based upon your self-understanding of what being treated wrongly is like.

Using selflessness as the definition of good is a scam. It is contrary to human nature, it is dishonest, and it never works. And don’t think that it comes from the Bible, because it does not. “Loving your neighbor as yourself” assumes that you first love yourself. This commandment is built entirely upon self-interest, and without self-interest it has no meaning at all.

Let me tell you something, I’ve done the “selfless” thing. And I mean that I have really done it, not tried to do it “as best I could.” I did it full-out, with all my strength. And do you know what? It’s a fraud. The people who have really lived altruistically are either in deep guilt over their inner inability to enjoy it, or have realized that it is BS. It is a doctrine that contradicts human nature. It has never worked and it never will, unless we someday become a race of hive-bound robots. If you don’t believe me, go do it! Go live completely altruistically – do everything for others. But really do it! No half-hearted attempts – you go give it everything you’ve got. Then you’ll know the truth of the matter.

Do you want to make the world a more beautiful place? Wonderful, go do it. But don’t ever think you are being selfless. You are being the opposite of selfless. When you are making the world better, you are upholding yourself. You are honoring your own love of beauty, life, and peace; you are working to bring your version of goodness into being. Be proud of what you are doing!

Don’t degrade yourself to say that the only good you can do is when you get your evil self into some sort of coma! It’s a lie. Take credit for the good you do! And unless you are doing it at someone else’s expense, don’t ever feel bad about doing good to yourself!

            PJ

Q: PJ, I suppose you’ll think I’m not willing to let go of this subject… and I suppose you’re right. Again, you go back to self-reference to establish goodness. I can’t argue with you about the scripture that says “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Yes, that is built on self-interest, though I’ve never had it pointed out to me before.) BUT, isn’t man’s nature flawed? All the evil we see every day should at least tell us that. And if human nature is flawed, doesn’t it follow that it is not a reliable guide, and that a definition of goodness must come from somewhere outside of flawed man? I know I sound like I’m challenging you here, but that’s not my only point. I really think I am correct.

            Seminary Steve

A: Steve: Please don’t ever think that I’d like you to disregard your own judgment. You are to be commended for sticking with it until you are convinced otherwise.

As I see it, you are making a couple of assumptions that I do not. First, I do not think that man’s nature is necessarily flawed. Most men’s actions are obviously flawed, but not necessarily their natures.

Next, even if man’s nature were flawed, that does not mean that he could not use other tools to ascertain the true and the good. In fact, that is exactly what science does. By careful observation, reason, and verification, we can discover truths that we were initially blind to, or even opposed to.

Steve, I know you are a seminary student, so I want to give you a couple of things to think about:

When man was in the Garden of Eden, there is only one thing ever mentioned about their thinking: “and they were not ashamed.” So, the only thing we know about the inner life of someone living in paradise is that they are not ashamed. Interesting, no?

There is obviously a great deal to be said about the Bible’s story of the fall of man. But Adam and Eve’s big mistake comes before they eat the fruit. They erred when they judged their own natures to be insufficient. The serpent says that if they eat the fruit, they will be as Gods. But God had made them in his own image, and had said that everything he made was “very good.”

Were they fully developed? No. But they could have grown and matured into being “as Gods.” They were, by nature, suited to such growth, and they didn’t need the fruit of the tree in order to get it.

Remember now the line in Philippians where Paul says that Jesus “did not think it robbery to be equal with God.” Adam and Eve decided that their natures were insufficient to be equal with God. They were wrong. Jesus, on the other hand, did believe that his nature was sufficient.

Adam’s mistake was to undervalue his nature.

If this is correct, then it may well be the mistrusting and devaluing of one’s own nature that causes the evils that we see around us every day. If our natures are not automatically bad – but if we nonetheless treat them as if they are bad – wouldn’t that lead to a host of problems and mistakes?

If a man did believe in the sufficiency of his own nature, what would he be like? What would it feel like to be completely unashamed?

            PJ

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The novel that helped put the crypto revolution into high gear.

Comments from readers:

“Of the twenty five or so people I worked with last fall, all of them revered A Lodging of Wayfaring Men as a bible. They referred to the house and their community effort as a Lodge. We all felt it was modeled on the Free Souls.”

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“I’m an Old guy and find that Rosenberg has captured many Real-World truths in this novel. I wish the Millennial Generation would read this novel and consider the concepts and rationale presented here.”

Get it at Amazon or on Kindle.

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Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

Selfish-Sacrifice: The Essential Virtue That’s Been Lost in the Storm

Selfish-Sacrifice

If you’d like to get a good fight going in a room full of diverse people, start talking about self-sacrifice. The group will break down into two sides that will not only disagree with each other, but despise each other.

On one side will be people who have strong beliefs in higher powers. That is, they will be religious or patriotic in some fashion, or at least strongly cause-oriented. They will believe that sacrificing one’s life (or at least their comfort) for a higher cause is something important and noble… something to fight for.

On the other side will be people who try to be very rational. They will think the sacrificers are either silly or deranged, hoping that some invisible entity will reward them for pouring their lives down a drain… something to fight against.

This kind of ideological food fight has been going on for a long time. The first group concludes that the second has no soul, and the second group concludes that the first has no brain. And of course, the longer the argument goes, the more polarized the room becomes.

Honestly, both sides are missing the important stuff. But before I get to that, I should clear away some debris.

Words Do Hurt Us

The word “sacrifice” is so strongly attached to emotional triggers that it’s almost useless at the present time. In fact, most of the words that are attached to this subject lead people toward kneejerk reactions rather than understanding.

Sacrifice can currently mean anything from “standing up for the truth” (a good thing, in my view) to “dying to give your ruler a few more acres to dominate” (not a good thing, in my view). So, this is our first problem area.

On top of that, there are always a few people who like self-sacrifice for odd psychological reasons, or just for sympathy. I am excluding them from this conversation to keep the discourse uncluttered. I’m also excluding the “suffering is a virtue” folks.

A related issue is the popular phrase, “Be part of something larger than yourself.” People try to mean something good by this, but it’s actually a perverse trade: You get some cheap self-esteem in return for joining yourself to something big and/or revered.

This trade—at a minimum—delays your personal development and turns you into an object that will be used by the “larger” thing.

Self-esteem is not supposed to come easy—it has to be earned, and that takes both time and effort. Joining yourself to a large entity delays or derails that process.

Selfish-sacrifice

What we’re calling selfish-sacrifice is not a new concept (it was formerly called “suffering for righteousness’ sake”), but it has been pushed aside by “self-sacrifice,” which is now held (falsely) as a standard of goodness.

Selfish-sacrifice occurs when we act on our own desires and suffer unjustly for it. It is based upon a selfish valuing and defense of our own lives, not laying them down.

I’ll illustrate this concept by sharing a conversation that I had not long ago, with a good friend, whom I’ll call John. John has close connections to certain agencies, and he was concerned about the privacy service that I manage. Here’s how it went:

John: Look, I understand what you’re doing, and I understand why you’re doing it, but you have to know that they won’t like it.

Paul: Yeah, I know, but we can’t be very high on their list. Our customers are doctors, lawyers, investors, farmers, and accountants… regular people. And nothing we do is illegal.

John: I know that, Paul, but you’re protecting people from them, and they don’t like that. If you make them angry, they’ll find ways to get you. They’ll put something nasty on your computer… maybe it’ll be child porn or the blueprints for a bomb or something… and then they’ll make you look like a monster. I won’t believe it, and your other friends won’t believe it, but most people will. I don’t want that to happen to you.

Paul: I appreciate your concern, John, really, and I have no desire to be hurt. But I’ve reached the point where I want to live my life, and this matters. So, I’m doing it.

John: Well, I respect that, but I worry.

John is a good man and a good friend, and it’s sick that he has to worry about me. But if the other choice is to not live my life, I am unwilling to take it. I don’t want to suffer, but if it happens that I do… well… then it does.

Selfish-sacrifice comes from convictions like this: when we value our lives too much to not live them. We understand that thugs may take offense and try to punish us for doing good, but abandoning the best within ourselves is simply not worth it.

So long as most people obey rulers whom they know to be liars and thieves, we’ll be stuck in a risk environment. The only way to fix that is to address people’s minds: to convince them to think on their own and to stop serving people who abuse them.

In this situation, bowing to immediate pragmatism is to retard our own development. That would be the proverbial “selfless sacrifice”… the sacrifice of the best within us upon the altars of punishers.

Yes, I know that we all make certain compromises in order to avoid spending most of our lives in cages (How’s that for a condemnation of our times?), but still, these principles stand:

We should value our lives enough to live them.

So long as we don’t harm others, we should be free to do as we please.

Selfish-sacrifice happens when we value our lives, when we live them, and when power-mongers hurt us for it. It’s not something we seek, but in the current environment, it does sometimes happen. I tend to call this “suffering for your virtues.”

Words from a Man with Experience

I leave you today with three thoughts from a man who knew something about what I’m calling "selfish-sacrifice": Martin Luther King, Jr. We should all take these passages from Dr. King’s writings seriously:

Cowardice asks the question: is it safe?
Expediency asks the question: is it politic?
Vanity asks the question: is it popular?
But conscience asks the question: is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.

We should never forget that everything Adolph Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.”

A nation or a civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

This article was originally published by Casey Research.