A friend of mine recently commented on my Games People Play post with a series of questions, and since the questions were so profound, I decided to dedicate a whole new post to the responses, many of which are influenced by John Lewis’s memoir, Walking with the Wind.
1. Do you think that greed, the need for power, authority, and selfishness are similar flaws in mankind? And who would argue that these things are often “deleterious” to society? But on the real – would you say there’s any viable solution, this side of changing the DNA of humans? Or would you say calling ‘greed, violence, power-hungriness’ being a flaw of human nature a cop out? Should people somehow rise above these natural instincts?
The American civil rights movement is one of the most important events in our history, and I doubt that most Americans would argue against that assertion. One of the things that struck me the most as I’ve been reading Lewis’s memoir is that when they first started organizing sit-ins to integrate counters in the South, they didn’t have any one “leader.” Rather, the leadership was shared because the movement was about “group effectiveness and responsibility, not individual power.” I for one believe that the civil rights movement, although the ultimate goal in its entirety is yet to be realized, was a great success, so there had to be some kind of validity in its model of leadership in its nascent stages. These were simply people who were coming together because they shared a passion in creating an equal, integrated America. The fact that they put their focus on “shared leadership” rather than on direction from one individual ensured that the goal remained a collective one. Notice that many of their victories are marked by groups of people rather than individuals: The Little Rock Nine, the Freedom Riders, The Big Six.
One the other hand, some of the greatest oppression in history have been marked by the rise of one person to power: Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussain, Fidel Castro.
I know that I’ve heard “sometimes you have to be selfish in order to succeed” more than once in my lifetime. I don’t want to say that selfishness and the desire for power are always harmful, but I think it’s always best to find the optimal solution for every problem, and more often than not, I think that the “shared responsibility” model is the way to go because it ensures that the desire to accomplish a collective goal overrides the innate human desire to be “the top dog.”
2. But on the other hand, is a world where everyone is compassionate and unselfish even a world? Has that ever existed? If it’d be beneficial to all, why has it not existed? Maybe this is the best world… to have selfishness, and selflessness. Can you really have one without the other?
Keeping this one simple. A compassionate, unselfish world, I think, is an ideal world. Imagine what the world would be like if we were simply nicer to one another. No wars, no violence, no hunger. And it hasn’t existed because there are enough people out there who think only of themselves.
3. Won’t there always be haves and have-nots? And as the ‘haves’ are glorified by society – won’t people be manipulative in their path to climb their figurative ladders, and to maintain their positions?
I’m pretty sure that there will always be haves and have-nots, again, because there will always be enough people to think only of themselves and they’ll pass their philosophy on to their offspring. So, until that chain is broken (and I’m not convinced that it ever will be), we’ll always have haves and have nots. Aside from that, who’s to say that what society “glorifies” is always optimal? Just look at our American society. We’ve glorified Paris Hilton, size zero and sex tapes. And when has manipulation been a good thing? Just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean that it’s going to make for a better environment…and isn’t that what we’re striving to create? “A more perfect union?”
All of this takes self-reflection and constant reassessment. But in order to be the best we possibly can be, then I think we should always be willing to work towards collective goals, not self-reward.
And by the way, I studied Political Science during my undergraduate years at the University of Georgia.