Individualism In Action
It’s not often that I allow my personal life to seep into what I contribute to publications such as United Liberty, but I found what was occurring in my life has been relevant enough to mention here.
I have had a friend for many years who has lived quite an altruistic life. His choice of schools and jobs was never really motivated by what would help him succeed but instead by his desire to meet “awesome people.” He turned down opportunities if he didn’t think “awesome people” would be present. During one of the last times I spoke with him, he said he wasn’t going to move from his rather deplorable housing situation because he had to take care of people that mattered to him. It was strongly disputable whether the people he referenced would do the same for him.
The last time I spoke with him, he told me he had been fired from his job. He spoke of me “making my way in the world” as if I had somehow struck with some sort of luck that he hadn’t, when all I had done is try to advance myself instead of jumping around looking for nothing but cool people to meet.
Watching the Gary Cooper adaptation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (which, in my opinion, dwarfs Rand’s more well-known work Atlas Shrugged) clarified what the problem here was. My friend had been living for others completely, while I had been putting myself first. I was the selfish one yet I was the successful one.
This is not to say that a dose of altruism isn’t a bad thing, by any means. To have a successful relationship, for example, one must trust, be thoughtful and listen to their lover. However, that relationship is reciprocal. Without reciprocity, altruism can be self-destructive.