Wednesday, July 3, 2019

How to Avoid Living like a Signpost

PHOTO | Gerd Altmann (Pixabay)

Depending on how you look at it, a signpost is the epitome of altruism. It shows you the way. It points you in the right direction.

Over the weekend, I read some pages of Ayn Rand's 'The Virtue of Selfishness', where she takes a rather contrarian view of altruism.

Ayn Rand dissects altruism, and the moral questions it lumps together. One is what values are, the other being who should be the beneficiary of values.
The problem with this is the widely accepted notion that any action taken for the benefit of others is good.
On the other hand, a concern with one's self interests (the exact dictionary definition of selfishness) is deemed evil.

There is a loophole in here, if you look closely. But that notwithstanding, today's post is about oneself and why there is a danger in not looking inward as much as we should.

* * *

There is something called Moral Licensing. In my opinion, Malcolm Gladwell, in 'The Lady Vanishes' (S01E01) episode of Revisionist History, gives the most succinct explanation of what this social psychology concept is. He says:

Past good deeds can liberate individuals to engage in behaviors that are immoral, unethical or otherwise problematic, behaviors that they would otherwise avoid for fear of feeling or appearing immoral.

We all see this in action every day in life. Locally, the best example is a politician who does one huge, very public albeit insincere act of benevolence (such as a huge donation at a fundraiser) that gets him elected, then spends an entire 5 year term in office embezzling public funds and engaging in corruption.

This point was further amplified by Evelyn Waithira (Muithirania) during a interview with Kameme TV. She speaks of a man whose work is to announce throughout the village of a 'Baraza' that he himself doesn't care to attend.

I have admittedly often found myself engulfed in this moral licensing phenomenon. Time and again, I find myself doing the very things I have publicly and on record, spoken against on this blog and elsewhere. At times with reckless abandon.
Since I began posting on The Walkabout a decade ago, many are the times I have fallen short of what I write about here, stuff that's meant to offer insight, inspire us and aid in self discovery.

However, all is not lost.

* * *

Many years ago when I was a University student at JKUAT, I used to have regular chats (actual face-to-face conversations) with my pal Doreen. At the time, Kiss 100.3 FM was pretty new and played actual "Fresh Hits."

Now, the only problem with that is just how repetitively any new song was played on Kiss 100. 'Redeemer' by Nicole C. Mullen was a new release at the time, and not an hour would pass without hearing that song play again and again on Kiss.

One hot afternoon, we are walking along the main corridor (it runs from Assembly Hall to Hall 6) and someone in Hall 3 who had obviously made "The Big Switch" was tuned in to Kiss 100 and as expected, 'Redeemer' was blasting away on his stereo. I pointed out how Kiss FM is ruining our listening experience by overplaying such amazing songs.

Doreen's view was different, that such repetitive radio-play wasn't necessarily a bad thing as it gave that particular Gospel track much needed exposure on a secular radio station where it would reach those who wouldn't otherwise tune in to Family FM (a christian station).

We had a small argument over this, and at some point, she asked: "Are you even listening to yourself speaking?"

It is due to this very statement that I've had to, almost a decade later, re-examine myself as I look back to the things I have been posting here, but seldom practise in life.
And it is that moment of clarity that first came my way thanks to Doreen at JKUAT, that insight which has again been brought to my attention by Ayn Rand, Malcolm Gladwell and Evelyn Waithira,  that I have elected to do the needful and walk a different road.

* * *

In the previous post I shared an excerpt from Safe Haven in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book [PDF], but omitted the first sentence. It now reads like this:

Now willing to listen and take suggestions, I have found that the process of discovering who I really am, begins with knowing who I really don't want to be.

And best believe me, just as Doreen advised many years ago, learning to actually listen to oneself makes a difference. A BIG one. There is a conversation I need to have with me, and that calls for a moment to myself.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...