How far goes our self-sacrifice?

Human beings are much more close to the ‘early man’ (primitive man) than might be expected. Imagine the following situation. You (or me) work all day long. You arrive at home and expect to have your meal prepared (by yourself our by someone else). You eat. If it is cold, as is the case here where I’m living, you also expect to be heated. Then you sit down on your couch. You may decide to watch the TV, or work a little more in front of your computer. Your mind could be busy – you could be anxious about the bills you have to pay in the next day. Or concerned about your kids (your younger sun is going badly at school), your wife or husband. Or you might be concerned because of an even more frivolous reason: let’s say because your football team lost the last championship. Or you are annoyed because of a bug flying around your head and buzzing in your face.

I’m not entirely sure, but I bet that most of our everyday activities show a degree of inertia. At best, your noblest personal project is raising your kids in the best way possible, or your dog, or help your old mother/father, keep your house, or car, or stuff in general. Or maybe you have put all your energy in your work – you’re concerned with the future of the company to which you work to. You truly desire that the firm goes beyond all its limits, and you’ll probably feel proud of this accomplishment.

Maybe you have an ‘inner’ voice telling you that your actions and achievements are indeed adding some value to the world. Somehow, you feel you are contributing to making this planet a better place to live -at least for the next generations. You throw your rubbish away every day. You pay your taxes. You buy your clothes, the fuel to our car, and eventually, you make the waitress working in your favorite restaurant happy with some generous (although occasional) tip. You think you are a good guy, a good person.

Yes, someone could say that keep our daily life is an act of courage. After all, affording our standards is not an easy task at all. It takes time, effort, labor, patience. However, I think that broadly speaking, we are far, but far, from a life based on, let’s say, ‘political values.’ I’m going to mention only the political surroundings in Brazil: I venture to say that 99% of the politicians decide to go to this life because of the status provided by this position, the money they earn (direct and indirectly). They hardly are concerned with the public good in a romantic point of view – that is to say, seeing beyond their self.

Well, I think that most people are conservative in a deep and unconscious level. They don’t want to ‘fight’ for anything except their personal and all-embracing way of life. I think this is related to the emergence of the ‘affluent societies’ over the past century, at least in the West. If I need something to eat (from the essential provisions to the most exotics products), for instance, I simply go to the supermarket and buy it. I don’t need to go to the forest or whatever to hunt my prey (Unless if I decide to hunt as a hobby or sport…). And we [middle class?] are also got accustomate to a comfortable life, with our little luxuries (a glass of wine, a warm meal, a private house, a private bedroom, etc.). Hard to get, easy to lose.

I’m not saying we are weak or that we became ‘coach potatoes,’ when compared to our ancestors. But maybe we are less prone to engage ourselves in acts that demand courage and, especially, self-sacrifice – perhaps because self-sacrifice is no longer considered as much as necessary to the perpetuation of our species. You could object that raising a kid or work hard in a line-based company or fast-food chain every day is a sort of “abnegation” or endurance (courage?). This could even be true but is an abnegation inside a narrow world: our world and the work of OUR family. Do you believe that each family is a cell of the society? Working in an interdependent and intertwined way? Private vices, public benefits (Mandeville)?

How much would you be ready to, let’s say, work freely for someone else in order to help them? How about receiving immigrants in your country and assist them restoring their lives, even if this implies some degree of self-sacrifice (let’s say, sharing something that belongs to you with them)? The Brexit: Have you ever imagined if, instead of saying goodbye to the Europe, the Britains had decided to remain and help to build a stronger Europe? In Brazil, do you can imagine ourselves helping some child on the street – giving them some food or even inviting them to stay in our house while we help her to find another place to live?

I’m portraying something far beyond a utopia. Engage ourselves in such a kind of abnegation or not interested behaviors challenge the central tenets of your society, our collective, and personal culture. This society relies on a value hierarchy where the individual is placed on the top; then, the proximal other (my relatives); and then the other that belongs to the same community as I do. We rarely can see further. One person indirectly helps another one only in a mediated way – for instance, through her work.

I mean: if I work for the State/Government, for example, and my job implies to assist homeless people, I do that because this is my job and I’m paid for doing that. Sometimes we heard a couple of histories about self-sacrifice from the part of these social workers, but this is not the case for everybody being paid to do something that was ascribed to them as part of their formal activities. Otherwise, we have no time, no physical conditions, and especially no deep and pristine desire to act towards the other in a abnegate way. We are not stupid, you could say.

Well, this is the ‘spiritual’ background behind what I tried to discuss in my previous post. I have no answer regarding how to overcome (if this is possible at all) this state of things. And, yes, I probably oversimplify the issue. It’s because I have no intention to argue based on “proved” facts or high-level theorization. I’d like just to share some current ‘feelings’ about myself, about the world where I live.