This I Believe

Robert - Wilbraham, Massachusetts
Entered on August 22, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: integrity, peace
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This I believe…….

This I believe, I believe in altruism. If there is one word that truly fits the meaning of life, altruism is the perfect word. It takes into account so many other words, like character, truth, honesty, fairness what we need more in this world is altruism.

I believe that the Calvinist theory was the beginning of the downfall of Western Civilization, yes it seems to have fueled the capitalistic economy that we all survive in, but at the same time it also, began to be misinterpreted into greed. Yes, GREED. In the movie “Wall Street” the message was supposed to be that greed leads to your downfall. But the real message received by all was “GREED IS GOOD”. Michael Douglas’ performance was simply too powerful to let the true meaning come through.

In John C. Bogle’s book, “the Battle for the Soul of Capitalism” he states that…”our society came to measure the wrong bottom line: form over substance, prestige over virtue, money over achievement, charisma over character, the ephemeral over the enduring, even mammon over God. We need people like Bill and Melinda Gates, who will donate fortunes to benefit others. Corporations whose business is transparent. Governments, whose leaders are once more idealist, that benefit all. Probably at the end of WWII, we were idolized by most of the world. In the 60’s President Kennedy started the Peace Corps to benefit developing countries and spread good will. We are not that same country now, most of the world sees us as ….greedy and gluttonous. If you lived in a third world country how would you look upon us. As benefactors or a belligerent behemoth looking to bully its way to benefit its billionaires. How do you want the world to see us?

We need to get Altruism back, everywhere you turn the world is full of “Eddie Haskells”, people who believe that as long as you can get away with it is to do. Why does Congress have such an outlandish retirement package and health insurance? Because they can get away with it. Look at the Enron debacle. Why did the CEO of an oil company get 130+ million as a severance package? Why does Wal-mart not give health insurance to many of its employees. The Bottom-line! It seems that wherever you turn there are people who will justify almost any behavior. Stealing fruit from the orchard, stealing from work, cheating on taxes, the list is virtually endless.

We need people who will “ Do the right thing!” simply because it is the right thing to do. But what is the right thing, is it the right thing for me, for my company, for the USA or for humanity. Kohlberg described the 6 stages of moral development which parallel this problem. Stages 1-4 are mostly self-centered. But in the fifth stage, the child begins to base his actions on conscience, but criteria are defined by society and the laws can be changed to fit the principle. In the sixth stage actions are finally based on ethical principles that have arrived over time.

Which brings us back to altruism. How do we teach it to parents to teach their children. How to we get teachers, truck drivers, managers, CEOs, Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, Financial Advisors to live it. I do not have THE answer, but this I believe….. we must model it and we must live it in our daily lives, we must talk to our children, talk to our students. And it is easy to start…..if someone gives you the wrong change…..correct them; make sure you pay for all the items in your cart at Home Depot. It feels good to be honest. (Yes, Scouting is a great organization.) I also believe Robert Fulgum said it best when he wrote, All I need to know I learned in Kindergarten…”Share everything, Play fair, don’t hit people. … Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Warm cookies and milk are good for you. AND no matter how old you are—when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together” In the end, I believe this is the way we will end terrorism. War only begets more War. WE have only succeeded in creating more terrorists. Kill a terrorist and 10 more are recruited. People are not born terrorists. We have to cut off the supply-line, but you do that at the source not at the spigot. Yes some times we do need to fight, but fight when you are in the right. In WWII it was easy, in Afghanistan it was clear. But now, I do not have that same crystal ball.

I believe that altruism will lead us as a country, as a society, as humankind out of this turmoil to a more permanent positive position, end this path of pathologic pugilism and start us on the path of preservation of peace. This I believe..