Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 555, January 31, 2010

"The days of political correctness are numbered"

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On Compassion and Altruism
by IL Fettucinni

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Today I witnessed an act of compassion, of tenderness, of caring, of such simple goodness as to make my eyes mist and tears roll down my cheeks.

I was at the Arne Hanna Pool in Bellingham trying to get in some aquatic exercise to lose weight. I was alternating swimming laps and bubbling in the hot tub. The hot tub in this pool can contain 21 people and is racetrack shaped and has a little sitting edge all around it where the bubbles give your back a good going over.

As I was getting out of the pool to go to the bathroom when I noticed a guy assisting another person into the hot tub. I went to the john and came out and got into the hot tub. There were about five or six of us. I now was close enough to notice the man who had been assisting someone into the pool.

The man who did the assisting was about 25 I would l guess, solid build, black hair, sort of semi-olive skin. He looked to be a 'hapa-hoale' which in Hawaii means half Caucasian/half something else. He was sitting above and holding what I have to guess was his brother. The brother was also in his mid twenties and seemed to have one of those conditions that robbed him of his ability to move and speak. His eyes rolled frequently out of sight and when they came back into focus seemed to have no knowledge of the external world.

At that moment the bubbles stopped. The brother who had been holding the other jumped out of the hot tub, walked over to the wall and pressed the start button in such a way as to bring the bubbles back on nice and strong. I asked him how he had done that and he replied that he had watched over time and found out that if you hold the button in for a few seconds it would make the bubbles higher and he smiled. His brother in the meantime simply sat in the tub, eyes vacuously rolling about. I noticed that these two men looked very much like each other. I wanted to ask the helping brother what affliction his brother had and were they in fact brothers. But I refrained.

I noticed that the diseased brother was actually quite handsome and was shaved closely. In fact both of these guys were very handsome. The helping brother had never left his charge out of his sight. Then he said to his brother, "Time to leave. Is that OK with you?" In the next moment he very gently placed his arms around his brother's chest and lifted him effortlessly up out of the water to the ledge of the hot tub. I then noticed how his brother's body was withered to the point where his waist looked about 12 inches around and his legs were spindly. He must have weighed less than 60 pounds.

Then the caring brother picked up his brother ever so tenderly in his arms and placed him onto a special chair that was designed to go into the water and had wheels to move it about. After checking his brother the caring brother pushed him away to the shower room.

At that moment I was overcome with the real world goodness of this man to his brother. I did not know they were brothers; for all I know the caring guy could have been a paid attendant. But given how much they looked alike my assumption that they were brothers is probably true. We are every day given to see crimes on TV, violence in the news, in movies, in newspapers that we are getting used to it.

Here in this pool I witnessed an act of such loving care and beauty that I literally could not hold my emotions in check. I put my head underwater to remove my tears.

Part of this emotion was caused because only a month or so ago my brother Pendron and I had come to this pool and had taken in the bubbles of the hot tub. I wondered to myself had I taken care of my brother (Who had a stoke and could not walk easily) as well as this fellow did?

I do not believe in altruism, especially as Ayn Rand defined it. Altruism is very much not simply being nice to people as many people believe. To quote Rand:

"What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good."

I always loved the works of Rand because many of the ideas that I had worked out for myself which were contrary to American standards of the 20th Century were given clarity and definitions by her. She agreed with me! I knew that in order to give something to others one had to produce it first. Which means that production is the important first part of the whole equation... not simply redistributing others' efforts! This is why I fully understood why socialism is so evil and unworkable. It is contrary to man's nature.

It also explains why Americans have been the most benevolent people on earth. We have been free to produce all the unheard of wealth which makes the rest of the world envy us and as a natural result we are the biggest givers of charity and for the right reasons ever in history. The flood of things, people and helping action in Haiti are only the present example.

From a sort of Randian 'selfishness' we have become rich and we have become kind because we are able to be kind. We give not from compulsion or guilt but because we want to. We do so to help the other back to his feet.

I don't know why this tableau of brothers today played itself out so dramatically in my brain. I know that it struck me as wonderful and perhaps so different from what I had witnessed a mere seconds earlier from that hot tub. There is a elementary school next to the pool which has its playground near the pool. I could see dozens of kids climbing on the jungle gym and the tall slide through the window of the pool. I watched as one girl had been punching kids as they reached the top of the slide. She was a real ten year old dominatrix. The other kids were slightly smaller than she and she got away with it for minutes until an adult grabbed her by the ear and took her away.

I saw kindness and hurtfulness alternating. For a nitty gritty philosophical understanding of these actions and their motives read Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness. Or, if you want to reach an understanding of this immediately put "Ayn Rand and Altruism" in your search field and click away. It will take you directly to the subject matter.

So there.


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