Juan Zane Crawford


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National Implications: Virtues of Selfishness Related to Dire Needs We Face within Our Education System by Juan Zane Crawford, PhD Student in Educational Leadership - Faculty Mentor: William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

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Juan Zane Crawford

  1. 1. National Implications: Virtues of Selfishness Related to Dire Needs we face within Our Education System<br />Juan Zane Crawford<br />PhD Student in Educational Leadership<br />The Whitlowe R. Green College of Education<br />Prairie View A&M University<br />William Allan Kritsonis, PhD<br />Professor and Faculty Mentor<br />PhD Program in Educational Leadership<br />PVAMU/Member of the Texas A&M University System<br />Abstract<br />The purpose of this article is to present an uncommon set of lenses in which to view the word “selfishness.” Ayn Rand paints a different, yet distinct picture of the word “selfishness” in her book Virtues of Selfishness. This word has been defined as the act of placing one’s own needs or desires above the needs or desires of others and the negative implications that follow. The image she presents is quite diverse by showing the positive virtues and integrity behind the word. <br />National Implications: Virtues of Selfishness Related to Dire Needs we face within Our Education System<br />Today’s educators cannot use yesterday’s methodologies and mind sets to reach tomorrow’s student body. Although Ayn Rand finished The Virtue of Selfishness (1964) over 40 years ago, her views have ageless implications to social systems, more specifically, our education system. By exploring her work educators will discover and become better able to apply the virtues of selfishness to the values required for basic human survival. They will be better able to separate these noble principles from the selfish unethical behavior of the looter and the brute. The looter and the brute are constantly consumed with exploiting someone else’s sacrifice for their greater good, rather than their own sacrifice. They only see self-interest when achieving their desires.<br />“The Objectivist ethics holds that human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.” (Rand, 1964, p 37) <br />Educators must interweave this premise daily into lessons taught. Only by doing so can educators retake the definition and power associated with the word “selfishness” from the looter and the brute. This power has been craved for decades by the looter and the brute. They have used this power to mentally enslave as a society to think that the desire to further one’s self-interest is evil and must be stricken from our day-to-day lives. <br />Purpose of this Essay<br />The purpose of this essay is to discuss the moral virtues and true power behind the word “selfishness.” Ayn Rand suggests the meaning of the word has become twisted and obscure, devoid of any true meaning. The word has become a lethal combination which she sees as a devastating moral development perpetrated on mankind by the looter and the brute. <br />In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment. (Rand, 1964, p. vii) <br /> The dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own interests. This definition is absent of any moral evaluation. The definition does not identify pursuit of one’s own interests as a good or evil cause. It then leaves readers to interpret for them what actually constitutes one person’s self-interest. The definition of selfishness leaves no room for distinction between one person’s self-interest over another person’s self-interest. The definition removes all positive attributes from concern for one’s own self-interest. <br />Tomorrows educators should not continue to miss such a huge opportunity to show our youth the positive attributes that they will experience by isolating their self-interest and focusing on achieving those goals. There needs to a mass exodus away from interpreting selfishness as negative and against all moral direction. In today competitive economy, we need all the power we can get and leaving the power of that word with the looter and the brute serves no one but the looter and the brute.<br />Recommendation 1 - Clarification<br />Before we can begin to unravel the misunderstanding associated with the word selfishness we as educators must accept several basic moral differences between the self-interest of the looter and the brute and the self-interest of a productive contributing member of society. <br />The evil of a robber does not lie in the fact that he pursues his own interests, but in what <br />he regards as to his own interest; not in the fact that he pursues his values, but in what he chose to value; not in the fact that he wants to live, but in the fact that he wants to live on <br />a subhuman level. (Rand, 1964, p. ix) <br />To assume that both the looter and the brute and the productive contributing member of society display the same moral ethics in the pursuit of their self-interest is to raise the moral ethics of the robber (looter) and the brute while that assumption lowers the moral ethics of the productive contributing member of society. This cannot be allowed to continue if we are to ever reclaim the strength of the word selfishness. <br />This thought process is in direct contradiction to the thought process behind altruism. The altruism belief disregards the concept of selfishness as a redeeming virtue. Their view refuses to acknowledge men as anything other than just a sacrificial animal, poised to be either a victim or a parasite. They further disregard any concept of benevolence and co-existence between man and his environment. This clarification and distinction is necessary if we are to move in a different direction. Educators cannot be afraid or intimidated by others just because that is the direction the masses have chosen to take; especially if the direction of the altruism leads society towards a counterproductive world where no one has self power over one’s self.<br />Recommendation 2 – Redemption<br />The initial step to redeem the concept of selfishness is to reiterate the tie between man and his morality, man’s right to his very moral existence. In doing so Ayn Rand recognized man’s inalienable need for a moral code to guide his course through life and the fulfillment for his own life. Here is where one might question “why” man actually needs a moral code. The moral code tells man the purpose of his morality is to prioritize his values and his interest. Currently man sees things that further his values and his interest and deemed them to be good; <br />while things that hamper or negate his values and his interest are deemed evil.<br />This code states that concern with his interest is the very essence of his moral existence <br />and that he is obligated to be the direct beneficiary of his own moral actions. If all value is gained and kept by his direct action, any disconnection between man and his actions equates to an injustice. Nothing can ever justify this disconnect or injustice. <br />Whether the beneficiary of man’s action is conscious of that benefit or not is irrelevant in the field of morality. The conscious decision does not void morality or the criterion for a moral value. This is the argument the altruists wrongly stake their claims upon. Educators should stress there can be not disconnect between students and their actions. As tomorrow is upon us today, this is the time for educator to further nurture this tie between man and his actions and show how they are interrelated. <br />Recommendation 3 – Teaching the Importance of Self-Interest<br />In teaching self-interest educators should start by instilling in their students that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his own actions, and must act for his own rational self-interest. This right is a morally responsibility of every person and its origin comes from the essence of human nature and the moral value we place on all human life. Further understanding that this right is only applicable as it relates to man’s rational and objectively demonstrated actions. This right specifically defines and determines his actual self-interest. <br />Educators must ensure students understand that this is not a license to go marching through life doing as one pleases or acting as the looter or the brute that is only driven by urges, feelings, emotions, whims, or wishes. These types of actions represent the opposite of the altruist mindset. Individuals with this mindset believe that all actions are good as long as the actions are intended for personal benefit. <br />This belief is just as inaccurate as the altruist belief; it’s just the opposite end of the same flawed coin. Educators must show that attempting to satisfy irrational desires of others is just as unproductive as attempting to satisfy one’s own irrational desires. Morality can take no sides here, this is no gray area, there is right or wrong. To become stagnate in this area is just as unproductive as the area where a man proclaims that if he is operating with and guided by his own independent judgment he is morally correct by any action he takes, provided he was the one who choose to take that action. The act of choosing shows no moral validation, whereas one’s choice can only be morally validated by adhering to a demonstrable moral principle. <br />As a society we recognize that man cannot survive by any random means. We have a culture filled with examples of the things required for man’s basic survival. We know that if he is to survive, he must use his intellect to put into practice the rational principles needed for his survival. Using that same logic we can deduce that man’s self-interest cannot survive by any random means either. He must use his same intellect to put into practice rational self-interest principles there as well. Ayn Rand identified these principles as rational selfishness. If selfishness is concern with one’s own self-interest then in its purest sense selfishness should be seen as morally unquestionable. <br />Recommendation 4 – A Hard Pill to Swallow<br />The ideal of selfishness as a positive virtue should not be something we allow the looter and the brute to steal from us. I believe that the acronym for the word “FEAR” can be broken down to represent:<br />False<br />Evidence<br />Appearing<br />Real<br />The looter and the brute want us to F.E.A.R selfishness. Educators stand at the forefront <br />of this last frontier. To fear selfishness is to fear man’s self-esteem and surrender it to man’s enemies, the looter and the brute. When educators are asked what moral obligations are owed to fellow man, their response should be that no moral obligations are owed to anyone other than the moral obligations owed to oneself. To deal with people on such a basic level allows one to be unbound by yesterday’s morays and judgments.<br />You should be free to deal with your fellow man solely by means of reason alone. It is illogical to seek or desire anything except the relationship your fellow man mutually chooses to voluntarily enter with you. When your fellow man’s self-interest lines up with your self-interest you can enter into a mutually rewarding relationship together. <br />When their self-interest does not line up with your self-interest, educators should instruct students to view this as a welcome sign not to enter into the relationship. Only the looter and the brute can become discouraged at that point. As they view things that do not go their way as things that go the wrong way. <br />Here lays the hard pill to swallow: only seek to deal with the other persons mind for the sake of reason and only for the reason of one’s own self-interest. This takes a tremendous amount of courage from the stand point of educators to educate; and it takes even more courage for pupils to assimilate. “I win by means of nothing but logic and I surrender to nothing but logic. I do not surrender my reason or deal with men who surrender theirs” (Rand, 1957, p 133). As educators truly focus on this point they are forced to pull emotions, judgments, mood, and likes or dislikes out of the picture.<br />Egoism verses Altruism<br />After Sigmund Freud developed the intellectual model of the Id, Ego, and Super Ego it <br />became a popular belief that the ego was synonymous with evil and selfishness was the ego’s <br />only true virtue. Selflessness became the opposite of the ego mindset and the ideal virtue for the good person possess. Egoism was seen as sacrifice of others to self; whereas altruism was seen as the sacrifice of self to others. They became two opposing end of the same flawed pole, either good or evil; either too much concern with self or too little concern with self. This set man on a desperate crash course with other men; he was left with pain either way he turned. <br />This predicament gave man either his pain for the sake of others or their pain for the sake of himself. Ayn Rand viewed this as man being forced to accept masochism as his idea verses his acceptance of sadism. She viewed this as a great fraud being perpetrated on mankind. This left man with the choice of either dependence on other men or suffering as the underlying fundamentals of his very existence was burdened with his enormous struggle to survive. She believed that man’s choice was not self-sacrifice or domination, but independence or dependence. Independence had to show lack of self-interest; otherwise the looter and the brute would make man ashamed of this view. All the time the looter and the brute would pray on man’s weak insecurity. They will go to great lengths to show man that if he cannot live independently without shame, then he can live dependently relying on them for sustenance. The looter and the brute will be more than happy to remove the burden of guilt, for a small price. <br />Identifying all that originated from man’s independent self-interest as good and all that originated from man’s dependence upon other men was deemed evil. <br />The egoist in the absolute sense is not the man who sacrifices others. He is the man who stands above the need of using others in any manner. He does not function through them. He is not concerned with them in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his energy. He does not exist for any other man—and he asks no other man to exist for him. This is the only form of <br />brotherhood and mutual respect possible between men. (Rand, 1957, p 81) <br />Moral Purpose in Life<br />To achieve man’s own happiness is man’s ultimate moral purpose in life. This by no means gives man a free hall pass to go trampling through life indifferent to other and all men, with little expectation to help or be helped. That is the life of the looter and the brute. The life the looter and the brute desire to impose on all who view selfishness as an evil, that stands wedged against their moral purpose in life. <br />This does not mean that he is indifferent to all men, that human life is of no value to him and that he has no reason to help others in an emergency. But it does mean that he does not subordinate his life to the welfare of others, that he does not sacrifice himself to their needs, that the relief of their suffering is not his primary concern, that any help he gives is an exception, not a rule, an act of generosity, not of moral duty, that it is marginal and incidental—as disasters are marginal and incidental in the course of human existence—<br />and that values, not disasters, are the goal, the first concern and the motive power of his life. (Rand, 1964, p 49) <br />The moral purpose in life cannot be to lead a life of mediocrity. We will not reach our apex while struggling with the enormous boulders, the looter and the brute placed around our necks as a yoke. To educate tomorrows youth while we know full well of the boulder placed around our necks and we know that it is not of their doing; is a travesty. It does not mean we are forced to live a powerless life stripped down of any social value from the word selfishness. <br />Only a brute or an altruist would claim that the appreciation of another person’s virtues is an act of selflessness, that as far as one’s own selfish interest and pleasure are concerned, it makes no difference whether one deals with a genius or a fool, whether one meets a hero or a thug, whether one marries an ideal woman or a slut. In spiritual issues, a trader is a man who does not seek to be loved for his weaknesses or flaws, only for his virtues, and who does not grant his love to the weaknesses or the flaws of others, only to their virtues. (Rand, 1964, p 31)<br />Conclusion<br />In conclusion, The Virtue of Selfishness (1964) gives educators a new weapon in the battle over the complacency with the status quo. Tomorrows challenges will not wait until educators figure this out next year, next decade, or next century. The looter and the brute are alive and well; and they operate in the realm of hidden meanings, innuendos, and miscommunication. It would be just as incorrect to say that the looter and brute get together and plot against the entire society as a whole. Although that might not be the case, they plot against the entire individuals as a whole within society. <br />The looter and the brute target our youth, our elderly, the uninformed, and lastly the uneducated, just to name a few. Educators are in a perfect position to arm individuals with more power. Taking back the true meaning, intention, and power of the word selfishness gives credence to the moral value of self-interest. This same self-interest must be at the forefront of all our endeavors, more importantly all of our education endeavors. When students focus on learning with their self-interest in mind they will strive to learn more, not for someone else’s benefit but for their own benefit. <br />References <br />Rand, A. (1964). The virtue of selfishness. New York, NY: Penguin Group. <br />Rand, A. (1957). For the new intellectual: The philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York, NY: The New American Library. <br />