Hamilton: Altruism and the reason-free environmentalists
Here’s a puzzler: Does true altruism exist? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, true altruism is: “Unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.”
But, other than the soldier or Marine who, without a split-second’s hesitation, throws his body on top of an enemy hand grenade to save his buddies, it is difficult to conjure up any scenarios in which true altruism occurs. The psycho-babblers say the selfless act of the soldier or Marine is done without recourse to Reason. The Freudians say Reason is controlled by Ego and Ego forbids acting against one’s self-interest or, at minimum, Ego demands some self-serving benefit.
For example, are those people who are so concerned about climate change (AKA global warming), acting out of genuine concern for the preservation of the environment or because it makes them feel good about themselves? If they are just trying to feel good about themselves, they cannot claim the mantle of true altruism.
Witness the drivers with their electric cars plugged into an electric socket. Ostensibly, they have gone to the added expense (even with a huge tax-payer subsidy) to own an electric car, because they think the electricity flowing out from the socket is produced without any negative impacts upon the environment.
Despite an avalanche of articles in scientific journals and even Popular Mechanics Magazine, some electric car owners either do not know or do not care that about 70-percent of the electricity they are using in their pricey electric cars is produced from coal-fired electric plants. One wonders why they engage in an activity that prolongs the life of an industry they probably despise.
According to articles in the Journal of General Psychology and even at Smithsonian.com, they engage in these counterintuitive acts because it makes them feel good about themselves. It makes them feel superior to their neighbor at the gas pump who is filling up his or her large SUV with fossil-fuel-produced gasoline.
These findings even extend to those nice people who feel compelled to bring their own cloth bags to the grocery stone. They do so because it makes them feel good about themselves. So good, that these people — you would think exist only on kale, nuts, berries, and maybe some cage-free chicken — are 30-percent more likely to fill those cloth bags with ice cream and fat-laden goodies as a mean of rewarding themselves for being such good stewards of the environment. Anyway, so claims an article found at: Smithsonian.com under the headline: “People Who Bring Their Own Grocery Bags are More Likely to Buy Junk Food.”
Mind you, we should all strive to keep our planet as clean as possible. We turn in used glass and plastic containers for recycling. We even use those Hazmat light bulbs and we turn all lights off the instant we leave a room vacant. We save plastic grocery bags and take them to the local library where they are reused. While hiking, we carry yard-bird sticks to pick up litter found along the trails. Wow! Now that I think about all the wonderful things we are doing, some Gelato Tiramisu on top of some Pound Cake sounds like something we deserve.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the Infantry School, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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