If you are currently a resident, an inhabitant of Great Britain, particularly England, there is a strong chance you are disgusted by the egregious self-interested hypocritical behaviour of our Prime Minister and particular members of the government, whilst simultaneously angered, worried and despairingly thinking about how you will manage the rising price of gas, electric, food and more. But all this shouldn’t really come as any surprise because it is exactly what should be expected from a system built purely on self-interest and competition. There are no places for ‘losers’, in a self-interested system there will always be winners and sufferers.
How many times have you witnessed and been angered by the behaviour of those who run the country as it constantly feels like they put themselves before the population? We only need to look at their recent behaviour with the locking down of the populace, the regulations they themselves administered for the country. While many of us stuck to the rules, didn’t see relatives, couldn’t even be with family members as they died, myself included, they were busy driving to castles, snogging their aides and partying with cheese and wine. But this really is only a small part of our politicians self-interested behaviour, let us not forget the expense scandal 10 years ago where profit and greed came before duty.
For many of us it may seem natural to act in a self-interested manner, after all self-interest is extremely important to keep us alive, to ensure we earn a living, eat and be comfortable. But when a society is so entrenched in self-interest and it becomes the ultimate goal above all else, it is then that it starts to produce more harm than good and has direct negative effects and consequences. Given that it is the only narrative many of us have lived within all our lives, a narrative that is so deeply interwoven into the system, or one could actually say, is the ‘system’ that surrounds and envelopes us on a daily basis, it is hardly surprising that at times we even know or can imagine any other type of system functioning or existing.
But before we examine our contemporary Western society, let’s go back to that moment of birth. None of us asked to be created, that’s a fact. But suddenly here we are in the world thrust into a system with information coming from all directions. We are products of our environment. If we were born 500 years ago our outlooks and ideals would obviously be different. We enter school, and unless you attend an academic institution that uses anthroposophy (wisdom of the human being, to develop free human beings) as it’s foundation for teaching, as is taught in Steiner Schools, you would have been subject to a Western education system that focuses purely on the individual, competitiveness and where you are ‘taught to test’, meaning, rather than giving you the tools to engage, question and evolve, you would learn exactly what to repeat in a chosen time frame to pass an exam. This is simply the preparation of you to fit into the workforce: Don’t question and just perform your tasks in the time your employers need it completed then go home. How many times in your childhood education did you or other pupils compete to be top of the class? I don’t recall once any teacher, lecturer or educator engaging me in a form of discourse that would open me up and enable me to look at our society from a different perspective or an opposing narrative. But of course, as I’ve got older, I question whether my ‘educators’ had even challenged their own thoughts, beliefs of society, the way it functions and were simply an inherent part of the system, a case of the blind leading the blind, or perhaps more compassionately the caged leading the caged.
All I remember from school is that there were winners and there were losers, and the education environment only enhanced this, the promotion of self-interest. This is not to say I was never taught about other ways of life, other cultures etc, and didn’t work with others in the class, but I don’t ever recall being taught about an alternative to capitalism, self-interest, and competitiveness as a possible route in life, as another way. Good grades meant a good life for me, a way to possibly enter university and attain a degree which meant I would do better when it came to competing against others for job roles, now accompanied with a huge controlling debt too. Lucky me! Lucky us.
After our spell of education whether it be brief or protracted, we need to start earning to buy food, cars, houses, pay bills and to buy all the ‘stuff’ we are manipulated into purchasing via very highly specialised seductive marketing, which is designed to work on our insecurities and desires, and particularly our self-interest. Self-interest works on many levels, from survival to desire to competition to conformity.
- Survival – The need to eat, get to work, pay bills, provide a roof over your head
- Desires – Material products we think we need/trained to want
- Competition – The need to be seen as a success through what we own or where we have been, just look at any social network!
- Conformity – The need to be accepted by owning or acting in a particular way like many others
In possibly all corporate environments there is a ladder to climb, a structure to move up, if we can prove our worth, meet targets and join in the competition, very much like how our education system functioned, remember? We have been groomed from the beginning. The more competitive and self-interested we are, the higher we will climb. If we choose to start our own business, we immediately are pitched against others. If we choose to adopt a more communist outlook on life, well the chances are, we will struggle. I have worked many times in corporations and have been witness to structural changes and adjustments, many are made redundant and then must pitch for their jobs against others, to find if they are competitive enough, that they may be lucky enough to remain employed but are now doing the job of 4 people instead of 1. If we chose instead to feel more compassionate about the other employees all fighting for their jobs and situation, we would simply never be employed. It now becomes more and more apparent that we have no choice but to be highly competitive and self-interested. Essentially our ‘own’ survival depends on it, while ironically on a macro level putting ‘the survival’ of us all at risk.
Self-interest is also prevalent across the media landscape. On social networks, is this not the most glowing example of ‘me culture’? Everyday people compete for more ‘likes’ to justify their existence because of the detrimental effects of the pathology of comparison. On TV there is a plethora of shows where people are constantly pitched against one another: The Apprentice, Dragon’s Den, the Voice, Britain’s Got Talent, the extensive list trails down the corridors and out into streets from TV production houses. How many times have you read online the disgusting racism aimed at immigrants for coming into ‘our’ country and how ‘our’ resources can’t take it anymore? A form of misguided collective self-interest. We have been manipulated into thinking the only success is those who rise to the top with all the money and that own everything. And so clearly, the foundation of our society is competition and self-interest. An unstoppable juggernaut of self-interested capitalism that is moving forward at a highly uncontrollable speed.
If we understand this to be the case, how can we be surprised at what is currently happening? The self-interested behaviour of our politicians is exactly what the system should be producing. The rising prices of energy, food and so forth is exactly what we should expect. Every day we contribute and reinforce the system that holds us in chains. Until we start to work with one another in a less self-interested manner, until we understand how the system works with its inherent self-interest, we can only expect to see our society and people suffer indefinitely and get progressively worse.
Image by Viktor Forgacs