Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Self Amidst Others: Exchanges

In an exchange society (and I really can't conceive of one that would not be, for even in a world of immense abundance, I believe that we will still desire others unless we become solipsistic and consider each other as mere phenomena) we may often consider our value in terms of what we can get.

"You're not worth that; don't put up with that." There is certain treatment we deserve; the reward is our continued presence or our care or our love or our respect or so on. You get the idea. There is a sense of reciprocity at times here. The Golden Rule; we give as we expect to get. And this sounds lovely, and is often very decent in experience as well.

It falters when we do not get what we want. Others are not pleased by getting what we want to get. And why should they necessarily be? Tastes differ. Perhaps we please others and they do not feel any obligation at all to please us in return--this is a sore spot for many "nice" men and women. They give and they give and they give and when, they wonder, will they get? Whose responsibility is it to fix this situation?

If we do not get what we want, what are we willing to do in order to get it? Here it seems that moral philosophy is quite useless. I wonder if I must earn my happiness, particularly if that feeds others who are more powerful than me or whose interests may not be my own. Is it my duty, should the means to my happiness by onerous or wrong, to alter those things that I want? Is this always possible? What urges are true or false? Plenty will tell you what others should and should not want, but I wonder how they know.

Whether you look at statists or anti-statists, I always hear bitching about "senses of entitlement." It seems that we're all just a bunch of insistent assholes demanding that the world give us what we want. Well, what exactly can we expect from others? A distant neutrality? Nonharm? Respect? Autonomy? The chance to earn our autonomy or any of those other things we need or desire? If the world demands labors in order to prove ourselves or earn those things we need or desire, what is the machine we serve in order to get what we seek? Who designs the prices? Who sets the cost for indulging a dream?

In short, to ask a question that only the most terrible hooligan seems to ask: What is our birthright? What does the world owe us?

1 comment:

  1. I don't think the world owes us anything... if "the world" means "the planet we live on."

    If "the world" means "all of human society," the question and answer grow far more complex.

    I like to look at the animal kingdom, and specifically the canids, when it comes to these questions. How does a wolfpack treat a newborn wolf pup?