Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Is altruism egotism too?

Picture of window at the King George Street in Jerusalem of tonight, the day Moses was born and died. Altruistically, the person living there shows passers by every day what date it is.
Picture of window at the King George Street in Jerusalem of tonight, the day Moses was born and died. Altruistically, the person living there shows passers by every day what date it is.

An Israeli paper came this Shabbat with remarkable scientific news. They want Internet visitors to pay for their story about altruism (you can’t make up jokes like that) so I looked for the original source. This turned out to be Scientific American from 18 months ago — so much for news.

The whole story in a nutshell: altruism could come from our bacteria. If your first reaction is “Huh?” that could be a sign not of wonderment, but of intuitive insight and clarity that this can’t be true.

Even if microbes could chemically force animals, people have free will. That means that we don’t operate on must but on want and should. I just had to steal this apple, your honor, will not persuade the courts.

One other reason that this totally theoretical and speculative research received any serious attention is probably because many people are totally in the dark about unselfishness.

Cynics will claim that altruists just give in order to feel good about themselves. So they’re just egotists in disguise.

Self-styled saints will say, give, so that you will receive. So also they highlight the profitability of giving.

And anti-anti-socials will preach, when all give, we will live in a good society. Also there, generosity is self-centered.

But there one more option: to give because that is a proper expression of who I am. And that has nothing to do with being forced or enticed. I give because that’s what my authentic self wants. Because it feels right, not because it makes me feel good.

It may take some time before biologists will be kind enough to admit this. In the first place because most of them can only see people as complicated programmable machines with volition merely as an illusion.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo and Rav Zev Leff. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science, Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Many people can't understand or like him because he has such a wide vision that he never fits any specialist's box. But that exactly what others love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * He likes doing age-appropriate and age-inappropriate things and looks forward to getting to know his timeless mature out-of-the-box soul mate. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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