Altruism–Adaptive Strategy or Mud in the Water?

What I struggle with most in my life is the universality of self-interest as a primary motivator. I recognize that self-interest is necessary to individual survival and thus to group survival. I acknowledge the cleanliness, the symmetry of being able to assume in any situation that everyone is acting in their self-interest. Yet if this is the case, why are there so many misunderstandings?

Do people who act from altruism simply gum up the works? (And, yes, I know that there truly is altruism among people, though not always primary and not often pure.) Confuse the issue? Muddy the waters and waste precious time, making everyone stop and figure out a new configuration rather than rolling along in their ruts of "me first" and "you wash my back, I'll wash yours"?

Another problem is that some if us are raised to put the community first. This is very often true in groups that have experienced diaspora or communal trauma. Very likely, it is one of the aspects that keeps us in minority status. You can join the powerful in our society if you give up looking out for others.

i ponder these things because it seems to me that all the major threats to the human species require us to give up our selfish goals (whether individual or group) for a common strategy. In my view, this is why we have not solved global warming or nuclear disarmament, why we do not yet have a worldwide strategy for getting off this planet and onto to a more suitable planet when the time comes. And it will come.

Happy, I think, those scientists who scan the stars and cooperate in mapping them. And perhaps the poets who keep their eyes on the horizon. And children, who naturally care for each other before they learn otherwise.

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