This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The twenty-sixth entry is on power and generosity:
Why are people generous? You could make the case that every action is taken in self interest - that Gandhi did what he did to help better his country and by bettering his country, it made his life easier. Or that Mother Theresa worked to help the world so that the world she lived in would be better. You could go even farther than that. Those who give to charity give to make the world they live in better and on top of that giving to charity makes the person feel better about themselves because they’ve been taught by society and religion to believe that giving is a good thing. So following that line of reasoning, no one is generous or kind. We are all in it for ourselves.
But is this truly the case? I don’t know. It comes down to, “can people be intrinsically good?” Who establishes what is good but our own moral compass?
I too am drawn toward power (I don’t turn down any sort of officer position in any group I’m a part of.); I don’t exactly know why, but I would speculate that it’s because I have a superiority complex (assuming that term exists). I really believe I can do a better job at most things than at least a simple majority of other people – in other words I think I’m at least slightly above average. There must be many people that can do everything that I do better; however, I realize that those people will inevitably usurp my power and take charge because they are better and probably smarter than me. If I am left in a position of power, I must be either doing a decent job or there isn’t anybody around who could do better than me. So in my mind I’m helping any organization by taking charge. (During the previous 8 years and to some extent now, I think I could do at least as good, if not many times a better job than the President of our country. [me and everybody else in the country probably]) I realize this makes me smug and a megalomaniac, but why deny what I know to be a character flaw. Being aware of that fact allows me to better control it.
Additionally, I get very bored quite easily (no matter how many hours a semester I take nor how many organizations I join, I always find myself bored rather frequently during any given semester. [Aside: I believe this to be one of the reasons why I like gardening so much. I could work day and night for months and never completely finish working in it. Weeds grow too fast, among other things.]), so I always find ways to give myself lots of things to do, Generally you have more responsibility (and things to do) when you are in charge of instead of just being a part of some group.