Re-Establishing Altruism As A Viable Social Norm


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Danish English

The Idea Of Altruism

How does Altruism work?
Altruism is a system in which everyone tries to think of others and care for them just as they care for themselves. It has been used since time immemorial within families, close friends and religious communities etc. but has rarely been conceived as applicable on a larger scale. We believe however, that it can represent a more stable, sustainable solution than the money-focused, model of competitive capitalism.

What is new in Altruism?
The idea of 'loving one's neighbour' is old as old as human society itself, and has long been a cornerstone of moral instruction before 'human rights' were talked about. What is new is that the progress of technology means our basic needs for food and shelter can be more easily met than ever before, allowing us more time and effort for helping others. It was always possible to work for the benefit of others, but it has never been so easy. We believe that more and more people working for one another on a good will basis – either part time or even full time – may have far reaching positive effects on society.

Is the time right for altruism?
Anti-capitalist demonstrators show that the young are unhappy with the status quo, but lack any cohesive alternative vision of a post-capitalist world. Two opposed tendencies are becoming increasingly clear. On one hand a profit-focused drive towards the creation of a global monoculture under control of the world's super rich. On the other are local movements away from the 'free market' towards community, ethical and environmental considerations. We may not yet be ready to abandon capitalism, but more and more people are understanding that we should strive to work together with one another and not in competition.

Is altruism a revolution?
No, it’s more of an evolution. It’s not about forcing anyone to do anything. Capitalistic and altruistic citizens can coexist within a society, just as employed and unemployed people can coexist within a family. Altruism is a gradual letting go of the old value 'What is best for me?' and an embracing of a new one 'What is best for us?'

What is necessary for an altruistic society?
Legislation can only go so far to shape public life, and usually follows rather than leads social change. Laws will mean nothing if people aren't willing to change the aims of their lives - and if they are, it won't be pieces of paper that inspire them to change their approach to life. We have a vision of redressing the balance of economic factors over social ones. The more people share this, the sooner it will come about.

Are people getting more altruistic?
We believe so. Many people, especially the young, are interested in helping the developing world and are spending time working as volunteers. Of course, others frantically pursue wealth, working long hours in meaningless jobs, moving house with little regard to family and friends. The greedy and selfish may get rich, but often end up lonely, stressed, depressed and ultimately unfulfilled. For such people, a life of material abundance and spiritual poverty is the experience necessary to make them question their values. Those who listen to their heart know that they must do what they can for others, those who follow the 'wisdom' of those around them have to learn the hard way.

What’s the timescale here?
An evolution is a set of gradual changes and needn’t necessarily involve a fast realignment. Accumulating material wealth - even at the expense of others - is a time-honoured survival strategy in times of scarcity. This idea is still an important legacy with the older generation, who are currently in positions of power. The younger generation, brought up in a world of abundance, are increasingly able to live and think altruistically, trusting in personal relationships rather than in money. Old and young alike share a frustration with the institutionally entrenched selfishness of modern society, but are still struggling to understand the nature of the problem. We believe that altruistic input from kind souls worldwide has the potential to overcome people's emotional investment in the capitalistic status quo, maybe only gradually at first but probably with increasing speed.

Apart from publicising altruism, are you doing anything yourselves?
Yes. Our members are involved in a range of projects to help others, from Bengali typing, to designing a pan-Indian sign language alphabet to preparing an online database of electrical products that are no longer supported by the manufacturers. There are so many activities which though uneconomic are nevertheless very worthwhile!

How can I help bring about a world of altruists?
Start with the place where you won’t have to force anyone else: your own life. Step back from what you doing, look at it with a stranger’s eyes and ask yourself honestly whether it is of benefit to mankind as a whole. Are you an example to copy? Are personal relationships more important to you than money? How could you be more of a blessing to others?

Do you guys want money?
NO! We are a not-for-salary organisation that ignores money. Thanks for the thought, but there are plenty of things that money can't buy:)... We welcome gifts in kind - especially time and creative input. These are far more valuable than material contributions.

Well, how can I help then?
By thinking altruistically. We welcome all efforts to contribute to and to share these ideas. Our ultimate goal is a world where everyone has the chance to work not for money, but for love – of the work, their fellow man and this wonderful life which we have been given.

Search on 'Altruism'...
The Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute
This institute of Humboldt State University was founded in 1982 to study both heroic and conventional altruism and to try to promote altruism and prosocial behavior in society. It conducts workshops, conferences and research into altruism.
Time Dollars
Challenging standard economics this site promotes 'Time Dollars', a currency intended to promote community & altruism by increasing friendly contact with others. They offer software and other materials to help you start your own system.
Center for Creative Altruism
This site has material on different angles of what it means to be human. It is intended to encourage interfaith dialogue, faith in human nature and to encourage altruistic living.
The Institute for Research On Unlimited Love
This institute has so far donated over $2 million in support of research into the power of unlimited love and creative altruism. It favours a scientific approach, but does not deny the importance of religious perspectives.
Altruism Association
This group from Moldova reach out to youngsters to promote altruism. Runs youth Bible studies and offers counselling.

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