This is the second of three articles that I am writing on Altruism.
I am quoted a reader who commented on one of my articles by saying:
Be content, and automatically you will see beyond yourself and make yourself useful to others, even if they are your family or those who come indirectly into your life. When you stop thinking about yourself you start thinking about others. That’s the essence of altruism. Go that extra mile and you will have attained god.
Why this path does not appeal to me is explained in my earlier article on Altruismwhich you have probably read. If not, the link is below:
The difficulty begins with the sentence: Once you stop thinking about yourself you start thinking of others.
I have been badly treated by people who sincerely believed that they were serving the country by doing so. The whole story is personal and cannot be made public. The point I am trying to make here is that these people, who harassed me were thinking of others but did a lot of harm and no good at all that I can see.
So thinking of others is not a panacea. You need expertise, what Bertrand Russell called a knowledge of specific factsin his essay, What I Believe.
This essay also relates the following anecdote: There was an epidemic in Europe and the pastors of the Churches asked people to come to Church and pray to God for a cure. The result was that the epidemic spread with rapidity and infected more people than it would have done otherwise.
This is the result of acting without necessary expertise.
The world is a very complex place and doing good is not a joke. To get the expertise to help others you need to master at least one field of knowledge. And that takes not just a University degree but also years and decades of work and practice in the field.
If you needed surgery, would you go to an idealistic do gooder who wants to serve society or would you prefer the services of a qualified surgeon who will charge you a fee? The answer is obvious, is it not?
So this is the first difficulty with wanting to do good and thinking of others.
So my message to all idealistic people who want to serve the downtrodden is to study and become qualified is the relevant fields of knowledge. I think a degree in Social Work is what will be required for most people.
The second point is what I have mentioned in my first article on Altruism. The old chestnut, the quote from the Bible:
First cast out the beam from your own eye and you will see clearly to cast out the mote from your own eye.
This does not apply in all cases. A surgeon who has the necessary qualifications does not need to practice spirituality in order to do his work. This applies to people who want to help people by changing them, their beliefs and their behaviour.
Such people are to be found everywhere and, in my opinion, do more harm than good. They would be better advised to look within as the Buddha advised (mentioned in article 1 – link is above).
I’ll end here. Please comment on this article and explore this site for more articles that will interest you. Feedback from my readers keeps me going.