Altruism, which I have defined many times in many ways on this blog, is doing well by doing good. It is not selfless sacrifice. The altruist gets many personal benefits by doing good to and for others.
Altruism confers such a strong evolutionary benefit that natural selection has given us very, very strong emotional pressures to support it. Altruism feels good. Going against altruism feels bad. We call it guilt. That is, unless you are a psychopath, which is a person (maybe one percent of the population) who completely lacks these feelings. Non-psychopaths can train themselves to stop feeling guilt, but it comes at a great emotional price.
But in today’s business world, corporate leaders are required to crush their feelings of altruism. Our modern corporate world is set up to eradicate altruism and guilt. I realized this as I was reading David C. Korten’s When Corporations Rule the World, which has an immense trove of examples. I will quote from pages 224 and 225:
“Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard University…suggests that top corporate executives must be paid such outrageous sums to ensure that they place the short term interests of shareholders above all other interests that they might otherwise be tempted to consider—such as those of employees, the community, and even the corporation’s own long-term viability. In short, top executives have to be paid outrageous salaries to motivate them not to yield to their instincts toward social responsibility (emphasis added).
“As one CEO related to Fortune (magazine), “You get through firing people the first time around, accepting it as part of business. The second time I begin wondering, ‘How many miscarriages is this causing? How many divorces, how many suicides?’ I worked harder so I wouldn’t have to think about it.’”
One executive who was repeatedly required, by his corporate boss, to continue firing people, “…began breaking out in spontaneous fits of crying and one day couldn’t get out of bed.”
Korten then says that the executives “are learning…that no amount of money can buy peace of mind, a strong and loving family, caring friends, and a feeling that one is doing meaningful and important work.”
This makes it clear, to me, that altruism is an instinct and that to go against it is emotionally devastating. Unless, that is, you are Donald Trump. His greatest moments of joy were when, on television, he fired people. He still exults in devastating people. That’s why his own niece, a psychologist, calls him the world’s most dangerous man. And millions of Americans want him to be the face of America to the world. If we give him this opportunity, again, then the nations of the world will hate us, for good reason. They may fear us, but they will hate us. And to millions of Christians, this is the very image of Jesus they want the world to see.