Innerly independent people can afford to be generous, and are therefore empathic towards other people. Self-centered behavior, especially the chronic type, seems to come from fear and often is reflected in desperation or violence. Its output is often visibly lacking in empathy.
But which approach is “better” for the individual?
Though in general I am for Sade rather than Rousseau (at least in literary terms), and don’t want to talk about human nature (should it even exist) or “states of nature”, not in the least.
Still, I see people, companies, and governments entering the lives of other people and destroying them, only to leave again having gotten what they wanted. It is a very efficient strategy. Ironically too, it seems to be most often individuals that do this, and individuals who are the ones who at any moment can refuse to do what their company is telling them to do.
this Rousseau is ok:
It is difficult to think of a real advantage to empathy for the individual, but I think that the chronically self-centered, unempathic person must eventually find themselves very alone and without the inner strength that naturally develops in the truly innerly independent individual.
Thus, there could be a selfish case for selflessness on some level.
I wonder what it would look like on a social level if this happened to a whole society, for example to capitalist society, as a whole? I look forward to that funeral. Maybe, like Gatsby, no one will come to the funeral. They won’t even be able to hire anybody to be there.
Would society simply medicate itself with things to make it not feel badly? But I think it is really time to reject that, to put aside these tranquilizing and sedating strategies and religion too, and all systems of fake meaning and padded experience, and embrace the universe with whatever insecure joy we have inside of ourselves, and express that.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Fitz
On a side note: I think empathy is much larger than guilt. It can even make people feel better, which guilt rarely does. Somehow, the two have been conflated too often, and we forget that the “contact high” we get from other people is derived from an empathic basis.
I also don’t think empathy and guilt are the same thing. I think that guilt can sometimes be caused by a species of empathy:
(“I shouldn’t kidnapped and eaten my neighbors children because they are people just like me”),
but that it is often caused instead by obsessive behavior:
(“I am such a bad person because I smoke bags and bags of potato chips and they are bad for me”)
or religious mania:
(“I am such a bad person because the god who supposedly created me, who I have no evidence of the existence of whatsoever, created me with sexual feelings, and then told me I am not supposed to express or use them” )
or even selfishness – when mixed with religious mania:
(“Now that we have used our insurance company to steal all the money from the orphanage after the hurricane, we will never get into heaven, we had better donate something to charity”)
or when selfishness enters into a temporary partnership with some degree of empathy between players, but which eventually gives way to one side being overcome by selfishness, then feeling guilty about it:
(“Maybe I shouldn’t have stolen the last of her painkillers while she was sleeping after the operation.”)
still, the religious guilt has got to be the worst, and that really needs to go
Jean Koppen: “Crucifixes are best conceived handles to flush our toilets”
this one, I think, from 54 Rue du Chateau, Paris where Tanguy, Prevert, and Duchamp lived