Pinky Pie

The death of altruism & Me

Posted on: August 23, 2010

Considering the name of this post, it is somewhat ironic that I’m going to be discussing the “death of altruism” and the “sad life of Me-ism.”

There is some iron about what I’m writing about, considering all of my posts are “& Me” but that doesn’t mean I believe the world is all about me. It’s just a pattern I got into early in this blog after I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. I used cultural icons like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, Shirley Temple, Donna Reed and Madonna in her cone bra era to explain what I was going through at the moment. They were all & Me, as if I actually knew them.

Cultural icons = celebrities, but is less shallow. Or, so I pretend.

The death of altruism is a concept that came up over the weekend at the wedding in St. Germaine, Wisconsin, of the daughter of friends. It was a beautiful reception, very optimistic about the future.

But at our table, we were discussing the World War II service of our fathers, all Jewish. One was actually taken prisoner by a German soldier, but had torn off his dog tag, which indicated he was Jewish, before capture. The other had served in Europe as well, living through some very tough battles.

Mine had been turned down for service several times because of his health, but eventually he signed medical waivers, which allowed him to serve in an Army depot in San Francisco. Even his bride – my mother – could be with him on that assignment. How lucky he and the future me plus my brother were.

What is the difference between the “greatest generation” and all the ones that have followed? I suggested it was the death of altruism. No longer do we see a higher good beyond ourselves.

Our parents were part of a generation that lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They had a sense of being in this together, of caring for each other and supporting each other. They made do with what they had and saw a need to improve the world so future generations had it better than they.

The post-war period was one of investment – in schools, hospitals and in families. They didn’t scream about how we would pay for it or that taxes were too high. They saw it as a duty to future generations.

And now, it is all about “Me. Me Me.” It’s what can I get out of it and not what I contribute.

There are screams against taxes, and suddenly fiscal conservatism that was not voiced during the previous administration. Then it was OK to go into Iraq without solid proof of complicity in 9-11 and spending untold billions that were not included in the budget so no one really knew how much debt we were in. It was OK to kill tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians in the name of several fighting the war on terrorism (that never ends).

Now all of a sudden we have to control spending because our debt is the highest in our history. So we cannot help our fellow citizens by creating national healthcare, invest in jobs in ways other than with tax cuts to the very wealthy? We can’t because it’s all about Me. Me Me.

How horrible is our debt? According to, we are NOT at a historic high in terms of percentage of debt to gross national product (GNP). That came in 1946, when we were at 121.25 percent of GNP, compared with 94.27 percent today.

It was based on these sources:

What are your values? Mine are that we should care bout more people than ourselves. And while I am not a Christian, I’m sure Jesus would agree it is not about Me.Me.Me. It’s about all of us.


5 Responses to "The death of altruism & Me"

The idea of the end of altruism makes me sad.

It makes me very sad, too.

i recognize this discussion… and would like to suggest a book called the Price of Altruism by Oren Harman re: Gerorge Price in the Search for the Origins of Kindness… this was the last book on our coffee table checked out by Irv.


Another great post. I do not believe there is truly a death of altruism. We have many young people who compete for Teach for America, still serve in the Peace Corps, and volunteer on political campaigns to help others.

But what is different this time is that one of the political parties has utilized greed, fear, and self-interest to further their own ambitions. They recklessly promise tax cuts to those most able to pay taxes, ignore global warming by denying science, refudiate economics by denying the brilliance and logic behind Keynes.

Their me, me, me, is about their money, their security, their religion, and their way of life. And it is working. That is the scary party.

You write you say for yourself, but I believe that you are an example of altruism, challenging others to think of what they can do to advance the whole of humanity and not just their little old lonesome.

Thanks for writing and creating this for all of us.

This is a wonderful post and may be one to be followed up to see how things go

A buddy sent this link the other day and I will be desperately anticipating your next put up. Carry on on the extraordinary work.

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