November 19, 2018

By JOE WEPPLER

Altruism is the principle of concern for the welfare of others. It is a core value in many traditions, cultures and world views that exist today. The word was coined by French philosopher August Comte, and is an antonym of egoism.

In Buddhism, they call it Anatta. It is one of the seven beneficial perceptions, and one of the three marks of existence. When the Buddha was asked about the existence of a self, he instead pointed out the drawbacks of thinking in terms of existence and non-existence. The Buddha saw the world and everything in it as impermanent. That statement is true, no matter which way you look at it. Everything has a beginning and an end. Nothing is eternal.

Biologically, it means an individual performing an action at the cost of themselves that benefits another party. Sacrificing pleasure, quality of life, or even time, being altruistic means intentionally and voluntarily acting to enhance the welfare of another person in the absence of rewards.

Most Canadians know it as selflessness, and it is the most important quality in the world.

Selflessness goes beyond simple generosity and acts of kindness. Charity, affection, mercy – all of these things are important, but the ultimate act of selflessness is that of understanding the strengths of others – and yielding to them for the greater good.

To put it bluntly, everyone on the planet is smarter than you in some way. It is our job, as selfless, altruistic human beings, to enable and encourage those around us and to allow those with greater understanding to do what is best for mankind.

That is not to say you should cast away your right to vote and to have an opinion – I urge every single person to challenge what they hear and are taught. However, the next time you wish to do something like deny climate change or claim vaccines cause autism, practise a little selflessness. Take a good, long look at what the majority tells you, in particular those who have studied these things for their entire lives.

There is a difference between having a blind opinion and having an educated one. Do not take the word of your racist neighbour or confused aunt as law. Don’t even blindly agree with your teachers or friends. The first and only step you need to take is to educate yourself without bias. If, even after your research, you still disagree with the majority, you should have every right to challenge that viewpoint. Take out your picket signs and voice your opinion as loud as you can – but only after you’ve learned something.

As a selfless human being, you should cherish every other educated opinion, even if you disagree with it. Always remember, just because someone came to a different conclusion than you did, doesn’t make them stupid. Who knows? Maybe they, in their research, saw something you didn’t.

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