Is it Interconnectedness or Selfish Altruism?

Image via: www.flickr.com/photos/blaugra/211233265

Adrian Ho at Zeus Jones has raised some interesting questions in the past. Lately, he has posited a hypothesis for this decade's "theme."

His excellent post today on interconnectedness as the motivator for this decade makes a lot of sense. As he points out, there are countless examples of the ways in which we are more overtly relying on one another. From media to motor vehicles, society seems to be moving in the direction acknowledging our mutual and infinite connections to one another.

This movement certainly gives me hope for my family and our place on the planet, but is this a new development or simply the wave from a ripple created long ago?

Interestingly, last night, at a dinner-table discussion with my 86-year-old grandmother, we touched on this exact topic. We talked of her experiences growing up during the depression in a small West Texas town. One of the takeaways from that conversation was the notion that people made do with less and banded together to ensure they all survived.

In addition, I recall a Bill Moyers interview with author Richard Rodriguez, which suggested the United States has a fundamental cultural contradiction. To poorly paraphrase Mr. Rodriguez, we have a "pronoun conflict" -- "we" celebrate the "I."

The collective right to be self-determining.

The unity of individualism.

Rodriguez fears that this lack of tribal/communal support structures will cause continued conflict in the world. As I recall, this interview also contained a sense of hope for the future. The belief that this philosophy will change and the balance will shift back to a reliance on the "we."

Finally, in comments on the ZJ site, I echoed some remarks I heard at the AAAA Account Planning Conference this summer. Alex Castellanos, a Republican campaign strategist, predicted that the world would move toward an era of selfish altruism. He cited the works of Ayn Rand and made the example of barn raising in the early days of western expansion in this country. Castellanos felt that we would help each other in the expectation that assistance would be reciprocated. I'll help you raise this barn because I'm going to need help in a few weeks, too. Clearly a market-driven take on this movement.

So, is this enough evidence to confirm the trend? Is it a return to a bygone era? Selfish altruism?

Or, is interconnectedness the best description?

I don't know. Whatever it is, I find it inspiring (and much better than thinking about the financial markets).

1 comment:

Adrian said...

Hi Jake,

I love the idea that we may be forced (by the economic crisis) to do the right thing. Not just from an ecological standpoint, but also from a social one. Absolutely agree, it's much better to think about than one's 401K.