By Qaisar Sultan
Are we genetically designed to be selfish or selfless? Based on natural selection theory, we are supposed to be self-centered to survive. The survival of the species is mainly linked to the concept of survival of the fittest, a phrase coined by Herbert Spencer. The specie has to find the way to survive based on the environment; it is not a conscious decision on part of specie to seek the self preservation. But in the case of humans, we have created an artificial selection to live a secure and happy life. We create state and societies to find ways collective ways to do what animals do without any conscious efforts; though animals do form the collective means to defend and hunt for the food. The self-seeking gene in us is all about our safety and happiness. Then how about the happiness and satisfaction we drive out of being altruistic. We want to be good so that others should be good to us. Though the expectations sometimes fall short, the individuals and societies grow stronger due to their selflessness and compassion. The soldiers die on the battle ground to defend others. But the fact remains that the good deed has deep sense of return and protection of our own survival. We are not talking about downright narcissism, but leaving the doors ajar for unpretentiousness. Is it not true that we like to be charitable because it serves us indirectly? Or the idea trivializes the nobility of our good conducts. It is like saying that we love because we wish to be loved in return. Here we have to separate the self interest and selfishness; one is to protect oneself; and the other to take advantage on the cost of others- The competitiveness falls in the prior and taking bribes into the later. The question is: Why animals sometimes act in very similar manner, instinctively. The perception and looking into future is very human. We love and realize the awards. The animals love their off springs and help each others in many ways, not on conscious level, but rather an instinctive basis. The animals in animal kingdom serve the purpose for others to take advantage of their own survival. They do it without any intent to be useful to the land, environment and the land itself- Even maggots and dung eating beetle consume the carcass and the waste, leaving ground clean for others. This noteworthy way of nature that acts through living and non-living things to serve the greater purpose of life on the earth is essential for the resilience of all species and earth. There must be a thin line between those opposite demeanors. How do we know that we have crossed the line to be selfish to a point that it carries negative effect on the society? We are guided by the upbringing and the norms of the societies that teach us these behaviors.
The political will of people living in the organized societies determine how they would conduct themselves. They may decide to live in an unruly society or organize culture that dictates certain rules. Herbert Spencer found the concept of social Darwinism said, “Thus by the survival of the fittest, the militant type of society becomes characterized by profound confidence in the governing power joined with a loyalty causing submission to it in all matters whatever”. That is exactly where we are in Pakistan. The word, “Fit” means that we are endowed with some heredity traits to adjust in our environment to survive and reproduce. The state is very organic in its formation and survival. We, as people, find a social contract for the survival and our security. We give up our true freedom so that we could be free from the threats of powerful individuals and groups who would usurp our freedom in the first place. We develop cultures to find a peaceful and secure life; and it starts right from our homes where we are taught to do and not to do wrong; but it is mostly to understand what is right and would nurture our growth. The families, friends and relatives follow certain rules to find reciprocity that works for all of us.
Pakistan was created so that the Muslim community in the sub-continent could live as one nation with the sense of oneness. The survival of the state was based on the sense of survival of the fittest. We never realized that the unity was the key to our survival. We had a very hostile environment. Instead of solving our problems and finding ways to end the hostility, we have become a hostile nation. We use the words such as national pride to justify our wrong policies. We spent most our money for hostilities. We forgot that the nations decay without a strong educational atmosphere. We bickered among ourselves. We had to punish those who asked for fairness and equality. We treated our East Pakistani brothers so poorly that they asked for a separate state and achieved it. We did not stop there; we treated Balochis the way we treated Bangladeshis. The province that has our most of natural resources was refused to enjoy the same power and freedom as the rest of the country. We still call those who sacrificed everything for the new found country Mohajirs. We heard that Mohajirs could be pushed to the sea. That was the reward of those sacrifices. These are not the ways to survive in a hostile environment. A small minority in the country, the feudal, politicians and military have an iron grip on the resources and power. The rampant corruption at the top echelon of power has developed into a corrupt state. A bridge may collapse or a road may crumble because someone out there is happy and proud on the cost of others; they stole the money that could have been spent in the right manner. People see that their lives have been dilapidated to the present state through the selfish bunch of people. There is a sense of hopelessness in the society that has geared up the majority to have a stronger desire to have selfish outlook. We have developed an artificial Natural selection that created the present culture that makes the survival more difficult in an honest living. Those who have hard time finding ways to be part of that corruption can’t survive anymore. So the “enlightened selfishness of capitalism” in the form of corruption has hindered the interests of others. But even in the selfish environment of capitalism, the trickledown effects of few help the societies. The reasonably well paid jobs and opportunities are not provided to those who are underprivileged-A peasant does not have enough to feed his family. The money and power are reserved for the children and families of few powerful undeserving bogus elite. What you do when the organs of the state themselves turn out to be selfish to a point of no hope; the living for the majority grows to be unbearable. In such a situation, people usually revolt. What we had done to ourselves before; we are repeating the same selfish approach to the national tragedy – We are doing all of that in the name of forged security, fake nationalism and sham prosperity of the country.