Selfishness used to be a virtue. It was a way to advance ourselves in capitalist society. We were supposed to put ourselves before other people, and this was supposed to be the gateway to success. Yet this was not the way of the future, and many of us were in for quite a surprise. We saw more and more poor conservatives who were too selfish to make it in Corporate America. We saw brilliant people struggle for survival simply because they were disinterested in the will of the group. For the first time in history, it appeared that kindness was winning.
We need to face the fact that Randian capitalism is no longer a way to advance oneself but a way to make oneself poor. The roles have now been reversed and it is no longer survival-of-the-fittest but survival-of-the-most-willing-to-please. As unique and individualistic as we are, we must accept that the real way to prosper in this society is to make other people happy. Thinking only for ourselves will not bring us to the top but leave us socially ostracized and starving.
It is time to accept that John Galt is homeless. When I talk to people living on the streets, they do not posses a Marxist view of the world but a view based on scarcity and survival. It is everybody against everybody in the urban jungle. There is no unity when people are struggling simply to put the food on the table. Being poor and conservative is not a contradiction but a natural reaction. It is usually people who are well off that can afford to think about saving
Why is John Galt homeless? Did people lose their jobs for being too involved in themselves? Was arrogance shunned? Was self-importance viewed as petty and infantile? Were people awarded status for being disinterested in themselves? When did the atlas reverse? It is hard to come up with an exact point in time, but it is obvious that being selfish will no longer land you at the top.
Some of us feel conflicted. We are nice people who do not want to lose ourselves in the process of surviving, but are afraid that employers will not like us for who we truly are. We feel the need to put on an act simply to be accepted. We adapt to the will of the group in order to advance ourselves. It is not that we must step on other people to advance, but that we must be careful not to step on anyone.
This reversal of capitalism is simply a new extreme. Conforming to groupthink in order to survive in Corporate America has replaced selfishness. You may not need to hurt people around you to survive but should you have to act like a customer service representative 24/7? Is this really any better?
If kindness has truly won, what about people who are not socially able to make the group happy? Maybe it isn’t that someone only cares about themselves, but that someone is living in their own world. Many people who are living in their own worlds are artists and inventors. Why should these people be starving until they learn how to please the common whole?
John Galt is homeless any nobody cares. We feel no pity for people who only think about themselves. We show resentment toward anyone who is unable to make the people around them feel good. We reject those who are self-important because we are afraid they will make us look bad. We live in a culture where being nice to others is a marketable skill. Social media is about making people feel good.
Can we survive without understanding the manual? Will the quality of our work outshine our lack of people skills? Can we create our own path without upsetting others? Now is the time for us to consider these things as we face the future of the atlas being reversed. Can we be ourselves without becoming homeless, or are we doomed to become ideological martyrs because we are too selfish to survive?
Rachel Haywire is a writer, multimedia artist, and transhumanist who is founder of the Human 2.0 Council and the Extreme Futurist Festival. Read about the conference at LA Weekly.