To first understand why I am defending altruism in these interesting times, I must first define it! Altruism is a psychological concept which refers to behaviour that is entirely selfless and typically exhibited in a situation where one’s actions benefit another individual at a cost to oneself. If you’ve been clapping at 8 pm every evening, I’m sure you now realise what benevolent people I’m referring to. Indeed are national mask-wearing heroes!
In these interesting times, altruistic acts can be seen in every NHS hospital, GP practice and I believe it is also very important to recognise the acts of the essential workers who are still working despite the lockdown to provide this country to run still at its best ability possible. All these people have been incredibly kind and self-sacrificial despite during what PM Boris Johnson called: “the worst public health crisis in a generation”. Students at my school with close family who are currently working in the NHS have also had to deal with the repercussions of the virus as well and I praise them too for being able to keep very strong despite the current circumstances.
In my politics virtual classes, I have been learning about the conservative key thinker Ayn Rand. She writes extensively in her ideas against acts of altruism as showcased in her books Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Rand believes that selfishness itself is actually a virtue (ironic as virtue refers to behaviours of high moral standards). She is strongly critical of altruism stating how “every major horror of history was committed in the name of an altruistic motive”. Which is evidently rather blunt and troubling.
The reason I bring up Rand’s ideals is, I sense this health crisis itself has arguably put her ideals to the test through everyone being “asked to stay in” their homes and with the highest opportunity possible to be incredibly selfish. But this country has certainly done the opposite, even though months ago people were still split over political issues like Brexit, but now all the generations have come together.
Whether it was through the VE mini celebrations I was proud to be a part of in my road last week singing classic Beatles songs whilst keeping a minimum of two-metres away from each other of course! Or the stories my friends have told me, of sewing masks together to donate to nearby care homes. People have been looking out for their neighbours especially those in the most vulnerable groups in both big and small ways whether through calling them to brighten their day or dropping them off some essential supplies like I have been doing for both my elderly relatives, local neighbours and my immediate family who are on the vulnerable list.
All of this is happening despite shopping for food appearing more like a competitive hunt. You’ll still find people making sure they can get food not just for themselves but for those who unable to queue, which again expresses altruism further. I have nothing but the utmost respect for those doing altruistic acts like these. I am happy that selfish values supported by Ayn Rand have been rejected by the people of Britain during this unprecedented time. As people have come together for the better to not only support each other; but in such a time of uncertainty coming out of things stronger and more connected than ever!