Want to drive a social biologist crazy? Look them in the eye and ask them to explain “altruism” in 25 words or less. It’s fun to watch them stammer and melt. Have a drink handy, they’ll need it.
Altruism means helping others even though it hurts you. It’s love in its most extended form, because sometimes those you help aren’t related to you. Heck, you may never even meet them. They might not even be alive yet! I call this long-distance altruism.
People who practice long-distance altruism are the kind of people who believe that being good today has great effects on all of society down the road. An economist could argue that this is ultimately selfish, because if you are part of society this means that you or your offspring will ultimately profit. Economists are big on selfishness.
I’ve recently met several people who are very active foster parents. In one case he and his wife had 4 of their own children, have adopted four others (youngest is only 12), and have fostered over 20. Incredible dedication and investment on their part. Yet they are not revered by society, heck we hardly even notice them. And there is a tragically large backlog of children of all ages who need a safe haven from their current conditions. Foster parents are in short supply. What are we to do? From the perspective of a great nation that staunchly believes in profit,
Let’s open up the profit gates! Let’s calculate the cost to society for abusing and tormenting children today, because tomorrow they may have to be retaught, or worse, simply caught and put away. Let’s pay these wonderful people a significant fraction of what we think the long term cost is, and let them use the money as they see fit. Of course there will be oversight, but let’s bring this out in the open! Let’s have a reality show featuring the best and worst of these foster homes. Let’s make it a competition of sorts. Why not? We’re a competitive society, let’s see if it can’t be entertaining? After all, if we enjoy watching families swap their wives, what’s wrong with swapping out a few kids?
Not enough praise can be given to today’s foster parents. They do it for themselves, with only a small amount of help from the government. But as a society we leave them alone, and as a result many children “fall through the cracks.”
Anyone want to join me in patching up the cracks?