Part II

How often we see a young man develop astounding ability and energy after the death of a parent, or the loss of a fortune, or after some other calamity have knocked the props and crutches from under him. The prison has roused the slumbering fire in many a noble mind. “Robinson Crusoe” was written in prison. The “Pilgrim’s Progress” appeared in Bedford Jail. The “Life and Times” of Baxter, Eliot’s “Monarchia of Man,” and Penn’s “No Cross, No Crown,” were written by prisoners. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote “The History of the World” during his imprisonment of thirteen years.
Drop a stone down a precipice. By the law of gravitation it sinks with rapidly increasing momentum. If it falls sixteen feet the first second, it will fall forty-eight feet the next second, and eighty feet the third second, and one hundred and forty-four feet the fifth second, and if it falls for ten seconds it will in the last second rush through three hundred and four feet till earth stops it. Habit is cumulative. After each act of our lives we are not the same person as before, but quite another, better or worse, but not the same. There has been something added to, or deducted from, our weight of character.
When a woman was dying from the effects of her husband’s cruelty and debauchery from drink she asked him to come to her bedside, and pleaded with him again for the sake of their children to drink no more. Grasping his hand with her thin, long fingers, she made him promise her: “Mary, I will drink no more till I take it out of this hand which I hold in mine.” That very night he poured out a tumbler of brandy, stole into the room where she lay cold in her coffin, put the tumbler into her withered hand, and then took it out and drained it to the bottom. John B. Gough told this as a true story. How powerless a man is in the presence of a mighty habit, which has robbed him of will-power, of self-respect, of everything manly, until he becomes its slave!
Walpole tells of a gambler who fell at the table in a fit of apoplexy, and his companions began to bet upon his chances of recovery. When the physician came they refused to let him bleed the man because they said it would affect the bet. When President Garfield was hanging between life and death men bet heavily upon the issue, and even sold pools.
No disease causes greater horror or dread than cholera; yet when it is once fastened upon a victim he is perfectly indifferent, and wonders at the solicitude of his friends. His tears are dried; he cannot weep if he would. His body is cold and clammy and feels like dead flesh, yet he tells you he is warm, and calls for ice water. Have you never seen similar insensibility to danger in those whose habits are already dragging them to everlasting death?
The leper is often the last to suspect his danger, for the disease is painless in its early stages. A leading lawyer and public official in the Sandwich Islands once overturned a lighted lamp on his hand, and were surprised to find that it caused no pain. At last it dawned upon his mind that he was a leper. He resigned his offices and went to the leper’s island, where he died. So sin in its early stages is not only painless but often even pleasant.
Rectitude is only the confirmed habit of doing what is right. Some men cannot tell a lie: the habit of truth telling is fixed; it has become incorporated with their nature. Their characters bear the indelible stamp of veracity. You and I know men whose slightest word is unimpeachable; nothing could shake our confidence in them. There are other men who cannot speak the truth: their habitual insincerity has made a twist in their characters, and this twist appears in their speech.
How many men would like to go to sleep beggars and wake up Rothschilds or Astors? How many would fain go to bed dunces and wake up Solomons? You reap what you have sown. Those who have sown dunce-seed, vice-seed, laziness-seed, always get a crop. They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.
Habit, like a child, repeats whatever is done before it. Oh, the power of a repeated act to get itself repeated again and again! But, like the wind, it is a power which we can use to force our way in its very teeth as does the ship, and thus multiply our strength, or we can drift with it without exertion upon the rocks and shoals of destruction.
What a great thing it is to “start right” in life. Every young man can see that the first steps lead to the last, with all except his own. No, his little prevarications and dodging will not make him a liar, but he can see that they surely will in John Smith’s case. He can see that others are idle and on the road to ruin, but cannot see it in his own case.
There is a wonderful relation between bad habits. They all belong to the same family. If you take in one, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, you will soon have the whole. A man who has formed the habit of laziness or idleness will soon be late at his engagements; a man who does not meet his engagements will dodge, apologize, prevaricate, and lie.
You have seen a ship out in the bay swinging with the tide and the waves; the sails are all up, and you wonder why it does not move, but it cannot, for down beneath the water it is anchored. So we often see a young man apparently well equipped, well educated, and we wonder that he does not advance toward manhood and character. But, alas! We find that he is anchored to some secret vice, and he can never advance until he cuts loose.
The devil does not apply his match to the hard coal; but he first lights the shavings of innocent sins and the shavings the wood, and the wood the coal. Sin is gradual. It does not break out on a man until it has long circulated through his system. Murder, adultery, theft, is not committed in deed until they have been committed in thought again and again.
“Don’t write there,” said a man to a boy who was writing with a diamond pin on a pane of glass in the window of a hotel. “Why not?” inquired the boy. “You can’t rub it out.” Yet the glass might have been broken and all trace of the writing lost, but things written upon the human soul can never be removed, for the tablet is immortal.
A young man stood listlessly watching some anglers on a bridge. He was poor and dejected. At length, approaching a basket filled with fish, he sighed, and “If now I had these I would be happy. I could sell them and buy food and lodgings.” “I will give you just as many and just as good,” said the owner, who chanced to overhear his words, “if you will do me a trifling favor.” “And what is that?” asked the other. “Only to tend this line till I come back; I wish to go on a short errand.” The proposal was gladly accepted. The old man was gone so long that the young man began to get impatient. Meanwhile the fish snapped greedily at the hook, and he lost all his depression in the excitement of pulling them in. When the owner returned he had caught a large number. Counting out from them as many as were in the basket, and presenting them to the youth, the old fisherman said, “I fulfill my promise from the fish you have caught, to teach you whenever you see others earning what you need to waste no time in foolish wishing, but cast a line for yourself.”
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Architects of Fate, by Orison Swett Marden)


Shades of Egypt’s past are coloring the country’s current political scene.
It all started July 3, 2013 when General Sisi and his fellow officers staged a dramatic coup d’etat against elected president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, following record demonstrations against the Islamist leader on the anniversary of his botched year in power.
Few in Tahrir Square, Egypt, seem to mind that the army, led by Sisi, so openly and so swiftly cancelled the ‘democratic process’, arresting and clamping down on Brotherhood leaders and their supporters.
With massive popular backing, on July 3, 2013, the Egyptian army ousted President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who won free and fair presidential elections only a year earlier. The event was broadly reminiscent of events that took place some sixty years earlier, on July 23, 1952, when the Egyptian army ousted King Farouk and took over the reigns of government.
Nasser was one of the founders of the secret Free Officers group that was determined to oust Farouk and set Egypt on a different path. Although the older and better-known Brigadier-General Muhammad Naguib was put forward to the public as the head of the officers’ group, Nasser was in fact the acknowledged leader. He was known for carefully listening to all viewpoints and then making decisions.
On July 22, 1952, the Free Officers overthrew the monarchy in a practically bloodless coup d’état. A Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) was established with Naguib as its head. Nasser and Naguib clashed over whether to keep a parliamentary system or to establish a one-party state with populist support, a course Nasser favored. The majority of the officers favored Nasser, and a single party, the Liberation Rally, was established in 1953.
After a failed assassination attempt on Nasser in 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom Naguib had close ties, was banned, and Naguib was removed from power.
A new constitution was implemented in 1956 and Nasser was elected president by a huge majority of Egyptian voters. He was twice reelected to the position. A highly charismatic figure and a brilliant speaker in colloquial Arabic, Nasser was extremely popular with the majority of Egyptians and among average Arabs everywhere.
Back in 1941, Army Officer Nasser and Amer were posted to Khartoum, Sudan, which was part of Egypt at the time. After briefly returning from Sudan, Nasser returned in September 1942, and then secured a job as an instructor in the Cairo Royal Military Academy in May 1943.
In 1942 the British Ambassador Miles Lampson marched into King Farouk’s palace and ordered him to dismiss Prime Minister Hussein Sirri Pasha for having pro-Axis sympathies. Nasser saw the incident as a blatant violation of Egyptian sovereignty and wrote, “I am ashamed that our army has not reacted against this attack”, and wished for “calamity” to overtake the British.
Nasser was accepted into the General Staff College later that year. He began to form a group of young military officers with strong nationalist sentiments who supported some form of revolution. Nasser stayed in touch with the group’s members primarily through Amer, who continued to discover interested officers within the Egyptian Armed Forces’s various branches and presented Nasser with a full file on each of them.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Marking 60th anniversary of Egypt’s July Revolution, Ahram Online republishes chapter of memoirs by Revolution Command Council member Khaled Mohieldin on origins of relations between Free Officers and the Muslim Brotherhood:
“As we neared the end of 1944, we were anxiously groping for a way for Egypt and for ourselves. One day, Abd El-Munim Abd El-Rauf came to me saying that we should meet with another officer who shared our anxieties and who was seeking answers to the same questions. So he took me to see Gamal Abd El-Nasser. This was the first time I met him.
A little later, Rauf proposed that he introduce me to another officer. He took me to the Tea Island at the Zoological Gardens, where I met Major Mahmud Labib. Later I found out that he was in charge of the Muslim Brotherhood’s military wing.
Usman Fawzi immediately sensed the Muslim Brotherhood overtones in the conversation and on the way back he said, “This is a very dangerous and harmful organisation.” However, I was happy with the meeting and said that the nation needed sacrifice and that the Islamic trend could imbue youth with the spirit of sacrifice.
Usman Fawzi was adamant and never attended any other meetings I had with Mahmud Labib. However, on another occasion he attended a meeting I had with Gamal Abd El-Nasser. It was Abd El-Munim Abd El-Rauf who introduced me to Gamal Abd El-Nasser and then we (Gamal and I) each met separately with Mahmud Labib.
There developed an odd relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and a military group that was formed that comprised a large number of officers. We no longer met in public. We held organised meetings in private homes. We usually met in the home of Magdi Hasanayn and sometimes in that of Officer Ahmed Mazhar (now a well-known film star).
These meetings were often attended by Gamal Abd El-Nasser, Kamal El-Din Husayn, Husayn Hammuda, Husayn El-Shafi, Salah Khalif, Abd El-Latif Bughdadi and Hasan Ibrahim. Relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and this group of officers were highly sensitive: the Brotherhood had unexpectedly discovered a treasure trove of officers who were ready to do anything for the nation.
Those officers, however, did not all maintain the same level of loyalty to the Brotherhood. Salah Khalif and Husyn Hammuda, for example, were committed body and soul to the Muslim Brotherhood. The others, however, were just seeking a direction.
We were not against the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, we supported them – but without total commitment. Nasser, for example, believed that the Muslim Brotherhood only wished to exploit officers as tools to achieve political status and influence within the army and that they would never offer anything to the national cause.
At the meetings, Gamal was persistent in his question: if you have half a million members and four thousand cells, why should we not be calling strikes against occupation, and mass movements and demonstrations?
At our meetings, I continuously asked Mahmud Labib: What is the programme of the Brotherhood? He would answer: Sharia (Islamic law). Then I would say: We are all Muslims and we all believe in Sharia, but exactly what shall we do to liberate the nation – will we wage armed struggle or shall we accept negotiations? What shall we offer the people in the areas of education, housing, and agriculture, as well as the various other social issues?
Mahmud Labib was very elusive in his answers, but I persisted in my questions. Finally, he brought to us Mr. Hasan El-Banna, grandmaster of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Truthfully, Hasan El-Banna had an exceptional ability to convince his listeners and infiltrate their hearts. His arguments were solid and he was widely read. At our first meeting, Abd El-Nasser and I expressed our views. When we spoke, he shrewdly and calmly made us understand that the Brotherhood had granted preferential treatment and did not require of us the complete loyalty it demanded of ordinary members.
He said, “We, the Brotherhood, are like an immense hall that can be entered by any Muslim from any door to partake of whatsoever he wishes. Should he seek Sufism, he shall find us ready. Should he seek sports and scouting, it is there. Should he seek battle and armed struggle, he shall find us. You have come to us with the issue of the nation. So, I welcome you.
We debated matters with him and he was very patient. I emphasised the necessity of announcing a programme, saying, “We cannot win the people without having a clear programme that offers practical solutions to their problems.” He said, “If I were to draw up a programme, I would please some and anger others. I would win some people and lose others, and I do not want that to happen.”
We had several other meetings with Hasan El-Banna. Though he had numerous strong arguments, they remained neither sufficient nor convincing to most of us. Nasser was firm in his suspicions that the Brotherhood only wanted to exploit the officers for its own interests.
In a final effort, Hasan El-Banna sought to link us with the Brotherhood via a strong bond. He decided that Nasser and I should join the Brotherhood’s Secret Division. Perhaps it was because we were the most active and effective in our group and, consequently, winning us over completely would mean ultimately winning over the whole group.
Or perhaps it was because we talked much about the nation and nationalism and therefore he believed that by having us join the Secret Division, which was concerned with weaponry and armed action, he would be satisfying our patriotic enthusiasm and ensuring closer ties with the Brotherhood.
Anyway, we were contacted by Salah Khalifa, who took the two of us to a house in Darb Al-Ahmar toward Sayyida Zaynab. There we met Abd El-Rahman El-Sanadi, head of the Brotherhood’s Secret Division at the time.
We were taken into a totally darkened room where we heard a voice (I think it was that of Saleh Ashmawi) and, placing our hands on the Quran and a gun and repeating after the voice, we took an oath of obedience and total allegiance, for better or worse, to the Grandmaster, swearing by the Book of God and the Sunna (traditions) of the Prophet. Although these rites were meant to stir the emotions, they had very little impact on Nasser and myself.
In any case, we began to work in the Secret Division and we were taken for training at a place near Helwan. Since we were officers, it was only natural that we were more knowledgeable about weapons than our training instructors. Nasser was not too happy with the situation and we felt alienated from the Brotherhood.
By 1947, my and Nasser’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood had faded altogether, although I still maintain close ties with Usman Fawzi, who, from time to time, continued to supply me with books. By then, Usman Fawzi had definitely become a member of the communist organisation Iskra (Russian for “spark”).
(Memories of a Revolution: Egypt 1952, Khaled Mohieldin, member of the Revolution Command Council, Cairo: AUC Press, 1995. 259pp. The above chapter was re-published courtesy of Khaled Mohieldin’s daughter and with the consent of the publisher at
The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood was a Freemason, Hassan al Banna, born in 1906, who developed from the influence of the three Salafi reformers, Afghani, Abduh and Rida. Banna’s father was as student of Abduh, and himself was greatly influenced by Rashid Rida. By age twenty-one, Banna was introduced to the leadership of Al-Manar, founded by Rida, and, beginning in the early 1920s, would often meet and discuss with Rida. Through Rida, Banna developed his opposition to Western influence in Egypt, in favor of “pure Islam”, meaning to the pernicious version of Wahhabism.
When Hitler came to power in the 1930’s, he and Nazi intelligence made contact with al Banna to see if they could work together. Banna was also a devout admirer of Hitler. Banna’s letters to Hitler were so supportive that he and other members of the Brotherhood, were recruited by Nazi Military Intelligence to provide information on the British and work covertly to undermine British control in Egypt. Banna himself said that he had “considerable admiration for the Nazi Brownshirts” and organized his own forces along fascist lines. Banna’s Brotherhood also collaborated with the overtly fascist Young Egypt” movement, founded in October 1933, by lawyer Ahmed Hussein, and modeled directly on the Hitler party, complete with paramilitary Green Shirts, aping the Nazi Brown Shirts, Nazi salute and literal translations of Nazi slogans.
Gamal Abdel Nasser, on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt:
“The parties have been dissolved and we clashed with Muslim brotherhood party. During 1953 and 1954, Party of the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to influence the course of the Revolution and submit their guardianship. We were not in agreement. Then, they have declared war on us and tried to assassinate me in Alexandria, October 26, 1954. The battle has begun and we imprisoned the terrorist members of the party.
In the year 1954, while we were negotiating withdrawal terms with the English occupation forces from Egypt, the ‘brothers’ held their secret meetings with staff members of the British Embassy. They told the British: ‘we can take over power; we will do this and that… ‘. That was taking place, during our negotiations with British British Empire, meanwhile the Party of the Muslim Brotherhood in no way acted as patriot Egyptians.
To the question: ‘what is your position on the Canal.’ (i.e. The Suez Canal) for which we were fighting, there Morshid (i.e. The Guide) answered the question, It’s you who are interested in Egypt to fight for the canal; we have a consideration to fight elsewhere. This is the message of the Muslim brothers; they are misleading the masses and trading in religion.
In 1953, we sincerely considered to work with them and to make sure they are on the right way. I myself met the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood who has put conditions to us:
Their Morshid demanded of us, In the first place, you should impose Hijab (veil) on Egypt’s women, he stated. He told me, as a leader, this is your responsibility.
I told him, Morshid guide, you have a daughter enrolled in the Faculty of medicine, who does not wear a veil. So why don’t you make her wear it? If you are unable to impose the veil on a single girl, in this case your daughter, you want that of me alone, to throw the veil on ten million women in this country.
The Morshid guide added women must not work. I said, by allowing women to work, we protect women from misery. We know all the stories of poor women, sick or healthy, who have had to survive… The work is a protection for women. Prevent them from work goes against society interest. We are working on empowering women so that men and women can mutually support each other.
His conditions and demands do not stop there! He demanded of us to close cinemas, theatres… to immerse Egypt in darkness!
Obviously, we couldn’t give in to their demands. They fought us. In 1954, they have embarked on their assassination attempts and their ‘deception’ using religion; eventually some of them ended up convicted by the tribunal of the Revolution.” – Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of the Egyptian Arab Republic (from 1952 to 1970)
(Translated by Saeb Shaath at
Gamal Abd al-Nasser was speaking to a large crowd in Alexandria on October 26, 1954 when eight gun shots rang out. Nasser heard the bullets whizzing past his ears. Happily for him, the gunman, Mahmoud Abd al-Latif, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was a bad shot even at close range. Those seated on the dais heard popping sounds as the bullets struck an electric light above. Nasser didn’t flinch. Interrupting his prepared speech, he cried out, “‘Let them kill Nasser. What is Nasser but one among many? My fellow countrymen, stay where you are. I am not dead, I am alive, and even if I die all of you is Gamal Abd al-Nasser.’” – Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, The Cairo Documents, Doubleday, New York, 1973, 25. See also Peter Mansfield, Nasser, Methuen Educational Limited, London, 1969, 88.
The crowd roared in approval and Arab audiences was electrified. The assassination attempt backfired, quickly playing into Nasser’s hands. Upon returning to Cairo, he ordered one of the largest political crackdowns in the modern history of Egypt, with the arrests of thousands of dissenters, mostly members of the Brotherhood, but also communists, and the dismissal of 140 officers loyal to General Naguib. Eight Brotherhood leaders were sentenced to death, although the sentence of its chief ideologue, Sayyed Qutb, was commuted to a 15-year imprisonment. President Naguib was removed from the presidency and put under house arrest, but was never tried or sentenced, and no one in the army rose to defend him. With his rivals neutralized, Nasser became the undisputed leader of Egypt.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
If the event had been staged, it had been well staged; perhaps, the assassin himself might have said, too well. Later that year on December 9, 1954, he and five leaders of the Brotherhood were hanged – See Joel Gordon, Nasser’s Blessed Movement: Egypt’s Free Officers and the July Revolution, Oxford University Press, New York, 1992, 4.
“That was before the adoption of the Constitution, when we decided to pardon them and released them from the prisons. We have even enacted a law enabling them to go back to work, claim their salaries, work promotions and guaranteed their rights in all areas.
That is what we did in 1964. But in 1965, we discovered their secret organizations plotting a new conspiracy, they carried out attacks on the country’s infrastructure and I was a target as well. A plot with a rather amazing ruthlessness: the Egyptian people would be apostate. They are Muslims brotherhood; therefore they have to take power to guarantee that God governs in the country, not man.
Ok! But how could God govern without Prophet? We know all that at the beginning of Islam there was a prophet! They said, we refuse the Sunni representation. We reject the parliamentary representation. We want the Government of God.
But who could therefore ensure that Government of God? They can. Their Morshid guide is therefore the Prophet of God and we are all apostates. All Arab countries, even those that receive and supports them today, including rulers and citizens are apostates. This is what they told us: they are the only Muslims.
Naturally, they were arrested. It was certainly not a trivial operation to try to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser. But for one Gamal Abdel Nasser murdered arise thousand more! It is not possible to murder a whole nation. Whatever the circumstances, we cannot tolerate their destructive operations, nor their fascist behavior and ideology seeking to govern on behalf of God, while they are actually motivated by hatred.
We have therefore commenced to investigate the history of each of them who were involved or collaborated with the secret organizations. We will do the same with the heads and dangerous members of their secret organizations, who were released from prison in 1964… The rest will be released and they shall be entitled to a second chance.
Enough is enough! We will not allow them to endanger our national achievements of the past nineteen years, which were attained through hardship and suffering. We cannot rely on the henchmen of the colonizers and the reactionaries, regardless of their names, and even if the name is that of so-called Muslim Brotherhood. We all know that, in this case, their Islam is a hoax intended to entrap more people in joining them. They are just a dark force full of hatred. Their leaders have worked with those of the Baghdad Pact and those of the colonial countries. They have collaborated with our enemies. They have clearly shown that the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing other than a tool used to serve the colonial powers and its reactionary puppets.
Our principles forbid us from leaving these collaborators of colonialism and feudalism causing more harm to our country. We shall protect Egypt’s future and ensure the nation’s achievements. In 1954, they tried to kill the Revolution while serving the interests of colonialism. We succeeded to reach an agreement with the English colonial power, who was occupying us on the date, forcing the occupation to agree to the withdrawal from Egypt within a maximum of 20 months. This is the time they chose to launch their deadly operations and tried to assassinate me in Alexandria.
We knocked them out and we were able to halt them. Today, the people of Egypt do despise the Muslim brotherhood since they know who they are. We did give them a second chance; they did not want it to work.
As I already told you, the four years preceding the Battle of Port Said, the enemy forces of the Revolution have tried by all means to weaken us and tried to limit the scope of the revolution. They have failed! The Egyptian people have not weakened or surrendered. The attack was a bloody aggression, but it failed! The result forced our firm and unwavering commitment to achieve our real and total independence.
We say that it is only after this failure, the century of freedom began, to which we as well as our parents aspired, and for which our grandparents fought before us. Yes… that is after the failure of the assault, our Revolution began!” – Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of the Egyptian Arab Republic (from 1952 to 1970)
(Translated by Saeb Shaath at
Back in 1954, Egyptian President Gamal Abddul Nasser’s nationalist policies in Egypt come to be viewed as completely unacceptable by Britain and the US. MI6 and the CIA jointly hatch plans for his assassination. According to Miles Copeland, a CIA operative based in Egypt, the opposition to Nasser is driven by the commercial community—the oil companies and the banks. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood’s resentment of Nasser’s secular government also comes to a head. In one incident, Islamist militants attack pro-Nasser students at Cairo University. Following an attempt on his own life by the Brotherhood, Nasser responds immediately by outlawing the group, which he denounces as a tool of Britain. The following years see a long and complex struggle pitting Nasser against the Muslim Brotherhood, the US, and Britain. The CIA funnels support to the Muslim Brotherhood because of “the Brotherhood’s commendable capability to overthrow Nasser.” (BAER, 2003, PP. 99; DREYFUSS, 2005, PP. 101-108) The Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia becomes an ally of the United States in the conflict with Nasser. They offer financial backing and sanctuary to Muslim Brotherhood militants during Nasser’s crackdown. Nasser dies of natural causes in 1970. (DREYFUSS, 2005, PP. 90-91, 126-131, 150)


Different people have different ideas about what is worthwhile or what constitutes “the good life for human beings”, differences that have increased during the last few decades as the voices of more and more previously silenced groups, such as women and minorities, have been heard. Given these differences, some people urge, it will be impossible for us to agree on what particular kind of social systems, institutions, and environments we will all pitch in to support.
And even if we agreed upon what we all valued, we would certainly disagree about the relative values things have for us. In the face of such pluralism, efforts to bring about the common good can only lead to adopting or promoting the views of some, while excluding others, violating the principle of treating people equally. Moreover, such efforts would force everyone to support some specific notion of the common good, violating the freedom of those who do not share in that goal, and inevitably leading to paternalism (imposing one group’s preference on others), tyranny, and oppression.
The common good does not just happen. Establishing and maintaining the common good require the cooperative efforts of some, often of many, people. Just as keeping a park free of litter depends on each user picking up after himself, so also maintaining the social conditions from which we all benefit requires the cooperative efforts of citizens.
Individuals can become “free riders” by taking the benefits the common good provides while refusing to do their part to support the common good. An adequate water supply, for example, is a common good from which all people benefit. But to maintain an adequate supply of water during a drought, people must conserve water, which entails sacrifices. Some individuals may be reluctant to do their share, however, since they know that so long as enough other people conserve, they can enjoy the benefits without reducing their own consumption. If enough people become free riders in this way, the common good which depends on their support will be destroyed.
Our culture views society as comprised of separate independent individuals who are free to pursue their own individual goals and interests without interference from others. In this individualistic culture it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to convince people that they should sacrifice some of their freedom, some of their personal goals, and some of their self-interest, for the sake of the “common good”. Our cultural traditions, in fact, reinforce the individual who thinks that she should not have to contribute to the community’s common good, but should be left free to pursue her own personal ends.
(Adapted from ‘The Common Good’, Developed by Manuel Velasquez, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks, S.J., and Michael J. Meyer, Issues in Ethics V5 N2 Spring 1992)
Some persons, however, must will the common good not just formally, but also materially. This means that they must will it not just as end, but as object. Their specific actions are actions that materially advance and maintain the common good. The most characteristic example here is, of course, the persons who make up the government or management of any community. It is the special responsibility of government to promote and maintain the common good of the society in a material way. Collecting taxes, paving streets, enforcing the law, and defending the country from external threats are all material aspects of the political common good that are typically the concern of government.
The vast majority of persons who will the common good formally, but not materially do, however, will other things materially: particular goods. Persons will their own good formally and materially and pursue it in a variety of ways. Moreover, particular persons will the goods of their families, civic associations, and workplaces.
The debate over the common good has existed since Plato wrote the Republic in the late 5th century BC. Common good can hold different meanings depending on one’s involvement. For example, if City Hall makes a decision that is good for its citizens, but not good for citizens of a neighboring city, is that the common good? And, what is good? It can be defined as “doing what is right or proper” (Webster’s 1990, pg. 255), but does everyone agree what actions achieve common good? Probably not (Powell and Clemens, 1998).
A debate about what is “good” is not a negative action. By having as many parties involved as possible can bring together many different perspectives to determine the overall best decisions for the “common.”
The common good is promoted within every organization through its mission statement. A neighborhood association wishes to reduce crime to provide security for its residents. An environmentalist wishes to preserve the open spaces so there is clean air and a healthy ecosystem. The United Nations tries to resolve issues through diplomacy rather than the tyranny of war. The nonprofit sector is based on the idea that people can come together to form an organization in order to better their situation.
(Common Good by Michael Kraus at
The ‘Common Good’ is commonly described as the sum total of all those conditions of social living–economic, political and cultural–which make it possible for women and men readily and fully to achieve the perfection of their humanity. But there is something much more fundamental about the common good that creation of these conditions. It is the consideration that social being (which translates into social good) is another naming of the common good. It is first and foremost being together. It is life-giving community which creates space for individuals.
(The Common Good by Philip S. Land, S.J at: Philip S. Land, S.J)
People must assume responsibility for their actions, treat others with respect and decency, and serve their families and communities. Businesses need to assume responsibilities beyond securing the bottom line. They need to take into consideration their communities, workers, and surrounding environments as well as their shareholders when making decisions. Government needs to pursue policies that benefit all and require sacrifices from all. Government should not serve as the defender of narrow group or corporate agendas and should instead seek to protect public goods that promote the national interest.
(Adapted from “The Politics of Definition,” by John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira at
Whenever someone proposes that something is done for the common good, the reality is that it benefits some people more than it benefits other people, and, given the relative nature of reproductive success, those who benefit less than average actually lose from it.
If we assume that the development of world organizations and international agreements does proceed based on this shaky notion of “common good”, then in each case we must ask who are the winners, and who are the losers? And why do the losers put up with it?
A likely answer in many cases to this last question is that the losers will put up with it because they lack clout to do anything about it. Either they are too poor, or disorganized, or they may simply form too small a minority. Or they may just fail to realize that they are the losers. The “improvement” of the world by mutual agreement may actually be a constant “tyranny of the majority”, where perhaps 95% of the population agrees on a measure which ensures the eventual extinction of the remaining 5%.
Some people say that there are “no winners” in a nuclear war which destroys 95% of humanity. But success is always relative, and as long as a nuclear war does not render the Earth uninhabitable, the “winners” of a nuclear war consist of the survivors, who have what is left of the world all to themselves.
(There is (Almost) No Such Thing as the “Common Good’ at


Why do so many politicians have a bad reputation when their job descriptions seem so noble and self-sacrificing?
One reason certain politicians have a bad reputation is the election process itself. A life of public service and law making is not an occupation for social introverts; so many candidates for local offices are already notorious overachievers with more than enough self-confidence. A number of candidates for political office are very ambitious by nature, and with ambition often comes a level of moral and ethical flexibility. Some politicians have a bad reputation because they’ve already had to compromise any number of personal beliefs in order to gain votes or popularity.
Historically, there have been numerous examples of dirty politics practiced by equally dirty politicians. Unfortunately for the majority of honest office holders, these incidents often dominate the public media. Consequently, a number of effective politicians have a bad reputation only by association. If one politician is capable of dirty tricks or dereliction of duty, then they may all be equally capable of some wrongdoing.
It is time to truly choose leaders who follow the rule of law and respect the rights of the people. We must start by sweeping away the ill-smelling garbage they helped to produce – hatred, ethnic divisions, violence, poverty, oppression, injustice, immorality and greed – it is contaminating our continent and if we don’t sweep out the dirt and the rot ourselves, no one else will do it for us! Part of cleaning up that dirt begins with understanding better how it got there. In other words, we must be careful not to fall in the trap of the corrupt politicians by fighting the wrong fight as they turn the truth upside down just to confuse the public.
(The Roosters are Crowing: It’s Time for Africans to Sweep Our Huts Clean of Dirty Politics by Obang Metho at
“This is practically a law of the universe – There are only two kinds of people who want to be politicians in the first place: power-hungry scumbags and good-hearted down-to-earth humans who really want to help people. Unfortunately the latter normally gets punched in the face and thrown in the gutter by “dirty politics.” Actually, extends that universal law to: New Law of Nature: Politicians are dirty, lying scumbags until proven Human.”
(Ashton at
When that the insanely partisan and ruthless war for party supremacy, with its dirty money, lies and deceptive advertisements is over and its selfish intentions are clear, it is time for us to look back and remind ourselves why we go through these incredibly expensive and wasteful circus acts. Also, we should think about what we owe to our politicians that gives them the right to openly insult our intelligence with stupid and deceitful theatrics.
Why let political shenanigans decide who and what get our vote instead of using common sense and putting country and all citizens first? Of course, this is something about which we don’t usually think, as is the fact that we never learn our lesson nor see that power-hungry political parties are not interested in the welfare of the country or the citizens, but only in themselves.
Finally, for those of us who voted and expect to see any changes that would make our lives better, think again. Let’s hope that next time we will let intelligence, facts and knowledge decide for us, instead of letting ideology, bias, dirty money and lying political ads dictate where our vote goes. Certainly, by allowing unethical political operatives show us the way, it’s not how we should decide who and what gets our vote.
(Nikolas D. Skalkotos, Las Vegas at
Voters are quick at blaming the government and the politicians for almost all the maladies that afflict society. They are good at whining. They never fail in criticizing the substandard public service, graft and corruption and the stupidity of their political leaders. Little do they realize however, that they share in the blame for the problem.
One only needs to have the right image to win in the elections. Winning public office is decided by popularity not by issues. More worrisome is that political campaigns in any country have been reduced to the battles of jingles, posters, T-shirts, caps, fans, etc. During elections, a candidate must simply come up with his/her own shallow tricks and antics to endear him/her to the voting public. TV stations have already become a good breeding ground for politicians. Ever wonder when the TV station will establish its own political party.
If there is any consolation from these cheap and rubbish political gimmicks, it is this: at least for once, the voters can make fools out of the politicians who soon forget their promises after the elections anyway. It is sad to see however how the dumb voters’ clamor for images and illusions and the equally dumb politicians’ acquiescence deprave the whole electoral exercise.
As if though the “shallow entertainment” was not enough, the politicians and the voters shamelessly display their parasitic relationship in more ways than one. It is disgusting to see how patronage politics creeps into the very heart of political campaigning. Dirty politics, which has been wantonly embraced by the old, has now been passed on to the young. More appalling is the sight of opportunist voters queuing up in the candidate’s headquarters or residence asking for medicine (they have prescription receipts as backups) or any other dole outs that the candidate can give. It is funny to see how many people get sick during elections. And believe it or not, some voters can be ridiculous in their demands.
The politicians know how to share their loot with their constituents. Still discontented, politicians never fail to display their names in bridges, streets, and other infrastructures erected during their term to increase name recall and visibility as if the money used for the construction was theirs. Do not be surprised then if you see ubiquitous signs all over the country such as this, “This is a project of Politician So and So”.
The battle for public office culminates in the night preceding the day of the elections. This is when the grand larceny takes place: vote-buying in a massive scale. Who says that “midnight madness” takes place only during bargain sales in department stores? Politicians and voters also go in a buying and selling binge during elections as if the right of suffrage is a form of a commodity. Sadly, more often than not, electing a public official for many in the rural areas has become a form of an auction, with their votes going to the highest bidder.
It is not surprising why politicians brazenly corrupt. The voters themselves are corrupting the politicians. After spending so much in the elections (it doesn’t matter if the money they spend is theirs or not), the politicians certainly want their investment back. Besides, they have to save again for the next elections. Without any doubt, the electorate is to blame for the dimwits and scoundrels they help install to power. They have corrupted each other very well. As they say, “It takes two to tango.”
(Adapted from Corrupting the Other John Xavier Chavez, Manila at
Politicians and the media constantly ask “What’s the matter with the economy?” The answer was on glorious display. Ironically, it is the politicians and media who are ruining it. “The storm of the century” turned out to be “the most hyped storm of the century,” along with one of the most hysterical, exaggerated, manipulated media events of all time. Irene was a…rainstorm. A big one and a bad one…..but nonetheless a rainstorm.
Media and politicians need big catastrophes and emergencies to burnish their images and make them seem important. They need to brandish words like “the worst ever” “the biggest ever” “the most deadly ever.” The media loves these bigger-than-life headlines because they are highly profitable. The bigger, the better- it’s all good for business. The more hysterical they can make the public, the higher the ratings. Catastrophes SELL!
Politicians also need catastrophes and emergencies- to show they are in charge, looking out for us helpless little people. Politicians desperately need high profile platforms to showcase their leadership skills, to shout “Get out now, or you’ll die. I’m saving your life. I’m the only thing that stands between you and annihilation.” Emergencies allow politicians to bully, intimidate and threaten citizens and to prove how obviously more important and brilliant they are than the lowly citizens. And, of course, if the politician is right, and the worst happens, they’ve got a platform to shout about how much we need them and how indebted we should be to them.
(Wayne Allyn Root at
There are many kinds of political crimes, as well as there are hundreds of so called politicians who are truly greedy and/or truly power hungry enough to violate their oath of office as they proceed to enrich themselves and those who supported those corrupt politicians quest for political power. It does not matter where or in which Country those corrupt politicians exist, but it does matter, in regard to how many other people, World-wide, are hurt, suffer or die as a direct result of such criminal behavior. It is a crime to be politically corrupt. More often than not, when the interests of the minority are served it is the majority who suffers from the actions of the minority. That is why a relatively few become filthy rich while tens of millions of other people slowly sink into a sea of debt.
That evil behavior by those few among us came in the form of Communism, Socialism, Absolute Monarchy and/or an Authoritarian form of Government. Governments controlled by the leaders of the military also proved harmful to the population of citizens within each and every Country controlled by a Military Dictator.
A Democratic form of Government has proved to be the best deterrent against any conspiracy to destroy the rights of the majority within a Country. Then again, there is no such thing as a “True Democracy.” However, you can believe that some of the politicians within those, so called, Democratic forms of Government did or continue to try to achieve the truly idealistic level of a “True Democracy.”
Make no mistake. “Political Corruption” comes to all of us in many forms. Yes, and each of those forms are nothing more than crimes against Humanity.
(Joseph Malek at


Almost all human beings do have something to ask for from Almighty. Some have a craving for some lawful worldly objects, some have to ask for solutions of their problems, some longing for remedy of illness and getting good health, while some have the far-sight of asking favors of the next world. Thus everyone has something to ask from his/her own angle of view.
Imagine for a moment that you find yourself with a flashlight in your hand in a room that is totally dark. You turn on the flashlight and see a beautiful painting hanging on the wall. You might think, “Sure, this is a wonderful work of art, but is this all there is?” Then, all at once, the room becomes illuminated from above. You look around and see that you are in an art museum, with hundreds of paintings on the walls around you, each more beautiful than the last. As these possibilities stand revealed to you, you realize you have a lifetime of art to study and love. You are no longer constrained to view just one painting lit by the weak glow of your flashlight.
(Excerpted from The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire by Deepak Chopra. Copyright © 2003 by Deepak Chopra at
Can anything be classed as real when our perceptions differ greatly on so many things? Just because we see something a particular way does not make it so. We can be so insistent sometimes that our way of seeing something is more right than someone else’s way.
Let’s take the example of war. There are some people who believe that war is necessary sometimes to get peace and then in order to keep the peace. There are other people who will believe that war is evil and should never be entered into no matter what. Who is right? Is war right or wrong? That’s just an example…..
What you see as real is only defined by your belief structure. Your version of what is real is only your perception of it; not what is so.
Here’s another example: Let’s say an event occurs in your life. You have the choice about how you respond to it. Let’s say you have a death in the family. You can choose to see that event as something terrible and tragic to which you will respond accordingly. Or, you can choose to see that event and something that inspires you to make something more of your life; living every day as if it was the last, so to speak.
From that example you can see that you may or may not have control over the events in your life but you can certainly take control of how to respond to them. That part of life will always be within your power. This is where life gets interesting because you shape your own reality through your beliefs.
Your belief structure determines your perception which then ultimately determines how you respond to events. Going by that sequence you can then see that there is another place to start. You can choose to examine your beliefs and then choose to change them.
(Adaptted fron Perception vs Reality by Amit Sodha on March 22, 2006 at
We have a very narrow view of things. Naturally, the imperfect existence cannot be the source of perfect consciousness. The imperfect perspective of the human mind cannot be expected to give a complete picture of things in their true state of affairs.
There is a habit of the mind by which it looks at things in a linear fashion, in a line or a straight vision, as it were, as a series of objects, a line in space and time, and this is what may be succinctly called the three-dimensional perspective or the individualistic perception of the human mind – to look at things as bodies, as isolated existences, with the feeling that you and I are different, that things are isolated from one another in such a manner that there cannot be intrinsic or organic connections among them. This is perhaps the historical way of things. There is no organic connection between events in history. They are mathematically or causally related, so that one follows the other.
(An Analysis of Our Perception of Historical Personalities by Swami Krishnananda at
The ultimate source of our problems is in thought. Our thinking determines our actions and our actions determine the quality of our relationship with each other. Society is the result of relationships. Problems arising out of human relationship appear to be intractable. There is conflict at all levels of human relationship. There is conflict between husband and wife, between parent and child, between one group and another, between nations, religions and within the same political and religious organizations. There is enormous confusion, violence, brutalities, the wars, terrorism and endless division of religion and nationality. Roots of disorder lie in the state of human mind.
Unfortunately we use the same thinking ability to find solutions to the numerous complex and intricate problems that thought has created. Past history clearly demonstrates that despite all the knowledge and experience accumulated through centuries, man has not been able to produce a harmonious and healthy society. We do make some improvements here and there but the overall situation remains grim. The momentum at which the problems are being created is quite overwhelming. It is obvious that there must be a serious flaw in the way we think.
It is amazing that two distinct systems of thought operate within the framework of human consciousness, one that creates the problem and the other that tries to find solution to the problem. Both arise out of the same source. That source is self-centeredness. Thinking arising out of self-interest, self-concern creates numerous problems. Problems like greed, jealousy, anxiety, anger, hate and violence arise out of the conditioned state of mind. Any problem that arises in the mind poses a challenge and there is an automatic response to meet the challenge. This response generates thought process that has no clue as to how the problem got created.
It is extremely important that we should understand the nature of the self because most of our actions spring from this center. Our perceptions and responses to the challenges of life and our basic urges, desires and demands are determined by the nature of the self. Human relationship is based on the operation of thought that is self-centered. Only a profound understanding of the nature of the self can bring about inward revolution.
(Adapted from Clarity of Perception by SardarSingh, September 17, 2009 at
One of the things people are quickly becoming aware of is the media’s nonstop repetition of the same old themes and always trying to keep us scared and manipulated, whether it be who to vote for in an upcoming election or the suppression and total disregard of information which paints things in a different picture to the one that they are trying to impose on us. Another is how democracy is just two sides of the same coin so to speak, they offer us choice but that choice is limited inside of their choices.
Freedom is more than a word. It is everything and the only thing that is in our way of obtaining it is our own perception. What we perceive is what believe. Consider this, if we were walking along and spotted a house and someone said that it was a nice house and you disagreed, then which one of you is right? The thing about perception is that more often than not it is not even your own perception; it was manipulated from the day you were born and constantly conditioned by outside forces, from parents to school and work. We are being bombarded with influence and the problem with that is we don’t realize it until we become someone else’s perception altogether and we cry out inside to ourselves.
If someone said the words planet earth most people would immediately conjure up visions of the earth from space as we know it, a giant sphere covered in ocean, dotted with land and surrounded with clouds. But what if you could see ultraviolet light, or x-ray or even gamma rays? Than earth would look incredibly different to you and would therefore provoke different thoughts and feelings, you see everything is symbolic and just because you see something does not mean you see all aspects of something; you just have an idea of how it is and this is one of the biggest problems in the world today as Governments, Media, religion and society in general are constantly trying to take other peoples freedom to see things from many angles and points of view and limit them to only the ones they want them to see. Parents are some of the worst offenders for this.
Everything expresses itself in many shapes and forms and your perception is the only thing that holds it in that myopic and preconceived view you have. You must open yourself up to possibility and when you do that you can let the information flow freely and make an informed judgment. But that is not the world we live in now; the world we live in now is the same world that burnt people alive at the stake for ideas just a few hundred years ago, and although we may not be as physically brutal anymore, fear of changing the way we look at things is still alive and kicking in today’s social structure.
(Adapted from How Everything is a Symbolic Representation of Your Perception, by AndrewCalvisi Mar 2nd, 2010 at


Police corruption is a specific form of police misconduct designed to obtain financial benefits, other personal gain, and/or career advancement for a police officer or officers in exchange for not pursuing, or selectively pursuing, an investigation or arrest. One common form of police corruption is soliciting and/or accepting bribes in exchange for not reporting organized drug or prostitution rings or other illegal activities. Another example is police officers flouting the police code of conduct in order to secure convictions of suspects — for example, through the use of falsified evidence. More rarely, police officers may deliberately and systematically participate in organized crime themselves.
Police officers have various opportunities to gain personally from their status and authority as law enforcement officers. The Knapp Commission, which investigated corruption in the New York City Police Department in the early 1970s, divided corrupt officers into two types: meat-eaters, who “aggressively misuse their police powers for personal gain,” and grass-eaters, who “simply accept the payoffs that the happenstances of police work throw their way.”
The sort of corrupt acts that have been committed by police officers have been classified as follows:
a. Corruption of authority: police officers receiving free drinks, meals, and other gratuities.
b. Kickbacks: receiving payment from referring people to other businesses. This can include, for instance, contractors and tow truck operators.
c. Opportunistic theftfrom arrestees and crime victims or their corpses.
d. Shakedowns: accepting bribes for not pursuing a criminal violation.
e. Protection of illegal activity: being “on the take”, accepting payment from the operators of illegals, casino establishments such as brothels, or drug dealers to protect them from law enforcement and keep them in .
f. Direct criminal activities of law enforcement officers themselves.
g. Internal payoffs: prerogatives and perquisites of law enforcement organizations, such as shifts and holidays, being bought and sold.
h. The “frameup”: the planting or adding to evidence, especially in drug cases.
i. “Fixing operation. “: undermining criminal prosecutions by losing traffic tickets or failing to appear at judicial hearings, for bribery or as a personal favor.
(wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Police misconduct and corruption are abuses of police authority. Sometimes used interchangeably, the terms refer to a wide range of procedural, criminal, and civil violations. Misconduct is the broadest category. Misconduct is “procedural” when it refers to police who violate police department rules and regulations; “criminal” when it refers to police who violate state and federal laws; “unconstitutional” when it refers to police who violate a citizen’s CIVIL RIGHTS; or any combination thereof. Common forms of misconduct are excessive use of physical or DEADLY FORCE, discriminatory arrest, physical or verbal harassment, and selective enforcement of the law.
(Police Corruption and Misconduct – History, Contemporary Problems, Further Readings – Civil, Federal, Law, Officers, Rights, and Criminal at
As with many disciplines, theories about how police corruption comes about have flourished over the years. The three theories that are often in evidence in the criminal justice field are the society at large theory, the structural/affiliation theory and the rotten apple hypothesis. Each of these theories takes a different perspective about how police corruption comes about and each holds merit in its own right.
The society at large theory, brought to light by O.W. Wilson, maintains that the societal structure is at fault for police corruption. Under this particular theory, police corruption is the result of certain prevalent actions of society. As Wilson explained it to citizens of Chicago, “the same kind of special consideration” that citizens were “buying for small amounts, could, by the same logic, be purchased by criminals and crime syndicates for larger amounts” (as cited by Delattre). When a citizen, as a matter of hospitality or in exchange for some small consideration or favor, gives an officer a gratuity, that citizen has contributed to the corruption problem by opening the door for an officer to then accept larger amounts or goods in exchange for bigger favors. Another similar belief within the society at large theory is that officers become corrupt because of a belief that other sectors of the system are corrupt. If, for instance, officers see judges taking bribes to thwart justice, they might come to the conclusion that if a judge can do profit from such behavior, so too can they.
The structural/affiliation theory, first presented by Arthur Niederhoffer, states that officers become indoctrinated into corruption by watching the actions of veterans and superiors. Officers do not start out corrupt, but the deviant behavior and the response to such behavior in the law enforcement field starts a corruption cycle. Rookies are taught the behavior, and the acceptance of such behavior, by veterans who learned the behavior from yet others, and if not stopped, the rookies will later pass the behavior on to an entirely new crop of officers. Another important element to this theory is the belief that secrecy acts as a breeding ground for corruption.
The final widely accepted theory is the rotten apple hypothesis. This theory maintains that police corruption is the result of putting into a policing position individuals with an already established propensity for corruption. Subscribers to this theory believe that “indiscriminate hiring, inadequate training and poor supervision” erode personnel standards which ultimately results in widespread corruption within a department (Delattre).
(Senedra Glenn, Yahoo! Contributor Network at
Far more prevalent than the accepting of bribes is the fabrication of evidence. This form of corruption is to the police what charity is to the Salvation Army. It is second nature. No matter how honest you might be right now, no matter how religious you think you are, or how much personal integrity you think you may have, within weeks of joining the police force you will be standing in the witness box, swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, knowing full well that you intend telling a pack of lies. The reason for this radical change in your nature is known as peer group pressure. The police force of every nation is corrupt, rotten through and through, and for you to remain decent and honest in an organization which is corrupt is impossibility. You will either resign or go with the flow.
Some do try to resist the system. They report corruption to their superior officers and suddenly find themselves on shit duties. Poor fools, it hadn’t occurred to them that their superior officers rose through the rotten ranks and are every bit as corrupt as the men they now supervise.
Nothing changes and nothing will change so long as the men at the VERY top of the force are corrupt. No matter how concerned and sincere these men appear to be when interviewed on TV, ask yourself how it’s possible for a man to remain in the police force for twenty-plus years, to witness corruption at every level in every department, to hear canteen gossip all day and every day, and yet remain oblivious to anything and everything of an illegal nature that’s taking place under his very nose. This man and dozens like him reached the top by playing the game, by not making waves, and by turning a blind eye to the thousands of routine perjuries and illegal atrocities being committed by his workmates on a daily basis.
When he reaches the top, is he suddenly going to go straight? How can he when his colleagues remember his bent history? The very first time he tries to reprimand an officer for accepting a bribe or for fabricating evidence, the miscreant simply reminds his boss of the times he did precisely the same thing!
How can a Commissioner say to his Commanders and Superintendents, “I insist that you do the job honestly” when they recall the same man entering the witness box and lying his head off? Not once, but hundreds of times.
(Adapted from Police Corruption by John Hornblower at
Authorities make pronouncements about how officers “shall” or “will” behave and what they “shall not” or “will not” do. The language is in the imperative voice with an expectation that officers will follow these ethical imperatives because they have been officially stated. The motivation for following is similar to obeying the law.
Laws must be obeyed and ethical principles should be heeded, but the two are not the same. The legal model assumes that there is only one system of values, the authority based system, and that assumption is false. Notice the change in wording from “ethics” to “values”. The two are not the same, but they can’t be separated.
There are several value systems by which people decide right and wrong, and the authority value system is only one means by which people build ethics. Each system exists in all people at varying degrees in different circumstances and times in their lives. For example, one system may predominate at home and another at work. Likewise, the values most affecting a rookie are not the same as the predominant values in an officer of ten years.
New officers come into law enforcement with different backgrounds and value systems. Since the nature of police work is enforcing laws, it is safe to assume that the authority system is strong in them. However, they soon feel the power of the tribal value system. Phrases such as “the police family”, “the police brotherhood”, and “the blue code of silence” reflect the tribal system.
Briefly, there are three universal characteristics of tribal values. First, tribal values focus on an identifiable group. Membership in the group provides emotional support and security. Second, members are expected to observe a certain way of life in which they find emotional identity. Third, the tribe needs an enemy.
Every tribe must have a common enemy to provide strong motivation to live and work in concert. Members form an “us versus them” attitude. They feel that their very survival is at stake-strong motivation indeed. This fear in each member is a strong reason why members submit to behavior demands of the tribe and change their ethics to allow them to stay in the tribe.
Without question, police officers have an “us versus them” attitude. Most people just assume that criminals are the enemy, but sadly, criminals are not the only enemy. Police administrators, city administrators, the media and the general public are enemies for many officers even more than criminals. Officers see more threat from these sources daily than they do criminals. In addition administrators, media and citizens discourage officers from viewing criminals as enemies. After all, they are citizens fully protected by the Constitution and the laws of the land. Officers should treat these errant people as fellow citizens-even friends-who have just made a mistake.
(Adapted from Police Stress The Police Tribe: Code of Silence at


Part I

It is a sad sight to see thousands of students graduated every year from grand institutions, whose object is to make stalwart, independent, self-supporting men, turned out into the world saplings instead of stalwart oaks, “memory-glands” instead of brainy men, helpless instead of self-supporting, sickly instead of robust, weak instead of strong, leaning instead of erect. “There are so many promising youths and never a finished man!”
It takes courage for a young man to stand firmly erect while others are bowing and fawning for praise and power. It takes courage to wear threadbare clothes while your comrades dress in broadcloth. It takes courage to remain in honest poverty when others grow rich by fraud. It takes courage to say “No” squarely when those around you say “Yes.” It takes courage to do your duty in silence and obscurity while others prosper and grow famous although neglecting sacred obligations. It takes courage to unmask your true self, to show your blemishes to a condemning world, and to pass for what you really are.
We live ridiculously for fear of being thought ridiculous. The youth who starts out by being afraid to speak what he thinks will usually end by being afraid to think what he wishes. How we shrink from an act of our own. We live as others live. Custom or fashion dictates, or your doctor, and they in turn dare not depart from their schools. Dress, living, servants, carriages, everything must conform, or be ostracized.
It takes courage for a public man not to bend the knee to popular prejudice. It takes courage to refuse to follow custom when it is injurious to his health and morals. To espouse an unpopular cause in Congress requires more courage than to lead a charge in battle. How much easier is for a politician to prevaricate and dodge an issue than to stand squarely on his feet like a man.
Don’t be like Uriah Heep, begging everybody’s pardon for taking the liberty of being in the world. There is nothing attractive in timidity, nothing lovable in fear. Both are deformities and are repulsive. Manly courage is dignified and graceful. The worst manners in the world are those of person’s conscious “of being beneath their position, and trying to conceal it or make up for it by style.”
“The hero,” says Emerson “is the man who is immovably centered.” A mouse that dwelt near the abode of a great magician was kept in such constant distress by its fear of a cat, that the magician, taking pity on it, turned it into a cat itself. Immediately it began to suffer from its fear of a dog, so the magician turned it into a dog. Then it began to suffer from fear of a tiger. The magician therefore turned it into a tiger. Then it began to suffer from fear of hunters, and the magician said in disgust: “Be a mouse again. As you have only the heart of a mouse, it is impossible to help you by giving you the body of a nobler animal.”
Everyone knows that there is not always a way where there is a will, that labor does not always conquer all things; that there are things impossible even to him that wills, however strongly; that one cannot always make anything of himself he chooses; that there are limitations in our very natures which no amount of will-power or industry can overcome; that no amount of sun-staring can ever make an eagle out of a crow.
Opportunity is coy. The careless, the slow, the unobservant and the lazy fail to see it, or clutch at it when it has gone. The sharp fellows detect it instantly, and catch it when on the wing. Show me a man who is, according to popular prejudice, a victim of bad luck, and we will show you one who has some unfortunate crooked twist of temperament that invites disaster. He is ill-tempered, or conceited, or trifling; lacks character, enthusiasm, or some other requisite for success. Disraeli says that man is not the creature of circumstances, but that circumstances are the creatures of men.
What has chance ever done in the world? Has it built any cities? Has it invented any telephones, any telegraphs? Has it built any steamships, established any universities, any asylums, any hospitals? Was there any chance in Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon? What had chance to do with Napoleon’s career, with Wellington’s, or Grant’s, or Von Moltke’s? Every battle was won before it was begun. What had luck to do with Thermopylae, Trafalgar, Gettysburg? Our successes we ascribe to ourselves; our failures to destiny.
The mathematician tells you that if you throw the dice, there are thirty chances to one against your turning up a particular number, and a hundred to one against your repeating the same throw three times in succession: and so on in an augmenting ratio. What is luck? Is it, as has been suggested, a blind man’s bluff among the laws? Is it a ruse among the elements or a trick of Dame Nature? Has any scholar defined luck? Any philosopher explained its nature? Any chemist showed its composition? Is luck that strange, nondescript fairy that does all things among men that they cannot account for? If so, why does not luck make a fool speak words of wisdom; an ignoramus utter lectures on philosophy?
There is something in circumstances; that there is such a thing as a poor pedestrian happening to find no obstruction in his way, and reaching the goal when a better walker finds the drawbridge up, the street blockaded, and so fails to win the race; that wealth often does place unworthy sons in high positions, that family influence does gain a lawyer clients, a physician patients, an ordinary scholar a good professorship; but that, on the other hand, position, clients, patients, professorships, manager’s and superintendent’s positions do not necessarily constitute success.
How many might have been giants who are only dwarfs. How many a one has died “with all his music in him.” It is astonishing what men who have come to their senses late in life have accomplished by a sudden resolution. Arkwright was fifty years of age when he began to learn English grammar and improve his writing and spelling. Benjamin Franklin was past fifty before he began the study of science and philosophy. Milton, in his blindness, was past the age of fifty when he sat down to complete his world-known epic, and Scott at fifty-five took up his pen to redeem an enormous liability. “Yet I am learning,” said Michael Angelo, when threescore years and ten were past, and he had long attained the highest triumphs of his art.
“Eloquence must have been born with you,” said a friend to J. P. Curran. “Indeed, my dear sir, it was not,” replied the orator, “it was born some three and twenty years and some months after me.” Speaking of his first attempt at a debating club, he said: “I stood up, trembling through every fiber, but remembering that in this I was but imitating Tully, I took courage and had actually proceeded almost as far as ‘Mr. Chairman,’ when, to my astonishment and terror, I perceived that every eye was turned on me. There were only six or seven present, and the room could not have contained as many more; yet was it, to my panic-stricken imagination, as if I were the central object in nature, and assembled millions were gazing upon me in breathless expectation. I became dismayed and dumb. My friends cried, ‘Hear him!’ but there was nothing to hear.” He was nicknamed “Orator Mum,” and well did he deserve the title until he ventured to stare in astonishment at a speaker who was “culminating chronology by the most preposterous anachronisms.” “I doubt not,” said the annoyed speaker, “that ‘Orator Mum’ possesses wonderful talents for eloquence, but I would recommend him to show it in future by some more popular method than his silence.” Stung by the taunt, Curran rose and gave the man a “piece of his mind,” speaking quite fluently in his anger. Encouraged by this success, he took great pains to become a good speaker. He corrected his habit of stuttering by reading favorite passages aloud every day slowly and distinctly, and spoke at every opportunity.
A poor Irish lad, so pitted by smallpox that boys made sport of him, earned his living by writing little ballads for street musicians. Eight cents a day was often all he could earn. He traveled through France and Italy, begging his way by singing and playing the flute at the cottages of the peasantry. At twenty-eight he was penniless in London, and lived in the beggars’ quarters in Axe Lane. In his poverty, he set up as a doctor in the suburbs of London. He wore a second-hand coat of rusty velvet, with a patch on the left breast which he adroitly covered with his three-cornered hat during his visits; and we have an amusing anecdote of his contest of courtesy with a patient who persisted in endeavoring to relieve him of his hat, which only made him press it more devoutly to his heart. He often had to pawn his clothes to keep from starving. He sold his “Life of Voltaire” for twenty dollars. After great hardship he managed to publish his “Polite Learning in Europe,” and this brought him to public notice. Next came “The Traveler,” and the wretched man in a Fleet Street garret found himself famous. His landlady once arrested him for rent, but Dr. Johnson came to his relief, took from his desk the manuscript of the “Vicar of Wakefield,” and sold it for three hundred dollars. He spent two years revising “The Deserted Village” after it was first written. Generous to a fault, vain and improvident, imposed on by others, he was continually in debt; although for his “History of the Earth and Animated Nature” he received four thousand dollars, and some of his works, as, for instance, “She Stoops to Conquer,” had a large sale. But in spite of fortune’s frown and his own weakness, he won success and fame. The world, which so often comes too late with its assistance and laurels, gave to the weak, gentle, loving author of “The Vicar of Wakefield” a monument in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.
A kite would not fly unless it had a string tying it down. It is just so in life. The man who is tied down by half a dozen blooming responsibilities and their mother will make a higher and stronger flight than the bachelor who, having nothing to keep him steady is always floundering in the mud. If you want to ascend in the world tie yourself to somebody.
Take two acorns from the same tree, as nearly alike as possible; plant one on a hill by itself, and the other in the dense forest, and watch them grow. The oak standing alone is exposed to every storm. Its roots reach out in every direction, clutching the rocks and piercing deep into the earth. Every rootlet lends itself to steady the growing giant, as if in anticipation of fierce conflict with the elements. Sometimes its upward growth seems checked for years, but all the while it has been expanding its energy in pushing a root across a large rock to gain a firmer anchorage. Then it shoots proudly aloft again, prepared to defy the hurricane. The gales which sport so rudely with its wide branches find more than their match, and only serve still further to toughen every minutest fiber from pith to bark. The acorn planted in the deep forest shoots up a weak, slender sapling. Shielded by its neighbors, it feels no need of spreading its roots far and wide for support.
To fix a wandering life and give it direction is not an easy task, but a life which has no definite aim is sure to be frittered away in empty and purposeless dreams. “Listless triflers,” “busy idlers,” “purposeless busybodies,” are seen everywhere. A healthy, definite purpose is a remedy for a thousand ills which attend aimless lives. Discontent, dissatisfaction, flees before a definite purpose. An aim takes the drudgery out of life, scatters doubts to the winds, and clears up the gloomiest creeds. What we do without a purpose begrudgingly, with a purpose becomes a delight, and no work is well done nor healthily done which is not enthusiastically done.
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Architects of Fate, by Orison Swett Marden)


The most essential thing in the world to any individual is to understand himself. The next is to understand the other fellow. For life is largely a problem of running your own car as it was built to be run, plus getting along with the other drivers on the highway.
The greatest problem facing any organism is successful reaction to its environment. If you don’t fit you must move or change your environment to fit you. If you can’t change the environment and you won’t move you will become a failure, just as tropical plants fail when transplanted to the Nevada desert. There is something that grows and keeps on growing in the Nevada desert—the sagebrush. It couldn’t move away and it couldn’t change its waterless environment, so it did what we must do if we expect to succeed. It adapted itself to its environment, and there it stands, each little stalwart shrub a reminder of what even a plant can do when it tries!
You know a rose, a violet, a sunflower and an orchid and what perfume you are sure to find in each, by the same method. All are flowers and all belong to the same species, just as all human beings belong to the same species. But their respective size, shape and structure tell you in advance and on sight what their respective characteristics are. The same is true of all human beings. They differ in certain fundamentals but always and invariably in accordance with their differences in size, shape and structure.
Look into the mirror the next time you are angry, happy, surprised, tired or sorrowful and note the changes wrought by your emotions in your facial muscles. Constant repetition of the same kinds of thoughts or emotions finally makes permanent changes in that part of the body which is physiologically related to these mental processes.
The jaw is a good illustration of this alliance between the mind and the body. Its muscles and bones are so closely allied to the pugnacity instinct center in the brain that the slightest thought of combat causes the jaw muscles to stiffen. Let the thought of any actual physical encounter go through your mind and your jaw bone will automatically move upward and outward. After a lifetime of combat, whether by fists or words, the jaw sets permanently a little more upward and outward—a little more like that of the bulldog. It keeps to this combative mold, “because,” says Mother Nature, the great efficiency expert, “If you are going to call on me constantly to stiffen that jaw I’ll fix it so it will stay that way and save myself the trouble.”
Every human being is born with preferences and predilections which manifest themselves from earliest childhood to death. These inborn tendencies are never obliterated and seldom controlled to any great extent, and then only by individuals who have learned the power of the mind over the body. In as much as this knowledge is possessed by only a few, most of the people of the earth are blindly following the dictates of their inborn leanings. In other words, more than ninety-nine per cent of all the people you know are following their natural bents in reacting to all their experiences—from the most trivial incidents to the most far-reaching emergencies.
The individual is seldom conscious of these habitual acts of his, much less of where he got them. The nearest he comes is to say he “got it from his father” or “she takes it from grandmother.” But where did grandmother get it? Science has taken the trouble to investigate and today we know not only where grandmother got it but what she did with it. She got it along with her size, shape and structure—in other words, from her type—and she did just what you and everybody else does with his type-characteristics. She acted in accordance with her type just as a canary sings like a canary instead of talking like a parrot, and just as a rose gives off rose perfume instead of violet. This law holds throughout every species and explains man—who likes to think himself a deep mystery—as it explains every other creature.
Human Analysis is the new science which shows you how to recognize the slow man, the quick man, the stubborn man, the yielding man, the leader, the learner, and all other basic kinds of men on sight from the shape, size and structure of their bodies.
Every individual does best those things which permit him to act in accordance with his natural bents. This explains why we like best those things we do best. It takes real enthusiasm to make a success of any undertaking for nothing less than enthusiasm can turn on a full current. Nothing is more unsafe than to attempt to judge the actual natures of people by their clothes, houses, religious faith, political affiliations, prejudices, dialect, etiquette or customs. These are only the veneer laid on by upbringing, teachers, preachers, traditions and other forces of suggestion, and it is a veneer so thin that trifles scratch it off. But the real individual is always there, filled with the tendencies of his type, bending always toward them, constantly seeking opportunities to run as he was built to run, and forever striving toward self-expression.
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg eBook, How to Analyze People on Sight, by Elsie Lincoln Benedict and Ralph Paine Benedict)


The question has often been asked, ‘what is the animating principle of different forms of government’, for each, it is assumed, has its own principle. In other words, what is the general idea which inspires each political system? Montesquieu, for instance, proved that the principle of monarchy is honor, the principle of despotism fear, the principle of a republic virtue or patriotism, and he added with much justice that governments decline and fall as often by carrying their principle to excess, as by neglecting it altogether. And this, though a paradox, is true. At first sight it may not be obvious how despotism can fall by inspiring too much fear or a constitutional monarchy by developing too highly the sentiment of honor, or a republic by having too much virtue. It is nevertheless true.
Every employee does the work he knows and does best, the skilled workman, the accountant, the manager and the secretary, each in his place. No one would dream of making the accountant change places with a commercial traveler or a mechanic. Look too at the animal world. The higher we go in the scale of organic existence, the greater the division of labor, the more marked the specialization of physiological function. One organ thinks, another acts, one digests, another breathes.
Now is there such a thing as an animal with only one organ, or rather is there any animal, consisting of only one organ, which breathes and thinks and digests all at the same time? Yes, there is. It is called the amœba, and the amœba is the very lowest thing in the animal world, very inferior even to a vegetable.
In the same way, without doubt, in a well constituted society, each organ has its definite function, that is to say, administration is carried on by those who have learnt how to administer, legislation and the amendment of laws by those who have learnt how to legislate, justice by those who have studied jurisprudence, and the functions of a country postman are not given to a paralytic. Society should model itself on nature, whose plan is specialization. Aristotle says, “At Carthage it is thought an honor to hold many offices, but a man only does one thing well. The legislator should see to this, and prevent the same man from being set to make shoes and play the flute.”
A well-constituted society, we may sum up, is one where every function is not confided to everyone, where the crowd itself, the whole body social, is not told: “It is your business to govern, to administer, to make the laws, &c.” A society, where things are so arranged, is an amœbic society.
Modern democracies seem to have adopted the same principle, in form they are essentially amœbic.
A democracy, well-known to us all, has been evolved in the following manner. It began with this idea; king and people, democratic royalty, royal democracy. The people makes, the king carries out, the law; the people legislates, the king governs, retaining, however, a certain control over the law, for he can suspend the carrying out of a new law when he considers that it tends to obstruct the function of government.
It is a basis, first, because a man who owns a certain fortune has a greater interest than others in a sound management of public business, and self-interest opens and quickens the eye; and again a man who has money and does not lose it cannot be altogether a fool. On the other hand it is a narrow basis, because the possession of money is of itself no guarantee of political ability, and the system leads to the very questionable proposition that every rich man is a competent social reformer. It is, however, a sort of competence, but a competence very precariously established and on a very narrow basis. This system disappeared and our democracy, after a short interregnum, repeated its previous experiment and submitted for years to the rule of one delegate with no great cause to congratulate itself on the result.
If the people were capable of judging of the legal and psychological knowledge possessed by those who present themselves for election, this form of selection need not be prohibitive of efficiency and might even be satisfactory; but in the first place, the electors are not capable of judging, and secondly, even if they were, nothing would be gained. Nothing would be gained, because the people never place itself at this point of view. Emphatically never! It looks at the qualifications of the candidate not from a scientific but from a moral point of view. If the candidates are considered from the point of view of their moral worth it is in a peculiar fashion. High morality is imputed to those who share the dominant passions of the people and who express themselves thereon more violently than others. Ah! these are our honest men, it cries, and we do not say that the men of its choice are dishonest, we only say that by this criterion they are not infallibly marked out even as honest.
Still, some one replies, they are probably disinterested, for they follow popular prejudices, and not their own particular, individual wishes. Yes, that is just what the masses believe, while they forget that there is nothing easier than to simulate popular passion in order to win popular confidence and become a political personage. If disinterestedness is really so essential to the people, only those should be elected who oppose the popular will and who show thereby that they do not want to be elected. Or better still only those who do not stand for election should be elected, since not to stand is the undeniable sign of disinterestedness. But this is never done. That which should always be done is never done.
But, someone will say, your public bodies which recruit their numbers by co-optation, Academies and learned societies, do not elect their members in this way. Quite so, and they are right. Such bodies do not want their members to be disinterested but scientific. They have no reason to prefer an unwilling member to one who is eager to be elected. Their point of view is entirely different. The people, who pretend to set store by high moral character, should exclude from power those who are ambitious of power, or at least those who covet it with a keenness that suggests other than disinterested motives.
These considerations show us what the crowd understands by the moral worth of a man. The moral worth of a man consists, as far as the crowd is concerned, in his entertaining or pretending to entertain the same sentiments as itself, and it is just for this reason that the representatives of the multitude are excellent as documents for information, but detestable, or at least, useless, and therefore detestable, as legislators.
Montesquieu, who is seldom wrong, errs when he says, “The people is well-fitted to choose its own magistrates.” He, it is true, did not live under a democracy. For consider, how could the people be fitted to choose its own magistrates and legislators, when Montesquieu himself, this time with ample justification, lays down as one of his principles that morals should correct climate, and that law should correct morals, and the people, as we know, only thinks of choosing as its delegates men who share, in every particular, its own manner of thinking? Climate can be partially resisted by the people; but if the law should correct morals, legislators should be chosen who have taken up an attitude of reaction against current morality. It would be very curious if such a choice were ever made, and not only is it never made but the contrary invariably happens.
What is the people’s one desire, when once it has been stung by the democratic tarantula? It is that all men should be equal, and in consequence that all inequalities natural as well as artificial should disappear. It will not have artificial inequalities, nobility of birth, royal favors, inherited wealth, and so it is ready to abolish nobility, royalty, and inheritance. Nor does it like natural inequalities, that is to say a man more intelligent, more active, more courageous, more skilful than his neighbors. It cannot destroy these inequalities, for they are natural, but it can neutralize them, strike them with impotence by excluding them from the employments under its control.
Democracy is thus led quite naturally, irresistibly one may say, to exclude the competent precisely because they are competent, or if the phrase pleases better and as the popular advocate would put it, not because they are competent but because they are unequal, or, as he would probably go on to say, if he wished to excuse such action, not because they are unequal, but because being unequal they are suspected of being opponents of equality.
So it all comes to the same thing. This it is that made Aristotle say that where merit is despised, there is democracy. He does not say so in so many words, but he wrote: “Where merit is not esteemed before everything else, it is not possible to have a firmly established aristocracy,” and that amounts to saying that where merit is not esteemed, we enter at once on a democratic regime and never escape from it.
Democracy, therefore, has the greatest inducement to elect representatives who are representative, who, in the first place, resemble it as closely as possible, who, in the second place, have no individuality of their own, who finally, having no fortune of their own, have no sort of independence.
We deplore that democracy surrenders itself to politicians, but from its own point of view, a point of view which it cannot avoid taking up, it is absolutely right. What is a politician? He is a man who, in respect of his personal opinions, is a nullity, in respect of education, a mediocrity, he shares the general sentiments and passions of the crowd, his sole occupation is politics, and if that career were closed to him, he would die of starvation.
He is precisely the thing of which the democracy has need. He will never be led away by his education to develop ideas of his own; and having no ideas of his own, he will not allow them to enter into conflict with his prejudices. His prejudices will be, at first by a feeble sort of conviction, afterwards by reason of his own interest, identical with those of the crowd; and lastly, his poverty and the impossibility of his getting a living outside of politics make it certain that he will never break out of the narrow circle where his political employers have confined him; his imperative mandate is the material necessity which obliges him to obey; his imperative mandate is his inability to quarrel with his bread and butter.
Democracy obviously has need of politicians, has need of nothing else but politicians, and has need indeed that there shall be in politics nothing else but politicians.
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Cult of Incompetence, by Emile Faguet of the French Academy)


Sometimes, even in the middle of what seem to be acts of philanthropy or altruism, people can be motivated purely by self-interest rather than a feeling of wanting to help others. If someone obtains personal benefits from doing a good thing, either directly or indirectly, then their altruism is colored by their own self-interest, which may be the underlying reason for doing a good thing in the first place. Many philosophers believe that the basic motivation for every human action is self-interest, regardless of what the outcome or outward purpose of the action seems to be. People in agreement with the idea believe it is a true phenomenon because the nature of human psychology reveals its truth, and it is empirically supported that humans act in their own self-interest all the time.
Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher who was a psychological egoist, explained that in cases such as these, impulses of compassion arise from projecting our own identity onto the other person. Some hypothetical examples he gives to illustrate this idea are the example of a person feeling compelled to save a drowning person, or someone feeling horrified by watching a fistfight and attempting to break it up. In such cases, a person unconsciously ignores threats to their own safety, because the suffering of another person feels threatening to our own happiness. Watching someone else suffer makes us vulnerable to our own misfortunes, so relieving that suffering can also relieve our own personal sentiments.
Because many human actions appear altruistic, such as helping someone gratuitously or sacrificing self, it may seem that psychological egoism is a falsehood. For example, it seems incorrect to assume that a mother who falls ill because of long hours tending her sick child does so because of self interests. However, psychological egoists say that helping other people in such a way is ultimately driven by some type of self-interest, be it the expectation of reciprocal actions, the desire for respect or admiration, or the expectation of being rewarded in an afterlife. Being helpful to others is simply instrumental for achieving goals that are, ultimately, selfish in nature.
If a soldier sacrifices his life by jumping atop a grenade to save his platoon, there is no time left for the soldier to experience any positive feelings for having given his life. However, a psychological egoist would argue that the soldier is still able, albeit briefly, to experience good feelings by knowing that he is giving his life to ensure the survival of other soldiers, or that he is avoiding emotional pain he would feel if he did not do so. Although one’s actions may not cause pleasure or avoid pain in a recognizable, long-term fashion, one’s expectation of these outcomes is the main factor in them making the decision to perform an action.
(By Buzzle Staff and Agencies at
People are motivated by their own interests and desires, and they cannot be described otherwise. People act for many reasons; but for whom, or what, do or should they act—for themselves, for God, or for the good of the planet? Can an individual ever act only according to her own interests without regard for others’ interests? Conversely, can an individual ever truly act for others in complete disregard for her own interests? The answers will depend on an account of free will.
It certainly appears that people sometimes act in ways that are not in accord with their own interests: the soldier who falls on the grenade to save his buddies, the person who runs into the busy street to save a child about to be run over, etc. One might be perfectly self-interested and look out for the interests of others — e.g., a shopkeeper who never cheats his customers simply because he knows honesty is good for business…
Psychological egoism is only true if you adopt what Rachels calls the strategy of redefining motives. That is, you insist on claiming that people are “really” acting selfishly even when they appear to be acting unselfishly.
You see your child run into a busy street. A car is driving very fast toward the child. You see that you can save the child’s life if you run out into the street and grab the child in your arms. Realizing this, do you now stop and calculate how much happiness you’ll receive if you save the child? Do you say to yourself, “Gee, it would make me feel really good to save my child, so I guess I’ll do it” No. You feel good after saving the child because you saved the child. You didn’t save the child in order to feel good…
Thomas Hobbes gives a version of psychological egoism in Leviathan; so does Thrasymachus, a character in Plato’s Republic (Plato has Socrates disagree with him). Both Hobbes and Thrasymachus think that psychological egoism is true: that human are, at best, indifferent to everything except what directly benefits them. Thus, we must re-think our views about what’s moral. Hobbes and Thrasymachus urge a “new” normative ethics, which states that it is morally right to pursue self-interest and wrong not to.
(Psychological Egoism and Ethical Egoism by Sandra LaFave, West Valley College at
Consider a free-rider situation. In marking students’ papers, a teacher may argue that to offer inflated grades is to make her life easier, and, therefore, is in her self-interest: marking otherwise would incur negative feedback from students and having to spend time counseling on writing skills, and so on. It is even arguably foreseeable that inflating grades may never have negative consequences for anyone. The teacher could conceivably free-ride on the tougher marking of the rest of the department or university and not worries about the negative consequences of a diminished reputation to either. However, impartiality considerations demand an alternative course—it is not right to change grades to make life easier. Here self-interest conflicts with reason.
Suppose that two men seek the hand of one woman, and they deduce that they should fight for her love. A critic may reason that the two men rationally claim that if one of them were vanquished, the other may enjoy the beloved. However, the solution ignores the woman’s right to choose between her suitors, and thus the men’s reasoning is flawed.
A critic may contend that personal gain logically cannot be in one’s best interest if it entails doing harm to another: doing harm to another would be to accept the principle that doing harm to another is ethical (that is, one would be equating “doing harm” with “one’s own best interests”), whereas, reflection shows that principle to be illogical on universalistic criteria. However, in the case of the rich uncle and greedy nephew, for example, it is not the case that the nephew would be acting ethically by killing his uncle, and that for a critic to contend otherwise is to criticize personal gain from the separate ethical standpoint that condemns murder. In addition, a respond may say that these particular fears are based on a confusion resulting from conflating ethics (that is, self-interest) with personal gain; if the nephew were to attempt to do harm for personal gain, that he would find that his uncle or others would or may be permitted to do harm in return. The argument that “I have a right to harm those who get in my way” is foiled by the argument that “others have a right to harm me should I get in the way.” That is, in the end, the nephew variously could see how harming another for personal gain would not be in his self-interest at all.
(Alexander Moseley at
The assertion that people act in a purely egoist manner has several problems. Taken in the most literal sense, egoism can easily be proven false. People may be motivated by a myriad of feelings such as anger, fear, love, compassion, pride, a sense of justice, or a desire for knowledge. The theory assumes some ambiguity and fuses intentions and consequences. For example, a cigarette smoker acts on his desire to smoke; smoking causes health problems that are not in one’s best interest. Oftentimes, one’s desires can lead to behaviors and consequences that are not in one’s best interest, though the initial action may have provided pleasure or avoided pain.
Common sense and folk psychology assumes that people tend to act in their own interests. Today’s culture reflects an interest in self-improvement, self-esteem, and self-gratification. The “X-generation” has also been called the “Me-generation,” as rampant consumerism focuses young people on immediate gratification and reflects no example of community responsibility or consideration for others. In fact, the market economy is founded on the assumption that self-interested, competing parties will produce the greatest good.
Yet, interestingly, our culture provides examples of both self- and other-centered paradigms. There are countless examples of people who act in the interests of others, sacrificing their own comfort and safety, to help fellow human beings, living creatures, or the physical environment. The acts of kindness, rescuing, generosity, self-sacrifice, and advocacy cover the spectrum of needs.
(Egoism by Dee Ann Sherwood at
The values required for man’s survival qua man—which means: the values required for human survival—not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the “aspirations,” the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices, have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but that of grabbing the loot of the moment.
There is a fundamental moral difference between a man who sees his self-interest in production and a man who sees it in robbery. The evil of a robber does not lie in the fact that he pursues his own interests, but in what he regards as to his own interest; not in the fact that he pursues his values, but in what he chose to value; not in the fact that he wants to live, but in the fact that he wants to live on a subhuman level.
Since all values have to be gained and/or kept by men’s actions, any breach between actor and beneficiary necessitates an injustice: the sacrifice of some men to others, of the actors to the nonactors, of the moral to the immoral. Nothing could ever justify such a breach, and no one ever has.
The actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must act for his own rational self-interest. But his right to do so is derived from his nature as man and from the function of moral values in human life—and, therefore, is applicable only in the context of a rational, objectively demonstrated and validated code of moral principles which define and determine his actual self-interest. It is not a license “to do as he pleases” and it is not applicable to the altruists’ image of a “selfish” brute nor to any man motivated by irrational emotions, feelings, urges, wishes or whims.
A similar type of error is committed by the man who declares that since man must be guided by his own independent judgment, any action he chooses to take is moral if he chooses it. One’s own independent judgment is the means by which one must choose one’s actions, but it is neither a moral criterion nor a moral validation: only reference to a demonstrable principle can validate one’s choices. Just as man cannot survive by any random means, but must discover and practice the principles which his survival requires, so man’s self-interest cannot be determined by blind desires or random whims, but must be discovered and achieved by the guidance of rational principles.
(Selfishness by Harry Binswanger at