Friday, March 5, 2010

the difference between "ought" and "want"

As Westerners, we are trained and encouraged to act, and then feel, based on what we "ought" to do. We ought to be good to our neighbours, we ought to volunteer at the local shelter, we ought to be selfless and altruistic. In the same stroke, when we feel compelled to ought to do something, we are eliminating our capacity to want, a word we have learned is synonomous with greed and selfishness. This is what we are taught, but it is not how humans actually think.

I would argue that we focus on the wrong kind of want - I want that new Fall jacket, I want that mansion, I want that Ferrari - instead of truly digging deeper and discovering what we really want in life - like love, meaningful relationships, freedom from tyrrany, fulfilling our inherent potential. To counter balance our materialistic, superficial wants, we beign to perform acts of "ought", feeling socially and morally compelled to do so. This has, at least on a personal level, been the struggle. After feeling guilty for doing these acts of materialistic-want, we pay penitence through acts of ought. We feel good about these acts of ought and treat ourselves, reward ourselves, with more acts of materialistic-want. And so the cycle continues.

But, what would happen if everyone was able to do what they truly wanted to do? Would we step into the dark realms of a Hobbesian society where life is nasty, cruel, brutish and short? Or, could we, as human beings, transcend into the utopia of Marx's dreams? Before we can even begin to imagine what could be, we have to look at what is.

I would argue that what people truly want is a prescribed fiction of the State, the Corporation and the Church: to live as tax-paying, consuming, God-fearing creatures. To live just above sustenance in order to live as long as possible in a life of mediocrity. The only benefactors of this system are the Leviathans listed above. They have created this world, one where the individual is barely living, so that you can live longer, not better, making you pay taxes longer, but not better, making you consume more things, not better things, and prolong your inevitable meeting with a rathful God, but not a better God. They have created these false idols of want which alienate people from their souls. In the end, for penitence, people "choose" an altruistic output to deflect the shame of their imposed selfishness.

However, I believe that, inherently, people are good. In general, we want to help those in been because, one day, we will need to be helped, too. We enjoy seeing people succeed because it inspires us to do the same. Just below the superficial skin, we want everyone to experience freedom from oppression and disease because it is part of our species survival.

In the end, it turns out, what we ought to do is exactly what we want to do, we have just been fooling ourselves into thinking that we are independent creatures who do not want, nor require, anybody else. Our creativity is individual, yet our evolution is a group effort. The truth is, we do not have fur to keep us warm, nor sharp teeth to rip hyde from our prey. We move on two legs, disabling our speed to hunt. Some of us are great at math whilst others excel at drawing. Some of us have an aptitude for cooking whilst others are better drivers. If we could being to see our personal strengths, make them better, and bring them to the community, people could start working as a team, each player a valuable asset. We would want to help those in need or want to teach others because it would benefit the whole. Instead of many cogs in a machine, we could develop a living, breathing, growing organism of progress.

In the end, what I am trying to say is: the difference between "ought" and "want" is that "ought" ought not exist.

No comments:

Post a Comment