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The “Ten Commandments” for Groups — 4 Comments

  1. I remember reading an article years ago entitled the end of poverty. The writer blamed the actions of selfish hoarding as the beginning of poverty in the world. In other words poverty will be with us as long as we exhibit selfishness on various levels . Growing up my mother would sometimes say to me what if everybody acted the way that you are behaving? Her question helped me understand that even though selfish actions on the individual level may seem insignificant, they can quickly become very problematic when practiced by larger numbers. How easy it is for us to overlook the wisdom of our elders.

    • Group selfishness is far more consequential for large numbers of people and, groups have more power than individuals. For example, one selfish person in Syria has marginal effects on others, but by organizing into ISIS selfish people can kill and pillage and cause suffering for millions. Yet, because there are no “Ten Commandments for Groups” ISIS members can be unselfish towards other members of their own group, yet as a group be totally selfish towards the rest of the world. This allows them to believe they are following the laws of Allah on the interpersonal level, while being completely evil as a group. In Niebuhr’s time, it was the Communists, many who had high respect for each other, while thinking nothing as a group exterminating thousands in Russia. And, shortly after Niebuhr wrote his book, Hitler began his genocide of the Jews.

    • Thanks for showing Brooks’ article. He is onto the same point: that we cannot ask government to become the cultural sphere. The one point he doesn’t raise is the relationship of money to politics. There are three spheres, cultural, economic, and political. And they must all be separated properly. Groups use government to get money of themselves at the expense of other groups (group stealing). When money can influence political parties, you add corporations to the ethnic and cultural groups fighting over resources.

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