John Locke, 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704, widely known as the Father of Classical Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. | Photo: Archives
'The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.'
You know, as long as no one impedes with our capacity to fulfill our self-interest.
To my favorite philosopher of the spring quarter, a mister John Locke of the United Kingdom, to thee I dedicate these words.
Humanity is not that simple. Our actions, admittedly, can almost without fail be ascribed to the pursuit of property, a term which here means life, liberty and self interest, including but not limited to self preservation. After all, nine times out of ten it's in my self interest to survive, the tenth being a convoluted scenario inspired by my sick-day Doctor Who marathon and involving crazy Sinclair robots.
(In my defense, my mind isn't at its best when I'm sick, probably due to the reapplication of internal resources to combat disease rather than the fulfillment of my unalienable right to be snarky. Look, I've accidentally made a pun.)
An hour of my Wednesday was spent in silent agreement with my Early Modern Political Thought classmates, who talked overlapping circles (Venn diagrams, if you will) about Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau's political societies as conflicting proposed resolutions to man's desire to win.
Anything, they theorized, that's not a fulfillment or sought fulfillment of self interest could be assumed irrational and therefore counter to our definition of civilized.
Thus they condensed a million plus creatures with 2,000-plus years of socioeconomic history and a broad range of mentalities, emotional ties and flaws into the most heartless motto ever:
It's in my self interest.
And while my cynical side wants to leap up out of bed and click its heels for joy at such a wonderfully concise theorem, the perfect lens through which to dispel the rose-colored Technicolor, I cannot.
I cannot, literally, because my 12 hour cold medicine is kicking in and I'm quite drowsy.
And I cannot, figuratively, because, be it sentimental nostalgia or foolhardy idealism, I still want my rose colored glasses some days, if only to read
|Anything they theorized, thats not sought fulfillment of self interest could be assumed irrational.|
Rousseau through and marvel at the idea of a perfect democracy and general public will.
I want to believe that leaders like Gadhafi are a fluke, Sarah Palin and her survivalist primitive charm will never be properly in charge, and that Hamas and Fatah forming a coalition might bring about peace in the middle east.
I want to fall asleep thinking that relationships, platonic or romantic, aren't brought about my mutual assent for serotonin releases, even if I stopped wishing for Prince Charming years ago; I want to know that affection for one's relations isn't a desire for inherited learning for lengthened life expectancy.
I want to be able to envision an America that has overcome Schmitt's concept of identity being based on an enemy as a methodology for control by power elites, and does not seek the stock, WASP American who barbeques on the 4th of July and sings God Bless America off-tune in blind patriotism.
But mostly I want to be able to chart out any number of interpersonal interactions, basic or complex, lengthy or short, and be able to see some level of self interest, and still marvel at the unpredictable, selfless, genuine nature of humanity.
Call it the god within the machine, if you will, the spirit inside the muscles and bones and tissue- call it my poorly fitting, outdated prescription rose-colored glasses.
Just don't call it self-interest.
('This comes from Robert Louis Stevenson's Happy Thought, a poem that appeared in A Child's Garden of Verses)