Holidays: Altruism’s Corruption of the Holy

by Jason Stotts

Recently I made a surprising discovery: my friend Karen’s favorite holiday is the Fourth of July. This rather astonished me as I had never before heard anyone identify the Fourth as her favorite holiday. It’s not that I’m stunned by the choice of days – the Fourth is a most deserving day for celebration: a secular celebration of freedom, rationality, and the greatest country in the world. No, it’s not that I thought her choice unworthy; rather I was surprised that a religious person would identify this secular holiday as her favorite.

This discovery surprised me because I knew that Karen is a Christian; I would have thought that she would pick a favorite holiday that was more consistent with her religious convictions. Realistically, the only people I would have expected to declare the Fourth as their favorite holiday would be Objectivists – people who understand the value of our country and what it represents in the course of human development.

Intrigued, I questioned her about her choice and was gratified when she paused and gave the question serious consideration. She told me that the reason why she likes the Fourth so much is because she is not obligated to get gifts for people that she does not want to and she only has to spend time with the people she loves and wants to be with. In effect, she told me that self-interest was the proper modus operandi and that she was only happy when she was acting in her own rational self-interest – which was why she hated the other holidays, they all entailed sacrifice.

This is perhaps one of the most poignant cases I’ve seen of the dire necessity of philosophy in life and the consequences of its absence or perversion. Through something as simple as holidays, Karen was starting to recognize the evil of Altruism and the good of Egoism. Her religion, accepted at an age before she had even gained control of her rational and cognitive faculties, had crippled her mind by corrupting her most fundamental premises. Left in a position where one knows that something is not as it should be because he feels that something is wrong that he thinks should be right is a deadly position for many.

Instead of questioning their contradictory premises, many people would instead begin to question themselves – since they “know” that it is wrong to act in their own self-interest and yet they only feel happy when they do, they began to regard themselves as evil. However, the trap is composed of nothing more than mistaken beliefs. Instead of starting with the premise that acting self-sacrificially is right, ask yourself why it is right. If you can’t answer the question of why it is right, then you’re certainly not justified in believing that it is right. Floating abstractions are worse than ignorance because ignorance is at least honest.

Through most of the history of the Philosophy it was taken as a given that man had to act self-sacrificially – it was only the beneficiary that was contested. The simple fact that man could live for himself seemed to escape the notice of these purveyors of death. Holidays, however, are supposed to be celebrations – and celebrations are life-affirming: no one would celebrate the fact that he had a debilitating disease. We do, however, celebrate the good things in life like graduations, weddings, new jobs, etc.

It’s through the perversion of morality via Altruism and the destruction of legitimate concepts such as “holiday” that this situation has arisen. By turning words that should be employed to praise the nobility of Man into words that are reserved for otherworldly father figures, Altruism has taken reverence for life and tried to substitute its antithesis. Why do we hate buying gifts for people whom we don’t really like and don’t want to be around? Clearly this is against our self-interest. If I do not like someone, I am not going to want to give him a gift – I either don’t value him or I value him less than the value of the gift. Yet Altruism would require us to sacrifice our self-interest and give the gift anyway – but this only causes ill feelings all around as everyone senses that acting contrary to their self-interest is wrong, while at the same time they feel that they are trapped and have no choice but to act self-sacrificially anyway.

In order to fix the seeming paradox of holidays we have to remind ourselves that if we want to be happy we must identify what this means and work to achieve it. We must question our premises and challenge our most basic assumptions – “why?” must become our credo. We must reclaim the words that have been stolen and perverted. We have to overcome the privation left to us by the betrayal of our philosophic forefathers and seek guidance from ourselves.

In order to live a moral life we must learn that Egoism is the path to Happiness: our lives are our responsibility and if we want to be happy we must concern ourselves with our own interests. We must be self-reliant and never ask another to sacrifice for us and never sacrifice ourselves for another.

In order to live a moral life we must throw off the chains of Altruism. All of our actions either further our life or diminish it – there are no other choices. If we want to live and be happy, we must recognize that Altruism is decadence. Self-sacrifice is clearly decadent; it asks us to renounce our judgment and our life. Duty demands that we purposefully act decadently; it asks us to willing and jovially relinquish our lives. Do you now see the monstrosity of Altruism, lauded as the supposed salvation of man? Sure, it can save us – from life.

There are so many ways in which we can take our lives back from the black pit of death; the most important is to merely recognize the nature of the struggle and what’s at stake. After this, all we need to do is recognize small changes we can make in our lives – such as with holidays.

Reclaiming holidays would require no more than for all of us to sever them from their religious basis and celebrate the values in our lives. Instead of sacrificing ourselves at the holidays, let us instead celebrate them with the people we love and want to see. Instead of getting gifts for everyone, let us get them for those we value. Let us turn holidays back into celebrations of life.

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