Emad's Blog (Under Renovation)

Monday, November 13, 2006

On a certain hard shoulder in a beautifully landscaped Lahore suburb, as I stood next to my overheated car staring cluelessly under the hood, I wasn't thinking about the radiator or how I was going to get home. My mind was still processing the overpowering experience I had had a couple of hours earlier.

AIESEC Lahore had put together a learning event: a few hours at the SOS Children's Village. Those few hours of playing with kids who had not been as lucky as to experience the protection of a normal household was extremely humbling for everyone who was able to make it. I was surprised beyond anything else to have been the person that I was all day. Not being particularly fond of children, this peculiar environment had me react in a cautious, yet comfortable manner. At the end, while everyone sat in the van and cheered in the euphoria that described their feelings for the day, it was too unsettling for me. At the debrief after, everyone got a chance to share their experience.

Now standing next to the steaming hot machine, I began to wonder about the day. So a number of young people had been engaged in a rare display of selflessness. But really.. is our involvement in such things actually selfless? Listening to myself and my friends after the session, the words "I feel lucky..", "We make such a difference..", "Those children gave us so much to think about..", "We should do this again..", as so on, it still feels like there is too much 'I', 'We' and 'Us' in there. I can't help but wonder if every such act, at some fundamental level, is yet another opportunity for us to be 'satisfied' with ourselves. While we're not busy thinking about our careers, our studies, our finances, we're still trying to find happiness and learning for our own selves.

It might be unfair and reductionism to boil down charity to a selfish motive.. but makes one question the virtue of so many things..

Glad I have a blog to think that aloud.


  • There was a "Criminal Intent" episode (I think that was the show) on this very topic...you just reminded me of it. I actually agree with you, in many or most cases, it's not an act of selfishness behind being charitative, or altruist. It's just another way to make us feel better of ourselves. Sad, isn't it?

    But let's stay positive and believe that real selfless people exist as well :)

    By Blogger Carissa )i(, At 13/11/06 04:32  

  • emad, you've touched upon a very powerful note here, although you might not know it.

    i offer you an alternative reality.

    in my opinion, 'man' is essentially selfish and the desire to do 'good' (allow me the generic terms) and provide happiness to another individual or group is actually only a means of gaining happiness for oneself.

    you said that. my addition is...SO?

    I have for many years propounded to friends and family that the only reason why i make and build strong relationships is because people I love make me happy, they give me reasons to live and laugh out loud and so on and so forth. my presence to them might be a point of joy and there is no altruistic tendency required.

    if at the end of the day, the kids at the ngo you met were happy and content with 20 odd aiesecers meeting them, arent the 'ends' still met and the means to achieving them a positive result for all?

    disagreeing with carissa I'm looking at all this in perspective. if man is going to make great gains, change society from its current hate-ridden and irresponsible state, then it needs to get intelligent and understand what will make the most sense to his state of happiness in the most sustainable manner. if thinking selfishly of his grandchildren's health and existence 50 years down the line will ensure the global adoption of carbon credits for eg.., it works for me.

    it's about being selfish - but in a smart way....

    this is now officially the longest comment in the history of blogging:), lets talk about this more sometime, in case I've confused you:)

    By Blogger chitgo, At 13/11/06 09:22  

  • dude and your car had to give way sometime! get the damn thing serviced!

    By Blogger chitgo, At 13/11/06 09:24  

  • Thatd the problem I've always had with 'public displays of charity'. Charity is supposed to be private and selfless, whether its volunteer work or donations. But our egoes are a powerful thing - which is why 'giving back to society' makes people much more aware of how they stand on the social ladder. Though at the end of the day, its impossible to discount everyone's motives.

    sad to hear about the car. get it washed too before it gets defaced again =P

    By Blogger saba, At 13/11/06 11:44  

  • he posts again! *and it's not about sugar this time*
    yep, you're right - there's no such thing as self-less acts...we only do things because they make *us* feel good...which thus makes them selfish. but, if something that makes us feel good also makes another person feel good, that's 1+1...and thus, a good thing. but selfish nonetheless...

    By Blogger nida, At 20/11/06 10:54  

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