Psychological Self-Help

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times of trouble. So far as we know, every one of us could become the
family helper or, in the right circumstances, become a hero saving
lives, helping the poor, insisting that all children be fed, treated, and
educated. However, there is no scientific prescription for goodness yet;
you have to find your own way. It is vitally important. The world needs
more good people. Maybe the suggestions in this chapter will help you
find a way that appeals to you. 
As humans, we seem to have no basic overriding genetic nature;
we seem capable of being good or evil; our unique life experiences
seem to draw us in one direction or another. Our moral "decisions" are
not a single, simple choice made once and forever, but rather a life-
long, continuing, complex, poorly understood by others, and an almost
unconscious process. There are so many ways of being good and going
astray, so many reasons for behaving each possible way, and so many
excuses, denials, or rationalizations that confuse the issues. All these
factors make the future for each of us uncertain; we all face the
temptations of being bad as well as good. 
Cultures, families, and friends seem to influence our morals
significantly, but these factors change from time to time. For instance,
it has become popular in some sub-cultures to think that you are
foolish or naive if you don't lie and cheat, when you can probably get
away with it. In college today, in contrast to 50 years ago or in a
Honor System, relatively few students would turn in a fellow student
for cheating. The student culture, in this sense, has become tolerant of
cheating. Yet, lots of people still believe differently. We have the Moral
Right and other religious groups who call for the old morals. Robert
Frank (1988) says that following the morals of great philosophers and
religions--honesty, devotion, commitment, self-sacrifice, empathy, and
love--(and not the modern notion that humans are always self-
serving) will lead to a better world and to greater personal gain as a
trusted, respected, sought-after person. In short, he says it pays for
each individual to be moral. 
The world seemed to be conducting a moral experiment for a
while, i.e. competition between two political-moral views: capitalism,
a competition, self-oriented, materialistic, live-and-let-live set of
values vs. communism, a cooperative, others-oriented, moralistic,
care-for-others philosophy. Unfortunately, there were too many
uncontrolled variables, so no conclusions could be drawn (although we
certainly tried to persuade ourselves that "we won"). Too bad we
scientists and our governments aren't doing a better job of honestly
assessing the benefits and liabilities of different moral-political-
economic approaches. Again, you'll have to do the "research" yourself.
Maybe the advocates on both sides don't want to know the facts but
just want to put out their propaganda. Certainly, the overall advantage
of one view over the other is not obvious: giving and caring for others
are commendable acts but competition, independence, and greed are
powerful motivations which could benefit us all. You see, the world
doesn't even know, yet, which values and motives would benefit the
people the most. 
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