Altruism: The Heart of Humanism

Altruism: The Heart of Humanism

Altruism is rooted in a powerful but endearing four-letter word called “love.” Love as a word and trait have been severely over flogged and abused by the instant gratification tendencies of the modern man. To some, love is affection towards the opposite gender or a way of meeting one’s sexual desires. To another, love is just a natural effect of admiration of beauty, body physique, or wealth.

While others may see love as a symbolic representation of kisses and hugs or a vivid appreciation of teases and grins, undoubtedly, what many feeds off as love are but their twisted desires and longings – often a one-sided reward.

Love is a ‘je ne sais quoi’ that mere words cannot paint clearly. Biblically, the perfect and acceptable explanation of love as written in Galatians goes thus: Love is kind, patient, sacrificial, unbiased, enduring, etc. There is no way you can feel concerned for others (altruism) if you do not love them. In a nutshell, love entails altruism – a sincere love and tranquillity for man and nature.

An Unheard Story on Altruism: The Heart of Humanism

Sometimes ago, there was a trending story of a man named Musa all over the internet. Usman Musa came from an undeveloped community. He worked as a gateman under Mr. Verghese, his boss. Having worked diligently for 25 years under him, Mr. Verghese saw the quality of honesty in him and offered to build him a house in his village. “No condition is permanent. Alas! His situation turns around”, just as anybody would have thought. But the case was a reversal.

Musa did the unthinkable and the memorable. Instead of grabbing the offer of a house and thanking God for his good fortune, Musa asked his boss to sink a borehole for people in his community because there is no source of good drinking water. Unarguably, the story of Musa exemplifies a perfect yardstick of what altruism truly means and, of course, forms the basis of humanism.

He sets aside his problem, comfort, and went for solving the problem and providing support for his community. Such a sense of altruism is rare, especially among the deprived, lowly educated, and poorly paid. These make Musa an exponent of altruism and a merchant of selflessness.

‘Altruism’ Is a concept in philosophy developed by a French philosopher, Auguste Comte. It originates from the French word “autrui,” meaning “other people”, Merriam Webster Dictionary submits that altruism is “a feeling and behavior that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness.”

Altruism: The Heart of Humanism

Also, altruism is acting out of concern for another’s well-being – doing something without expecting anything in return. Altruism, therefore, is innate, since, by definition, it requires people to disregard their concerns to help others without any expectation of reward.

With no iota of doubt, the heart of a humanist is full of altruism. Jeremy Bentham, though not a humanist, affirms this in one of his quotes: “The highest good is to ensure the happiness of others.” The concept of “others” simply refers to human beings or humanity.

The community we live in makeup humanity and whosoever has regard for other human beings is known as a humanist. Humanism, according to Humanists International is “a democratic and ethical life stance which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities”. 

The aim of humanism according to the American Humanists Association is “to create a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good”. This is the explanation of the humanist’s social passion.

He believes, to have a humane society truly established, we must share a mind of responsibility and have a shared sense of belonging to the development and growth of our community. Humanists, therefore, demand a shared life in a shared world.

Furthermore, one of the scintillating remarks I have ever read is that of Bette Chambers, former president of the American Humanist Association. He said, “Humanism is the light of my life and the fire in my soul. It is the deep-felt conviction, in every fiber of my being that human love is a power far transcending the relentless, onward rush of our largely deterministic cosmos.

All human life must seek a reason for existence within the bounds of an uncaring physical world, and it is love coupled with empathy, democracy, and a commitment to selfless service which undergirds the faith of a humanist”. Humanism is a product of altruism! Before being a humanist, one must have successfully render selfless service to fellow human beings. Altruism is an umbrella that humanists use to safeguard humanity.

In discourse, Martin Luther King Jr. said that “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness.” As humans, we have the power to decide how we want to live our lives, but only the decision of good choices will help make human life better, and the world becomes a more serene place to live.

Being an altruist is a choice and one sure way to grow and develop oneself while serving others. An altruist acts generously to others without expecting any benefits in return. This may seem difficult, but quite easy if you have love coupled with empathy and compassion.

You could be an altruist – the world awaits your entry!

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Fagbohun Joel is a creative writer, a poet, an essayist and a campus journalist. He is a penultimate student of English and Literary Studies in Tai Solarin University of Education.

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