The Price of Selfishness


Images by kalhh and Chris Angelin from Pixabay


What with the Presidential election splitting America down the middle, France being torn apart by terrorist acts and COVID epidemic rolling into its second wave, there’s a lot of trouble going around. And you don’t have to stretch very far to realize that all of the above stem from the same human flaw: selfishness.


Okay, that one’s a no-brainer. First cause: people congregating when they shouldn’t, because “It’ll never happen to me.” This ranges from an innocent “Grandma hasn’t seen the kids for six months,” to the idiots that see a limit of 50 people on gatherings, so they have three sequential parties of 50 people each. The second cause pretends to be doctrinal: people refusing to take proper precautions because it threatens their right to be completely and utterly selfish. The third cause: commercial, which ranges from the understandable, “If I don’t open the store, my business will go bust,” to the utterly selfish of “Gotta keep that stock market going up.”

Looking at the general personalities of nations to explain their problems is a bit more complicated than a simple pandemic.


The American problem starts back in their history. The original American Dream of everyone being successful, which sounds like such a good idea, has morphed into a me-first ethic that emphasizes success and forgets about the cooperative society that enables you to get there.

The personality characteristic that typifies many Americans is tribalism. Diplomatically speaking, America has spent most of its history in isolation. Socially, the main divide has always been black-white, which has evolved into black-coloured. Nobody talks about the Afro-Hispanic interaction, so we don’t know much about that. Common enemy would be my guess for the main factor there. Rich-poor overshadows all of it.

But Americans live for divisions: sports teams, social classes and, of course, political parties. Vast numbers of them have never been outside their country, many not outside their state. There is so much brouhaha about the Republican-Democrat split, it doesn’t seem there are any independents left. Perhaps on Tuesday we will find out how many of them exist. But whatever happens, America will continue to have serious social problems, because social, racial, and commercial divisions are part of the national psyche.


Everybody knows about the US. They shout their problems all over the world. France’s similar problems are probably lesser known.

Full disclosure: my wife and I are Francophiles. We go to France every time we can afford it. In 1993 we took our kids out of French school in Canada and put them in school in France for six months. But while we love the country and its people, we are also well aware of its problems.

It’s rather strange, because France was born in revolution, just like the US. But the most lasting effect from the French Revolution was a “Libertée for me” attitude in the population, and the Napoleonic code, one of the most repressive bureaucratic systems operating in the world right now. “Egalitée et Fraternitée” went out the window. Ever since Robespierre was chopping off people’s heads for disagreeing with him, the French ethos has been to subject the liberty of the individual to the needs of the state. Set this up against the revolutionary spirit of the people, and you have a highly divisive attitude. How does this manifest itself? In the culture.

Believe it, most French live some of the most desirable lives in the world. Their food, their entertainment, their food, their art, their health system and did I mention their food? It’s probably not good for the ego of the French people that everyone agrees with this precept. Because the downside of that pride is that they reject every other culture that doesn’t match up.

When we lived in France, we were generally accepted. Our best line: “We came to France so our boys could learn to speak French properly.” “Bien sur,” smiles and acceptance every time. “Of course.”

But the other aspect of French history that affects what’s happening now was the Algerian War of Independence. Like Viet Nam, it had been a rather nasty war, and when the French gave up and pulled out, they had a whole lot of Algerian supporters who faced imprisonment and death from the new regime.

So they allowed 90, 000 of to come to France, to join the hundreds of thousands who had already immigrated since WWII to provide cheap labour for French industry.

And the people of France had no thought of bending their perfect culture to fit all those foreigners. Like the British in North America, the only path to acceptance was to completely reject the old life and blend in with the culture of the Superior Race.

Which the Algerians didn’t. Lacking the money or support to spread out among the population, the Arab people became ghettoized, and they remain so to this day. It is said that to succeed in guerilla warfare you need the support of 10% of the population. I’m sure there are many square blocks of Paris, Lyon, and Marseilles where far more than 10% of the population are of Arab background, and very upset at the way life in France is treating them.

So, like United States, France is split along cultural, racial, and economic lines. The only difference is that the main French culture is still unapologetically French, so the extremist terrorists are Arabs. American society has liberalized, and the po’ white trash are the ones who see their way of life threatened. So their terrorists are white supremacists.

The Bottom Line

This is, of course, a simplification, because France has a radical right, and Afro-Americans have their own radicals. But both these groups tend to look to politics the push their agendas. The main cause of it all is the whole society’s unwillingness to cooperate and adapt to live with their neighbours.

If you want real political entertainment, wait for France to elect an Arabic president.

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