Harnessing Altruism ISBN: 9780473382957, ABSeeS (New Zealand) Publisher, an e-book by Sava Buncic.
The book opens with an Epigraph paraphrasing French philosopher Auguste Comte’s definition of altruism as an “ethical doctrine based on a belief that the moral value of an individual’s actions is defined primarily by how they affect other people, and the consequences on the individual are secondary to that. Accordingly, the regulative supremacy of social sympathy over the selfish instincts is the first and foremost aspect of morality.” Immediately following is a description from British ethologist Richard Dawkins describing selfishness as “something all individuals are born with, because they are merely survival machines directed and used by the selfish molecules known as genes for their own preservation.” Thus he continues “This implies that inherently, altruism is an unstable system open to abuse, because selfish individuals are ready to exploit it.” The author’s preface follows with a questioning of Earth’s pathway with global warming, depletion of its resources and endless overpopulation rampant while most peoples’ thoughts of results are too “gloomy, bleak, scary, painful’ to face.” “We ignore visible signs that our current hedonism is not only self-serving so ethically questionable, but clearly biologically unsustainable, globally and in the long term.” The story itself opens as a gathering of leaders of the world’s nations is in progress to attempt to devise a credibly workable solution when it finally is discovered that only enough resources remain to support one-fifth of its total population. Their action is to establish the “World Organization for Resource Management (WORM)” with the largest and most productive nation as principal management. There follows a ‘worst scenario’ plot as the plan moves through its early stages into ensuing years as even the imposed measures begin to be insufficient. Then, as verbalized by one of the ‘important class’ to inform one of lesser status that it is very sad but to save civilization individual values such as morals, ethics, empathy, altruism must be sacrificed. Instead “…altruism must be looked at from mankind’s perspective…Yes, that’s the highest altruism. Altruism means not only that the stronger help the weaker to survive, altruism also means that the weaker don’t prevent the survival of the whole. What’s for the good of mankind is above the good for individuals.” “To protect our civilization, it’s necessary for some people to endure a much tougher fate than others, because those others – they’re crucial for the overall outcome”. The story continues to describe and present these ‘required’ activities for mankind to continue its existence and the enormous disparities that exist.
Discussion: This is a plot-driven story with little character development per se. The main protagonist is Ed, apparently the only surviving member of one of the smaller country’s Prime Ministers who was an early sacrifice to the initial scramble to establish control and a typical example of some of the baser actions of which mankind is capable. In spite of little character development, Ed does generate a certain amount of empathy, as does Naomi his ‘soul mate’. The author’s style of presentation requires a little ‘getting accustomed to’ and there often are sizeable time gaps where ‘probable activity’ must be deduced by the reader. Generally, the tale provides a grim picture that definitely is NOT for the reader looking for entertainment. However, for the reader who is concerned with global warming and other aspects of Earth’s problems, or even those who simply enjoy dystopian tales, this one’s for you – once you are able to adjust to the problems mentioned.
Conclusion: A dystopian slanted tale presented in a realistically harsh manner that should be enjoyed if this is within your sphere of interest and you can adjust to the features mentioned. For others, a depressing read.
3* 4* Dystopian slanted tale for readers concerned with Earth’s future; 2* for hiccups.