Shut Up About the Shutdown
Two coworkers discuss the nature of self-interest over coffee.
A greasy spoon served as the meeting place for two coworkers for the National Flight Administration. The waitstaff seemed to move with a renewed nimbleness. Two black men, Oscar Dysinger and Pablo Etuk, nursed their cups of coffee.
“I don’t care, but you should care about the starving children in Africa. The majority of that continent is corrupt. Government shutdowns would be a boon over there. But no, you want to bitch and whine about how you’re not getting your check while at the same time dropping to your knees and offering up words to thin air,” Dysinger said.
Etuk grinned. “It’s not like that. I have to pay for braces, contacts, sports teams, and more for my kids. Isn’t that selfish enough?”
“Yes, as a matter of a fact it is. But you don’t believe it. You feel that you should be aiding the indigent along with your family as a duty to some mystical, supernatural power. I intend to defer payments, spend less, hell, this coffee is only two dollars.” Dysinger lifted the mug as an ironic toast.
“I’m trying to be selfish, but it’s hard work.”
“You’re goddamn right it’s hard work. But even more, it’s smart work. It takes every ounce of thinking and doing to live a life-loving, completely self-interested life. You have to find what are your true values, find out how to to obtain them, then find out how to keep them. It’s an ongoing process of how to best think for yourself.”
A waitress came by the table. Abby projected on her name tag.
“Could I get you gentlemen anything else?”
“I’ll try the cherry pie,” Dysinger said.
“That’ll be right up. Anything for you, sir?”
Etuk waved his hand, “No.”
“Thank you, darling,” Dysinger said.
“Well, look at Mr. Joe Got Rocks.”
“I’ve been saving. I said that this coffee wasn’t much and this pie isn’t going to much either.”
“Oh, okay,” Etuk said, incredulously.
“No, this shutdown is great. It puts things into perspective. It reveals that people have the ability to be selfish. It’s their position, their money, their role in taking care of their own lives.”
“But that’s not selfish. That’s just being mindful.”
“It’s rational self-interest. It permits people to see what it’s like when they’re without the means to take care of themselves and their values. The best way to illustrate it is if the shutdown had not occurred, there would still be grumbling about wages being higher and for better conditions at some of the government work environments. People, like you, won’t call it selfishness, but that’s exactly what it is.”
“So, you mean sending money to help the needy is immoral or evil?”
“It’s not evil or immoral if it is what an individual wants to do. If it is not a sacrifice to them to help others, then it is okay.” Dysinger took a sip of his coffee.
“I sort of see what you’re saying,” said Etuk. “The shutdown hits and all of a sudden people are worried about their own wages and benefits being cut. Why weren’t they concerned with the man with the ‘why lie? I need a beer’ sign just a few weeks ago? Now that something has befallen them, they’ve definitely forgotten about him altogether and pursued their own selfish greed.”
“I just want to make clear.” Abby came to the table with the pie. “Thank you, darling,” Dysinger said.
“You can let me know if you need anything else.”
Dysinger said, “How about that phone number?”
“You’re a mess!” Abby said smiling and walked towards the kitchen.
“Anyways, I’m saying that selfish greed is the root of all good. People thinking and acting to promote their own lives is a beautiful display.”
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”
“You don’t have to wrap a damned thing. It’s the truth.”
“Does it have to be so brutal?”
“What, the truth? It’s never brutal. Lies are for and made by brutes. Selfishness is reliant on the individual to always be honest and have integrity. Do you see?”
“Yes, I think.”
“That’s the first step: Thinking.” Dysinger took a bite of the pie and sipped the coffee.