Rebirth of Reason


The New Face of Human Selfishness
by George W. Cordero

Image: Carlee 

This year’s 2005 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show winner was ‘Carlee,’ a female German Short-Haired Pointer. With each passing year the annual Westminster competition becomes ever more popular. This year’s show set a record in attendance, and for the first time in the show's history, sold out every seat in Madison Square Garden. The coverage of the event was immense, and this event sparked an unusually high number of editorials and letters to the editor in our major newspapers.

These editorials and letters, however, were not directly related to the dog show itself, but to the morality of people who spend large sums of money for the care and ‘pampering’ of their pets. Reading the Opinion section of my local newspaper revealed a startlingly high number of people who were outraged and disgusted by people (actually their outrage was just for those spoiled rich people of the west, especially Americans) who spent so much money on dogs while so many human beings in the world were suffering. The implication was loud and clear: these people are greedy, self-centered, callous to human suffering, and have an immoral set of priorities.

But it gets even worse than that. Many of the letters to the editor I read implied that pampering dog-owners must be suffering from some sort of ‘psychological’ dysfunction. Their actions were often described as the act of an obsessive and disconnected personality. And more than a few people commented that this was the natural by-product of a self-indulgent ‘consumer’ society, one that has lost its compassion and ignores its moral responsibilities to the world. So there you have it-the twin evils of selfish individualism and capitalism have struck again; their poster child is a German Short-Haired Pointer!

You know, every time I think I have seen every possible angle covered for the purpose of making me feel guilty, they always seem to find a new and ever more ridiculous one. It’s bad enough that everything I enjoy, from my sports car to my art collection, is an expression of my heartless selfishness; but now my dog ends up being another flaw in my moral character. Is nothing sacred?!

The detractors will say that they are only referring to the ‘dog nuts’ who buy them cloths and thousand dollar beds, not people like me. But you know what? I don’t believe them. Implicit in their condemnation of these people is a condemnation of something much deeper than dog cloths and beds: it’s my selfish pursuit of joy itself that is being condemned. My, and our capitalist society's, lack of the proper altruist ethic is the real issue here, not dogs.

These people really do believe that life is ‘one giant hospital’ and that each of us must be our ‘brother's keeper.’ To default on my voluntary turn at bedpan duty is to default on my humanity. They try to press the face of some half-starved child into my conscience and scream, "How dare you live your life as your own in the face of this?!" They count the dead from cultures that accept the morality of sacrifice, and transfer the blame onto a person whose culture is of individual happiness.

Sure, there are many types of financial expenditures that I find frivolous or even absurd, but this does not lead me to break out into a paroxysm of rage. Their rage is not against my frivolity, but against my ability to be frivolous in the first place. It is not against the absurdities of my choices, but against the personal success that made the choices possible. Theirs is the barely concealed voice of envy.

Whenever I hear a person expound on the ridiculous salaries of professional athletes compared to public school teachers, I can hear that voice. Whenever I hear a person decry the lack of compassion of our nation towards the third world, I can hear that voice. And now, if I own 3 or 4 dogs instead of adopting a child from some socialist cesspool, that voice will condemn me as well.

All I can say is, the hell with them all! Keep your dog-gone hands off my life!

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