“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.” Mr. Spock, The Wrath of Khan
This has been a conundrum I’ve wrestled with more or less endlessly over my life. I’ve come to see that this has been a function of the tightknit rural community I was raised in, and luckily, my desires were never too far out of the norm that I was never forced to completely rebel in order to be who I am. I’m considered odd, but not outre.
But weighing my needs and desires against the needs of the group has weighed more heavily on me, with my background, than perhaps it does with the average Westerner. After all, we have an individualistic ideal, a hedonistic approach to life, and strive towards self-actualization. To contrast this, recall that many modern cultures, and the cultures from which we ourselves descend have an iron-clad conception of duty and honour above all — personal fulfillment and happiness were not a consideration if they conflicted with the overarching pattern of things.
It seemed to me to be and unsolvable paradox, until I realized that I talk about these paradoxes all the time in my client sessions—– and there aren’t any unsolvable paradoxes. They simply require a shift in perspective.
And I realized that I had too broadly interpreted the phrase. The needs of the many. Typically, when we talk about needs these days, we’re referring to emotional fulfillment. Basic needs like food, shelter, safety and respect are considered a given, and therefore often excluded from consideration.
But that’s exactly what we need to consider.
Too often, we attempt to make people responsible for our needs: It makes me insecure when she flirts. If we don’t hold hand in public, he doesn’t really love me. My boss is a prick and I hate my job because of her.
So it’s pretty easy to extend the concept to: well, if I leave my marriage/become a vagabond/choose to die, it might make me happy but all these other people will be adversely affected. The needs of the many, and all that.
It can be sticky, no question. But often, I found that all my inaction did was insulate others from reality; from chaos, change, tumult, and the potential of pain.
I would rather suffer myself than potentially cause others pain.
Which is kind of dumb. You are not responsible for the reactions of others. You’re not responsible for their happiness, their complacence, or their contentment. Spock didn’t mention any of that.
As a human being, you’re responsible for their NEEDS. It’s not worthy of you to act in such a way that deprives other human beings of food, shelter, or self-respect. Everything else is fair game.
Now. What kind of ideas does that give you?