Richard Bach’s World Without Trust

I recently encountered a quote from Richard Bach, the pop philosopher/author who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, that bothered me. The context isn’t important, but it was cited with approval as enduring wisdom by the quoter. The statement:

“Anybody who’s ever mattered, anybody who’s ever been happy, anybody who’s ever given any gift to the world has been a divinely selfish soul, living for his own best interest, no exceptions.”

I can see why this quote might be popular, unlike his career-making best seller, which I threw against the wall after eight pages. It provides the perfect rationalization for selfishness and unethical conduct for people who don’t have the patience to read Nietzsche or the stomach for Ayn Rand. As a whole, it is nothing but a repackaging of “everybody does it,” but with a devilish seductive twist: everybody who’s smart, talented and successful does it. Wow. Translation: if you are divinely selfish, it means you might be one of the people who “matter.”

Who are the people who don’t matter? Why, all the people you screw along your way to happiness, that’s who.

The quote thus sets up an insidious class system: the people who give something to the world by caring only about themselves, and the useless, plodding saps who hold themselves back and don’t carry their weight because they impede their productivity with such trivia as caring, fairness, kindness, and trust. This is manna from heaven for all the cheaters, liars and  exploiters in our midst. Roman Polanski, Charlie Rangel, Bernie Madoff and Barry Bonds can cite it to show that they are simply carrying on the grand tradition of Richard Wagner, Thomas Jefferson, John D. Rockefeller and Babe Ruth. Life is like this! Extraordinary people don’t have to play by the rules, and if you make them, everybody will be the poorer for it.

Of course, Bach’s quote, not to put too fine a point on it, is utter crap. It is a self-serving “Get Out of Ethics Free” card that combines “everybody does it” and  “the King’s Pass” with “the ends justify the means.” To begin with, it is absurdly exaggerated. Every happy and and significant person has been divinely selfish? No exceptions? Does anyone believe that? Unless Bach is playing word games with “selfish,” it can be disproven with 5 seconds of thought. Let’s see: actor Rick Moranis, who helped give the world the divine “SCTV” comedy show (which, I may add, has a lot more value to humanity than Jonathan Livingston Seagull), abruptly quit his career to devote full time to being a parent after his wife died. Was that devinely selfish of him?

If everyone is out for himself or herself, than nobody can or should trust anyone else. Without trust, it is just all out war, every day, everywhere. Sure: the smartest, strongest, richest, cleverest and most talented will tend to come out on top of the heap, and will accomplish more too. But they will have taken the trust out of the world, which is far, far more of a loss than anything they may have given in return.

I was thinking about the Bach quote when I read a story in the New York Times, inspired by Armando Galarraga’s lost perfect game. The theme of it, not especially original, was that we all get robbed in life. It included this anecdote:

A man walked into a Fulton Street pawn shop in Brooklyn a month ago and asked about the iPod in the window. The manager promised to hold it for him until he returned with money. Enter Abdul Malik Hakeem, 40. He asked about the same iPod and the manager said he was holding it for the first guy. “I said, ‘I’ll give you $20 more.’ Boom. Sale.” Mr. Hakeem shrugged. “I felt bad, but at the end, I still win,” he said. “That’s how life is. You gotta get around.”

There was nothing illegal done here. The pawn shop owner’s promise to the first customer isn’t an enforceable contract, because it was gratuitous: he was just being nice. Still, both the owner and the second customer, who told the story, behaved unethically. The owner’s promise was still a promise, and the principles of honestly, fairness, trustworthiness and caring require that he keep it. The second customer used money to induce someone to break a promise for his own benefit, and to harm a stranger. He shares responsibility for the broken promise.

I sympathize with the store owner; I’m sure he’s held merchandise before, only to never see the customer who promised to buy an item return. He has reason not to trust the first customer, and experience, not to mention old sayings (“A bird in the hand…”) dictated that he would have been a fool not to take the extra 20 bucks. Still, if he didn’t trust the first customer, he shouldn’t have made an unequivocal promise to hold the item. He should have said, “Listen, if someone comes in and offers me more for it, I’m going to sell it.” He didn’t, so he had an ethical obligation to reject the extra twenty dollars.

Now where are we? The storekeeper can’t be trusted by customers, because he doesn’t trust them. And the guy who bribed the storekeeper, in effect, to break his promise, says it’s worth it because he “won.”  The Golden Rule is for suckers. This is Richard Bach’s world, and he recommends it.

Don’t believe him.

29 thoughts on “Richard Bach’s World Without Trust

  1. I hate it when I write a comment and get most of the way through it and realize that I don’t fully believe what I just wrote. It’s an interesting and uncomfortable experience.

    Jack – I have to take the role of dissent – but not because I think you are wrong about what you wrote (although I don’t think the Rick Moranis example was helpful); I have to dissent because I don’t think Bach’s quote has to be mutually exclusive to Ethics.

    Take a step back and look one more time, for my sake, at how the two might overlap. Certainly there are those who epitomize this quote. Bill Gates comes to mind.

    But certainly there has to be some overlap, such as a recluse painter who created a masterpiece that hangs in a public museum.

    Or am I just being naïve?

    “Anybody who’s ever mattered, anybody who’s ever been happy, anybody who’s ever given any gift to the world has been a divinely selfish soul, living for his own best interest, no exceptions.”

  2. Tim, lots and lots and lots of people exemplify this quote. Indeed, I’d even go so far as to say that the majority of great, accomplished, ultra-successful people are selfish, tunnel-visioned SOBs, among which would be most of the U.S. Presidents, Martin Luther King, Ernest Hemingway, John Ford, Ted Williams, Clarence Darrow, Dick Van Dyke, Danny Kaye, Jerry Lewis, Groucho Marx, Johnny Carson, Mozart, Beethoven, Gen. Patton, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, Ted Turner, Bing Crosby, Andrew Carnegie…you can go on and on and on. They are especially rotten and neglectful parents, as a rule, which is why so many kids of successful people end up bitter, crazy, drunk or dead at an early age.
    (I picked Moranis—as I said, after three seconds—because he gave up what he loved and what he was good at and what he was famous for to do his duty as a parent, which, for performers who have finally made it, is rare indeed.)

    The quote argues not only that its a good trade-off for the world (begging the question of whether it is right to, for example, sacrifice the lives of your kids for the world), but that its admirable and universal.

    But it’s a provocative quote, and there’s more to argue about than I could get into 800 words. I’m glad you want to continue the discussion.

  3. Jack,
    Think of the quote what you will, but I think you do a disservice to ethical egoism by getting hung up on the word “selfish” in this context. Looking out for one’s own interest first doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be at the detriment of others. Robber Barons and more recent corporate criminals aside, there are any number of successful, (wo)men who’ve benefited society by benefiting themselves first.

    Ayn Rand, who I’d be willing to bet you dislike, was fond of pointing out that egoism, in the most classical sense, meant having a strong sense of individualism and self-worth. In fact, she argued, it was only by valuing oneself that we were able to learn the value of others. You may not agree with these principles, but I fail to see how they’re inherently unethical or “crap” just because they advocate a “me first” approach to life.

    Finally, selfish concerns don’t always manifest themselves in materialistic or greedy ways. Love, kindness, and charity can all be products of “selfishness” depending on the ways one derides pleasure. Moranis choice to be a father instead of an actor was, atleast in part, motivated by his own selfish need to protect those he loved from harm. Selfishness (ideally) helps us survive and gives us incentives to protect that which we hold most dear.

    It would be unfair of me to put words in Bach’s mouth by assuming his meaning, but I do think it’s a tad unfair to disregard outright based on an ambiguous choice of words. Selfishness can mean a lot of things and frankly not all of them are quite so bad ..

    -Neil

    • Neil: I’m reading a biography of ol’ Ayn right now.

      See my reply to Tim above. As I said in the post, if all Bach means is that everything we do is somehow intended to benefit ourselves—the “there is no such thing as an unselfish act” position—then the quote is just stating the obvious. I presume that when something is considered noteworthy enough to quote, it has some underlying point, and that when someone uses absolutes like “every” and “supremely,” chose his words carefully. Isn’t that fair? I’ll stipulate that if you substitute “many” for “every” and take out “supremely.” the quote is unobjectionable, as it states the obvious. But then it isn’t worth repeating, either.

  4. Pingback: Richard Bach's World Without Trust « Ethics Alarms « Ethics Find

  5. I’ve been on the other end of the “promise, I’ll be right back” deal. Made arrangements for the cabbie to pick me up when returning to Omaha 5 days later. It was not as though there weren’t enough cabbies waiting there to pick me up, but the ride to the airport initially was pleasant, and he seemed like a charitable fellow. Thirty minutes of waiting… no cabbie. Even though I had called him upon arrival and he said he would be there in 15 minutes. So, a bit of disillusionment, but better a cabbie who doesn’t keep his promise than a Wall Street banker who cloaks himself in sociopathic behavior without the slightest concern for his fellow man.

    Pawnbroker’s error was not to give a time limit, i.e. 60 minutes. Rules are identified, and if the first guy doesn’t show up, he sells to the second guy.

    For Bach’s quote, if you substitute “has loved himself first” for “has been a divinely selfish soul”, and remove the absolutist tone of the quote, perhaps it becomes more tenable.

  6. Pingback: About Jonathan Livingston Seagull | Broadcasting News

  7. As an example of your misinterpretation (or ignorance) of what is being said can be found here:

    You wrote: “Rick Moranis, … abruptly quit his career to devote full time to being a parent after his wife died. Was that supremely selfish of him?”

    Richard Bach did not say ‘supremely selfish’ – he said ‘devinely selfish’ – are you able to discern the difference?

    It seems that you simply don’t understand what the quote is saying.

    Everyone is motivated by selfishness – everyone – even you. Is that devinely selfish? Prove you know what you’re talking about and define “devinely selfish.”

    Thanks.

    • No, it’s an example of my carelessness: the post correctly quotes Bach three times, then somehow slips into using “supremely.” Thanks for the correction.

      Divinely means “supremely good,” and selfishness is not “good,” ergo I don’t think the distinction is especially significant and doesn’t change my view of the quote one bit. If the quote says what you claim: “Everybody is selfish,” that sentiment is so obvious as to be banal. That’s clearly not what he is saying. He is saying that selfishness is the driving motivation behind every significant accomplishment or worthwhile act. That’s absurd. But it’s pure Bach.

  8. It was not my intent to ‘correct’ you – but it does serve your readers as a glaring example of your misunderstanding. If you read ‘devine’ and interpret that as supreme – I can see how you’d get your feathers ruffled.

    I believe Richard Bach spoke clearly and well enough for himself and requires no interpretation from you.

    Indeed selfishness is the driving motivation behind every significant accomplishment or worthwhile act.

    Let’s use your Rick Moranis example:

    When he decided to quit his job to stay at home when his wife died – he did that for himself. That’s selfish. You cannot say that he did it for his child or for the memory of his wife although those could be contributing factors – the real motivating factor would be his OWN desire to do so. That’s selfish. Need proof? He had other options that would have been less selfish.

    He could have hired someone to stay at home with the child – and thus would have insured the highest quality of care.

    His actions were selfish – just like all ordinary beings are motivated by selfish means.

    If one is honest with themselves – they will – even if only in private – have to admit that their actions are always selfish.

    There are – on rare occasions – such as extreme emergencies – when a rare individual will act in the moment without thought of oneself. But this is very, very rare and short lived. I experienced such an occasion once in my life – we are truly operating outside of our ordinary way of being when this happens. and even then – if I think honestly about it – I still was prompted to act from a selfish motivation I *wanted* to help because I knew it was the right thing to do – that thought – knowing the difference between right and wrong regardless of the expense or risk to oneself is STILL selfish. In fact at that level it was “devinely selfish” (which has nothing to do whatsoever with ‘supreme’)

    There are also beings in the world who are completely and totally unselfish and act ONLY for the good of others. These are not ordinary beings.

    ~R.

  9. As I say, if you want to take the position that everyone only acts for their own best interests somehow, that’s a devinely banal thought. Bach is a banal writer and philosopher, but he was obviously trying to make a broader point.

    Moranis, to take that example, had no other option that was better for his children, but several others, including some you mention, that would have allowed him to do what he wanted to do while salving his conscience. The vast majority of successful entertainers rationalize being absentee parents, which is NOT in the child’s best interest.

    I understand the Ayn Rand-style logic very well, and its self-serving, convenient, self-congratulatory pablum for the unethically selfish. No doubt about it: selfish people accomplish a lot, and many of them give a lot to the world at the expense of others. That doesn’t make it the best way, the only way, or an ethical way. “No exceptions” in the quote is idiotic. To name but the most obvious example, a soldier who gives his life for his or her nation is making a self-less choice, a crucial one, an important one, and an ethical one.

  10. Clearly you have an issue with Richard Bach’s philosophy – perhaps even with the man himself – at least that is what is coming across to me. Ethically, it would be most honest for you to just say that be done.

    Could be that you don’t really know him (at least not well enough to get his name correctly or to quote him accurately) For the record you repeatedly accused Bach of saying “supreme” when it was in reality the term your own mind overlaid when Bach wrote “devine” which – keeping the use of the word in context was not meant to imply “goodness” (the second definition listed under the word) but was used more along the lines of the first definition in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary – and that is to say that the selfishness had perhaps a higher level than ordinary human origin. More along the lines of divinely inspired as opposed to a highly opinionated and prejudiced and relative assessment of the goodness or the badness of it.

    I do not hope to change your opinion of Bach or his philosophy. But I will call you out on your misinterpretation of the quote – which you yourself have upheld throughout this thread.

    For anyone who is taking this blog seriously – allow me to point out that Richard Bachman is the pen name that Stephen King has been known to use. His writing is fiction. As is Richard Bach’s.

    ~R.

    • I have no “problem” with Bach at all. He’s just a Sixties era free-spirit advocate of the self-absorbed life-style, using spiritual gobbledy gook to make it sound exalted. I knew plenty of people who spouted this nonsense in the Sixties; most grew out of it.

      Yup, I mistakenly used Stephen King’s pen name for books like “The Running Man”—I was afraid I would do that sooner or later. Focusing on typos is pretty much the lowest form of web debate—I’d abandon it if I were you. I’m a lousy typist, and there’s only so much time I can afford to give to replies to snide Richard Bach fans. I should have proofed it. I think you knew who I meant, though.

      It doesn’t surprise me that someone who accepts Bach’s philosophy wouldn’t take ethics seriously.

  11. You make many assumptions without any foundation.

    I never said I was a fan of Bach. Ethics requires that we support truth regardless of our own personal liking or disliking of it.

    I never said I accepted Bach’s philosophy.

    You assume that I do not take ethics seriously – but I will counter that with my own claim that you have no idea what ethics even is.

    Is it ethical to make false accusations about a man who is not there to defend himself? And continue to do so when it’s been pointed out that you misinterpreted the meaning of the quote you are misquoting and slamming?

    I pointed out your ‘typos’ – as just another example of how careless you are in your thinking.

    And please – if you want a debate – I’ll debate you after you learn what a debate is, what it means to be ethical and get yourself a good dictionary or at least bookmark the link to a good online dictionary.

    ~R.

    • 1) All you do in your style of “debate” is to make derogatory personal attacks. That is not an ethical debate technique.

      2) Ethics can be defined in many ways. Selfishness is not ethical, in my view, despite the claims of some that it is. Those who extol selfishness are living within a construct that makes productive debate impossible.

      3) I make my living teaching and writing about ethics. The fact that you may disagree with me, as is your right, does not justify the kind of sneering denigration every one of your comments has included. Civility is also an ethical value.

      4) Your own explanation of Bach’s quote made no sense, and was internally inconsistent. Those who are unselfish are “not ordinary”, but those who Bach regards as extraordinary, “without exception,” are selfish. Please.

      5) A couple of careless typos in a blog prove nothing whatsoever. I see typos in blogs with large staffs and proofreaders, every day. I see typos in the New York Times. The divine/supreme mistake was a particularly bad one, and I regret it, because it confused the discourse. The Bachman typo was obviously a mistake, and any graceful and fair reader would accept it as so.

      6) I did not make a false accusation; I interpreted the quote fairly. Criticism is not an accusation. I have heard too many people, celebrities mostly, cite this quote to justify bad behavior. Maybe they are misunderstanding the quote too—if so, Bach is still accountable for his language. His use of “divinely” is vague. His use of “no exceptions” is just plain wrong. And his quote in general is a convenient rationalization for being unethical. The fact that you think you “pointed out” that I misinterpret the quote doesn’t obligate me to agree with you, and I don’t.

      7) If you chose to be civil and conversant, you might have actually tried to make a case for Bach’s quote, and who knows? You might have changed my mind. Instead, you chose to attack me personally, concentrate on typos, accused me of some anti-Bach vendetta, and when you tried to explain your “correct” interpretation of the quote, you botched it.

      Thanks for pointing out the typos. I do need a volunteer proofreader, and would love for you to handle the job. Let me know.

  12. You make way too many unfounded assumptions – which is exactly what closed minded people do. I was not debating you – so I cannot imagine how you can even attempt to assess my debate methods.

    In this thread I was attempting to make the point that:

    You chose to overlay your own definitions and interpretations upon another’s statement – and then proceed as if it is the ONLY interpretation there is. That is prejudiced, closed minded and ignorant.

    To me that is an unethical act. I pity anyone who comes to you to learn ethics.

    I currently have over 140 vows of morality – I have also studied ancient Tibetan debate. Nothing you do here can be called ‘debate’ and while I would like to offer my services as proofreader, I will have to respectfully decline. You don’t need a proofreader anyway, you need to open your mind and carefully monitor your thoughts. No one can do that for you.

    We clearly have two separate ideas of what it means to be ethical, I would not want to be associated with you and your ways. Thanks anyway.

    • Well, I though I should ask.
      You completely misunderstand the exercise here, which is to get people to think about what is right and wrong using various ethical systems, rather than bumper-sticker nostrums like those Bach churns out. Scholarly ethicists have essentially made themselves irrelevant because they refuse to take a position, always making equivocal analysis that encourages the public perception that right and wrong is just a matter of taste. Here I take a single position, and only ask that readers use ethical criteria to challenge it. I never have said I was necessarily correct, or that mine is the only possible position. These are all complex issues. I am open-minded, but I don’t have to endure insults on the way to having my mind opened.

      I’ll look you up when I’m in Tibet.

  13. >>You completely misunderstand the exercise here, which is to get people to think about what is right and wrong using various ethical systems, rather than bumper-sticker nostrums like those Bach churns out.

    No – I see clearly the ‘exercise’ here – you jump so readily to conclusions you cannot even hold a conversation, let along a serious debate. Web-blog forum is perfect for you. You can take little or no hard evidence – make your conclusions and spout your diatribe without care or interruption.

    But please don’t call what you do ethics.

    >> Scholarly ethicists have essentially made themselves irrelevant because they refuse to take a position, always making equivocal analysis that encourages the public perception that right and wrong is just a matter of taste.

    Scholarly ethicists do not make equivocal analysis the issues themselves are equivocal – this is the point you refuse to see. When you attempt to take a single position – you are #1 closing your mind to other possibilities (not choices but actual real live other ways that things may BE) #2 you are asking others to stop thinking for themselves and trusting your judgment.

    >>Here I take a single position, and only ask that readers use ethical criteria to challenge it. I never have said I was necessarily correct, or that mine is the only possible position.

    You are not doing anyone any favors for telling them what is ethical and what is not. You are not doing anyone any service by deciding the single way to believe – there are entire governments formed around your way of thinking – this is the way dictators in communist countries control the masses. We in America have chosen NOT to let others think for us.

    >> These are all complex issues.

    Perhaps your attempt to reduce these complex issues to a manageable single position is forcing you to give up too much of we Americans value.

    >>I am open-minded, but I don’t have to endure insults on the way to having my mind opened.

    If you feel insulted maybe your mind is a little more closed than you think

    >>I’ll look you up when I’m in Tibet.

    You just cannot help yourself can you? You take a single thread and weave an entire scenario.

    If you’ve ever found that others think you’re wrong about 97% of the time – this is probably why.

    Why not trying to use that open mind you have an examine all possibilities instead of weaving those fantasy worlds of yours and trying to force-feed them down other people’s throats.

    Or you could move to a communist country where your methods are more valued.

    • I really don’t know what your problem is, but it is fascinating, like a train wreck. I like hearing from the critics who find the whole concept of taking a stand on right and wrong offensive. They are rotting the world.

      How can I be “wrong” when your approach is to present all arguable sides as valid? Sure, I could write a book on the Bach quote; it would be a waste of time and I wouldn’t want to read it, but there have been a lot of philosophical treatises examining some version of what he was trying to say.

      It is laughable to accuse me of dictating anything by simply registering an opinion in ethical terms. I’m not threatening anyone. I have no power to force my opinions on anyone, and even in my classes, I don’t lecture; I facilitate debate. Writing an opinion on an obscure blog hardly is “ramming” an opinion down anyone’s throat.

      If you are offended by every strong opinion that runs counter to yours on the web, you must be an awfully angry and busy guy.

      I do understand, however, why the ultimate crusher in a Tibetan debate would be to call your adversary a communist.

      Here, however, it’s pretty silly.

  14. back to the issue. Bach’s stmt.

    “Anybody who’s ever mattered, anybody who’s ever been happy, anybody who’s ever given any gift to the world has been a divinely selfish soul, living for his own best interest, no exceptions.”

    You view the quote as the “perfect rationalization for selfishness and unethical conduct for people”

    Assuming by the title of your blog – you feel that by making this stmt Bach is acting unethically in some way.

    I see Bach’s stmt is an observation. One made – dare I say – out of divinely ethical standards.

    Ethics is not synonymous with platitudes. Sometimes the truth makes us uncomfortable. This is how we grow in ethics and morality.

    Anyone who is concerned with the morals and ethics of humanity will be upset when presented with this truth: that humans – even the ones society perceives as great – are still motivated by selfishness.

    You clearly believe in the altruistic potential of humanity. This is a good thing. To find selfishness offensive is good, too.

    But to pretend we are not this way serves no higher good. In this respect – your attack on the messenger instead of being fueled into action by the message – is what is unethical here.

    If one is going to determine what’s in the stew – one has to stir the pot.

    If one suspects there might be things in the stew they don’t like – they are not going to know unless they stir the pot and see exactly what is in it.

    Humans are a complex ‘stew’ if you will. Richard Bach merely stirred the pot and revealed a selfish motivation even at it’s deepest levels.

    You didn’t like what his stirring revealed.

    You could have been motivated to acknowledge this lack in humanity and support efforts to correct it.

    You chose instead to read it as somehow supporting this lack in humanity and make world-wide stmts about this author’s lack of ethics and falsely accuse him of condoning the very thing he was merely pointing out.

    Making an observation is NOT the same as supporting it. Anyone skilled in debate knows this.

    But it does seem clear to me that you feel the two are synonymous.

    If we want to question the ethics of this scenario here – you tell me who acted ethically:

    Man “A” who simply makes a stmt of observation

    Or man “B” who overlays his own prejudices over the man A’s stmt and then attacks man A for what is really man B’s own lack of morality.

    YOU made this an issue of ethics. But might I remind you that sometimes being ethical means making the hard choices regardless of the popularity of it.

    in this case – Bach’s stirring the pot proceeded from the highest ethics – not a lack thereof.

    ~R.

    • R: Terrific analysis!! Why didn’t you start out with that?

      No, I don’t think opinions in themselves are unethical, unless they are intended to incite unethical action. I dislike the Bach quote, because it is popular with people (most of whom, ironically, are not, in fact, the people Bach is talking about) who use it to justify really despicable conduct—breaking commitments, neglecting family, exploiting friends—because, hey, that’s just what the great people do.

      Re-reading the piece, I was overly harsh on Bach, whom I do blame for making an otherwise valid observation using absolute terms, when I should have focused on the quote itself—which, like most quotes that have taken on a life of their own, is also construed out of context. And that isn’t Bach’s fault.

      Ethical people often come up with unethical quotes. I think this observation, because it appears to go beyond observation to an endorsement, is unethical.

      I have a personal bias in this, I know. My Dad, who was abandoned as a child by one of those divinely selfish people who never quite made as much of a splash in the world as he thought he would, had lots of opportunities (as a Harvard grad, a lawyer, and a war hero) that he turned down in order to the kind of father to his kids that his father refused to be to him. I suppose by some logical permutation you could say that he was “selfish,” but he really wasn’t; and perhaps by Bach’s definition he never gave anything to the world of value, but there are hundreds of people who would disagree. Being ethical, he taught, involved balancing and trade-offs, and often sacrifice.

      It is true, as you say, that making a statement is not the same as supporting it. I have not read very much of Bach, but what I have read would indicate that he does support this statement, and his phrasing of his quote indicates that as well. Maybe he just got carried away, and had a sloppy quote picked up and used by the wrong people. Is a writer responsible for the misuse of his words? Interesting question; certainly not as a general rule, unless you want to hold the Beatles responsible for the Manson murders.

      If he had said that most of history’s most accomplished and significant figures were intensely self-involved and flawed human beings who neglected basic human relationships, I would have no problem with that…it is undeniably true. It’s also true that the world benefits while those closest to such individuals suffer, and that’s a trade-off too. I think the statement, as worded, makes selfishness the sine qua non of genuine achievement, and I think that’s giving unethical people too much of a free pass.

      But just as there is nothing inherently unethical about Bach making an observation, though his expression of it may violate ethical principles, there is nothing unethical about my observation that the phrasing of the observation is irresponsible.

      Thanks, genuinely, for a thoughtful, enlightening and fair comment.

  15. You talk about patience and stomach? 8 pages? That is a quote out of context as it refers to perceptual limitation not screwing others over, and explicitly in all his books he says we ALL are IS, not just a few. One last thing, give 1 example of true Altruism. You would be the greatest mind in humanities history if you could give that 1 example as no one else has and at least thousands of anthropologists have tried. If you think you have one, re-read the definition of altruism and basic neurobiology.

    • If the comment means that people do what they choose to do, than it is facile and pointless. If it means that all good deeds are at the core selfish, it is just plain wrong. There are too many genuine example of altruism to begin listing—I would probably start with the Cleveland man who gave one of his kidneys to a waitress, just because she needed one and he had two. He missed work, and sought no publicity. What was in it for him, according to Bach?

  16. I think u’r being just another asshole, who thinks he’s too smart to ever have to worry abt anything!! But what u fail to see is that most other ppl live by terribly and authors such as bach provide them with a whole lotta comfort and strength….
    If u have enough time, better spend it nagging ur wife , instead of making a moutain out of hay and picking on words!
    cos we don’t give no rat’s ass abt ur opinion!

  17. Bach is good in creating quotes so is leslie charteris but when it comes to the crunch,james hadley chase is the king,’he was middle aged with a neat pot belly and immaculately dressed.The kind of square she hated.God how she hated those successful bastards with their smug know all expressions.’

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