I have found out that my appeal to anyone who wanted to give me birthday presents to give to the pandas has paid off, to the tune of $450 for the National, San Diego, Memphis, and Atlanta zoos! I also have a Paku doll from Japan (looks like a cross between a panda and a PacMan), courtesy of my brother. L'Ailee says she's surprising me tomorrow, which is my actual birthday.
I have to admit that I had a very selfish impulse--"Wow, if I had told everybody to give Target gift cards, that would have helped a *lot*." I had to mentally slap myself for that one.
But the thing is, my call to give to pandas wasn't at all "selfless", to borrow the complimentary word given to me by several readers. The thing is, I love pandas. I think they're cute and funny (their personalities remind me of cats; no wonder they're called "cat-bear" in China!). They're pretty, too, with that graphic black and white coloring and those cheeks that get stained pink. I want to keep seeing them in zoos and on cams. Hell, I'm hoping I can get my family and friends to help me with funds for my trip to the Wolong reserve in China next. :-)
But the difference between the Target card thought and the panda thought is that the latter ended up helping others a bit. It helps the zoos keep pandas and other animals. It helps with conservation efforts. It helps keep those winsome ambassadors for all endangered critters in the public eye, where they need to be. It is an enlightened kind of selfishness, in that I help others along with myself.
Yesterday I was accused of being selfish in my motivations for wanting same-sex marriage. I've been accused of that before. A straight person who is "traditionally" married says they want to "preserve traditional marriage", and yet I'm selfish for wanting to be married to the woman I love. Okay. I think it's massively selfish, in an extremely unenlightened way, to expect other people to accept less than the best for themselves just because they don't live their life to your exact specs.
I freely own my self-interest. I love another woman. I want the legal and social status of marriage. I want the federal and state benefits. I want us to be considered married in every state--in New Jersey when I go surfing, if I have an accident, in upstate New York when L'Ailee goes to rescue bats (which she loves as much as I love pandas) if one bites her, knock on wood. I don't want unnecessary layers of difficulties larding over my life and that of the woman I love. Boil me in oil, why don't you.
L'Ailee called bullshit on me a couple weeks ago. I saw a couple of 15-year-old girls giggling and holding hands and walking close on the sidewalk. "That's what we work for, ain't it?" I asked rhetorically.
"Of course not," she replied. "We work for ourselves. But it would be nice for them to benefit, too." I grinned at her and kissed her right then and there, just because she was so correct and so bracingly blunt. That's one of the things I love about her--she is not just a breath of fresh air, she is a cobweb-clearing gust!
I sometimes think of the antis who accuse us of selfishness as acting the way my brother did when we were kids and he wanted me to give him something. He wasn't "selfish" for wanting a soda from my 12-pack or a dollar; I was "selfish" for not wanting to give it to him. The thing is, he grew out of that crap. It's harder to forgive when it's people in their fifties, sixties, and seventies talking like that and trying to keep all the goodies for themselves.
I am a Libertarian who double-majored in marketing and sociology. People laughed at that in college; sometimes they still do. How can a Libertarian, who values the individual, be concerned with sociology, the psychology of groups? My answer is very simple--individuals are the cell of a society. If we want a happy society, we need to maximize the available opportunities for individuals to be happy, so long as they are not interfering with the rights of others. This cell intends to keep on doing her bit.