I had an interesting conversation today regarding self-interest versus national interest. I agreed with the argument that popular and national issues do not affect many Americans on an everyday basis, yet those same Americans focus on and become emotionally invested in these causes. In short, a person who does not feel affected by immigrants or the economy will still buy into these as factors directly linked to self-interest. Some one(s) or something(s) has succeeded in framing the debate.
This experience moved me to realize that I too conflate national and self-interest, partly because I lose myself thinking about the "whole" or dwelling upon what makes a group strong. The truth of the matter is, I would rather be more self-interested, and the issues that affect me on a daily basis are gender oppression and religious tyranny. I realize that, if it were not for my blog, I would lose sight of these given the bombardment of issues I face reading the news, working on the hill, and taking Political Science courses. Ah, the days of pure academia where I could ponder theory and conceptual frameworks all day.
Don't get me wrong--as I become older, the issues that directly affect my self-interest will change, especially as I will join the workforce and become financially independent after law school. And I would never ignore the needs of humanity as a whole--but the truth remains, I need to prioritize what affects me the most.
There are definitely classist dimensions to my frame of thought. Clearly, job availability, gas prices, and school tuition are not at the top of my list. I have the luxury to spend my free time worrying (among other things) about how independent thinking is squashed by compulsory monotheistic dogma, how small children are emotionally abused by religious indoctrination...don't even get me started on gender, sexuality, and "nature v nurture". But these are still my issues, and I will not lose focus amidst a national debate.
I could see another concern that encouraging self-interest as opposed to public/national interest may ignore certain classes or groups of people. However, I would never become apathetic, would certainly never live under a rock and ignore the discussion, nor would I stop caring about the human family.
I am simply reminding myself and all of my readers that the public world will push issues that likely don't even affect you, and you should not forget about the ones that do.