• Welcome to the new Internet Infidels Discussion Board, formerly Talk Freethought.

Siblings and Hope

rousseau

Contributor
Joined
Jun 23, 2010
Messages
12,361
I've been married to my wife for three years now, and have been a part of her family since 2013. She has four siblings, one of which is a half-brother. Having spent so much time with her family, and their being so many children, it's been interesting watching the sibling dynamics play out over the years.

What I find even more interesting is how often greed and selfishness plays out between the set of siblings. Usually everyone's more or less supportive of each other, and in a life and death situation they'd have each other's backs, but when it comes to minor details I've seen theft, neglect, and in the worst case some pretty extreme expressions of selfishness.

My wife and I have spoken about this dynamic, and in the end concluded: if you can't even count on your brother or sister, who can you count on?

Beyond the parent/child relationship a sibling is literally the closest a human can be to us genetically. So what does it tell us that selfishness plays out even between siblings? And if siblings can barely co-operate with each other, is there hope of ever doing away with things like racism, sexism, and nationalism?

What's going on here? And how do we break through this dynamic? Is it something we can solve, or something we need to work around? And if we need to work around it, how?
 

James Brown

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2005
Messages
3,594
Location
Texas
Basic Beliefs
Agnostic Atheist
Are you by chance an only child, rousseau?

I was, and my wife has two siblings (one passed away) and I've seen the same hostile dynamic. It may be just a cliche, but I hear stories about siblings that fought like cats and dogs when growing up but as adults treat each other like best friends.

Right now my wife is having to deal with her brother concerning their father's estate, who passed away early 2020. If you think sibling struggles are bad, try throwing in a large sum of money into the mix.
 

rousseau

Contributor
Joined
Jun 23, 2010
Messages
12,361
Are you by chance an only child, rousseau?

I was, and my wife has two siblings (one passed away) and I've seen the same hostile dynamic. It may be just a cliche, but I hear stories about siblings that fought like cats and dogs when growing up but as adults treat each other like best friends.

Right now my wife is having to deal with her brother concerning their father's estate, who passed away early 2020. If you think sibling struggles are bad, try throwing in a large sum of money into the mix.

I have one brother, but haven't actually spent much of my life around him, or in any type of conflict with him. In high school he played junior hockey and billeted in another city, and has now been living in Montreal since about 2010. But the relationship we do have hasn't always been sunshine and roses.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

Traditional Atheist
Joined
Mar 19, 2001
Messages
9,220
Location
PA USA
Basic Beliefs
egalitarian
If a person doesn't expect life's flow to be honey and roses then said person will never be disappointed. If there really is a problem that needs solved or worked around it just might be the expectation that things were ever any different.

Aren't all organisms just like humans? Are humans supposed to be different from other organisms? Have any great human problems ever been addressed and solved proactively?

I certainly wish it was different, but I have no reason to expect it to ever be any different.
 

Tharmas

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2001
Messages
1,585
Location
Texas
Basic Beliefs
Pantheist
My two brothers and I managed a joint inheritance of a reasonably large estate that had several major problems, legal and physical, that held up the settlement for three to four years. We never fought or even argued much. We did what had to be done and accomplished the best possible outcome for each of us.

My late mother, on the other hand, who had a very difficult childhood, was convinced that my oldest brother and I would team up and rob the middle brother of his inheritance. But then, she would trust complete strangers to handle her financial affairs over asking her sons for an opinion.
 

rousseau

Contributor
Joined
Jun 23, 2010
Messages
12,361
My two brothers and I managed a joint inheritance of a reasonably large estate that had several major problems, legal and physical, that held up the settlement for three to four years. We never fought or even argued much. We did what had to be done and accomplished the best possible outcome for each of us.

My late mother, on the other hand, who had a very difficult childhood, was convinced that my oldest brother and I would team up and rob the middle brother of his inheritance. But then, she would trust complete strangers to handle her financial affairs over asking her sons for an opinion.

That's how I expect it to go with my brother. We're both reasonably financially secure and sensible people. And when everything is split two ways it's pretty clear cut how to divvy things up. Some of the material objects might pose a bit of a challenge, but neither of us will pull the rug out from the other.
 

untermensche

Contributor
Joined
Feb 1, 2006
Messages
24,504
Location
Here
Basic Beliefs
magic mood ring
This is a feature of spoiled pampered Americans who live in a society where being a self centered child is not discouraged.
 

rousseau

Contributor
Joined
Jun 23, 2010
Messages
12,361
If a person doesn't expect life's flow to be honey and roses then said person will never be disappointed. If there really is a problem that needs solved or worked around it just might be the expectation that things were ever any different.

Aren't all organisms just like humans? Are humans supposed to be different from other organisms? Have any great human problems ever been addressed and solved proactively?

I certainly wish it was different, but I have no reason to expect it to ever be any different.

It does present an interesting juxtaposition to the popular idea that we're all a big community, moving together. Maybe it highlights one of the foundational problems with this idea. That is, on the surface we're all love and roses, but below the surface we primarily need to think about ourselves. And sometimes we can even be blind to our own self interest. It exists in invisible and pernicious forms.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

Traditional Atheist
Joined
Mar 19, 2001
Messages
9,220
Location
PA USA
Basic Beliefs
egalitarian
If a person doesn't expect life's flow to be honey and roses then said person will never be disappointed. If there really is a problem that needs solved or worked around it just might be the expectation that things were ever any different.

Aren't all organisms just like humans? Are humans supposed to be different from other organisms? Have any great human problems ever been addressed and solved proactively?

I certainly wish it was different, but I have no reason to expect it to ever be any different.

It does present an interesting juxtaposition to the popular idea that we're all a big community, moving together. Maybe it highlights one of the foundational problems with this idea. That is, on the surface we're all love and roses, but below the surface we primarily need to think about ourselves. And sometimes we can even be blind to our own self interest. It exists in invisible and pernicious forms.
The love and roses part is simply youthful naivete'. With age, experience and a bit of reflection we see many old experiences in a new light. Reflecting on these experiences isn't negative, it's just that we have more tools and are able to see what actually happened. Lots of experiences that were comforting though somewhat perplexing as children make sense as we become adults ourselves. My MIL was famous for telling us to let the younger siblings just be kids, to stop telling them what was real and what was pretend. As I aged I began to understand her acquired disappointment with adulthood. In the big picture I think she gets it wrong because it doesn't have to be one or the other, heaven or hell, good or evil. She was never to live in the reality that exists between the extremes. She is a very religious person also. She discovered people who weren't part of her cult and can't understand their differences and reticence. Just not a bright gal it sees.
 

Tigers!

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 20, 2005
Messages
3,192
Location
On the wing waiting for a kick.
Basic Beliefs
Bible believing revelational redemptionist (Baptist)
This is a feature of spoiled pampered Americans who live in a society where being a self centered child is not discouraged.

Reminds me of what the Duke of York (formerly Edward XIII) was reputed said after his first visit to the USA.
"Ï was impressed by how readily US parents defer to their children"
 

Tigers!

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 20, 2005
Messages
3,192
Location
On the wing waiting for a kick.
Basic Beliefs
Bible believing revelational redemptionist (Baptist)
I've been married to my wife for three years now, and have been a part of her family since 2013. She has four siblings, one of which is a half-brother. Having spent so much time with her family, and their being so many children, it's been interesting watching the sibling dynamics play out over the years.

What I find even more interesting is how often greed and selfishness plays out between the set of siblings. Usually everyone's more or less supportive of each other, and in a life and death situation they'd have each other's backs, but when it comes to minor details I've seen theft, neglect, and in the worst case some pretty extreme expressions of selfishness.

My wife and I have spoken about this dynamic, and in the end concluded: if you can't even count on your brother or sister, who can you count on?

Beyond the parent/child relationship a sibling is literally the closest a human can be to us genetically. So what does it tell us that selfishness plays out even between siblings? And if siblings can barely co-operate with each other, is there hope of ever doing away with things like racism, sexism, and nationalism?

What's going on here? And how do we break through this dynamic? Is it something we can solve, or something we need to work around? And if we need to work around it, how?
Alomost makes me wonder about original sin
 

rousseau

Contributor
Joined
Jun 23, 2010
Messages
12,361
If a person doesn't expect life's flow to be honey and roses then said person will never be disappointed. If there really is a problem that needs solved or worked around it just might be the expectation that things were ever any different.

Aren't all organisms just like humans? Are humans supposed to be different from other organisms? Have any great human problems ever been addressed and solved proactively?

I certainly wish it was different, but I have no reason to expect it to ever be any different.

It does present an interesting juxtaposition to the popular idea that we're all a big community, moving together. Maybe it highlights one of the foundational problems with this idea. That is, on the surface we're all love and roses, but below the surface we primarily need to think about ourselves. And sometimes we can even be blind to our own self interest. It exists in invisible and pernicious forms.
The love and roses part is simply youthful naivete'. With age, experience and a bit of reflection we see many old experiences in a new light. Reflecting on these experiences isn't negative, it's just that we have more tools and are able to see what actually happened. Lots of experiences that were comforting though somewhat perplexing as children make sense as we become adults ourselves. My MIL was famous for telling us to let the younger siblings just be kids, to stop telling them what was real and what was pretend. As I aged I began to understand her acquired disappointment with adulthood. In the big picture I think she gets it wrong because it doesn't have to be one or the other, heaven or hell, good or evil. She was never to live in the reality that exists between the extremes. She is a very religious person also. She discovered people who weren't part of her cult and can't understand their differences and reticence. Just not a bright gal it sees.

That's a good point. My basic belief is that most of us are good people who want to be helpful, but whose goodwill is limited by survival needs and sometimes knowing what the right thing is (definitely doesn't apply to everyone). So not even really good and evil, but instead want to be good, but have to be selfish sometimes.

I think when you start from this perspective you realize that selfishness isn't always evil, but often a necessity and something people need to be given some level of space for.
 

Tigers!

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 20, 2005
Messages
3,192
Location
On the wing waiting for a kick.
Basic Beliefs
Bible believing revelational redemptionist (Baptist)
I think when you start from this perspective you realize that selfishness isn't always evil, but often a necessity and something people need to be given some level of space for.

Almost into my 7th decade on this earth and with almost 5 decades of working I have dealt with so many people. Selfishness (looking after numero uno) is so prevalent in many guises and forms of varying degrees of severity. It can appear innocuous and self-effacing. What I have learnt that selfishness is virulent and grows at a rapid rate in anyone (present company naturally included) when given the chance. If you allow selfishness a foothold it will roar into life and appear everywhere you are.

Do you have some examples of not-evil selfishness in mind or even "good" selfishness?
 

rousseau

Contributor
Joined
Jun 23, 2010
Messages
12,361
Do you have some examples of not-evil selfishness in mind or even "good" selfishness?

I think it's more a matter of how you frame self-interested behaviour, rather than it being 'good selfishness'.

As T.G.G. Moogly mentioned many people view behaviour through a black/white dichotomy of good or bad. But I believe this is often a thin veil to say your behaviour is selfish because it's not the outcome I wanted. But if you flip the script and look at the other person's perspective, the behaviour might have been imperative to their well-being on some level.

I'd grant that there is often an awareness problem, and that many of us don't get the concept of enlightened self-interest. But I think if we want to be selfless ourselves we need to recognize that other people ultimately need to hold themselves as number one priority, and that's ok. Often when we demand from others, that ironically stems from our own selfishness.
 

Tigers!

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 20, 2005
Messages
3,192
Location
On the wing waiting for a kick.
Basic Beliefs
Bible believing revelational redemptionist (Baptist)
Do you have some examples of not-evil selfishness in mind or even "good" selfishness?

I think it's more a matter of how you frame self-interested behaviour, rather than it being 'good selfishness'.

As T.G.G. Moogly mentioned many people view behaviour through a black/white dichotomy of good or bad. But I believe this is often a thin veil to say your behaviour is selfish because it's not the outcome I wanted. But if you flip the script and look at the other person's perspective, the behaviour might have been imperative to their well-being on some level.

I'd grant that there is often an awareness problem, and that many of us don't get the concept of enlightened self-interest. But I think if we want to be selfless ourselves we need to recognize that other people ultimately need to hold themselves as number one priority, and that's ok. Often when we demand from others, that ironically stems from our own selfishness.

Yes the nuances of awareness and "greyness" can make it vey difficult to distinguish between selfishness and selflessness. I have found though if your current behaviour makes you feel uneasy then perhaps there is a reason for that and selfishness might be in play.
Though I have met those who say enlightened self-interest and everyone calls it selfishness.
 
Top Bottom