On Volunteering…

with 2 comments

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend of mine about why we both spend quite a lot of our time volunteering in our local community.  We came to the conclusion that it is human nature to want to help others – and not for recognition, just simply because we ‘can’.

I was put in mind of this passage by George Gilbert Aimé Murray on ‘Man as a Social Animal’, which I thought I would reproduce here as I think it explains my thoughts perfectly;

The whole supposition that a system of violent and intense rewards and punishments is necessary to induce human beings to perform acts for the good of others is based on a false psychology which starts from the individual isolated man instead of man the social animal.  Man is an integral member of his group.  Among his natural instincts there are those which aim at group-preservation as well as self-preservation; at the good of aurui as well as of moi.  Even among animals, a cow, a tigress, a hen pheasant, does not need a promise of future rewards to induce her to risk her life to save her young from harm.  The male bison or gorilla needs no reward before fighting devotedly for his females and children.  They all instinctively care for autrui.  And it would be a mistake to imagine that this devotion only shows itself in the form of fighting, or in dangerous crises.  It is part of the daily life of any natural group or herd; the strong members help the weak, the weak run for protection to the strong.  In man even in his primitive state these instincts are much more highly developed that in the gregarious animals; with the process of civilisation they increase in range, in reasonablenes, in sublimity.  In the late war, how many thousands of men – not particularly selected or highminded men – risked their lives eagerly to save a companion wounded in No Man’s Land?  The did not ask or know why they did it.  Some may have alleged motives of religion, or motives of ambition in the form of medals or promotions.  But the basic motive was probably more or less the same all through; that instinctively they could not see a mate lying there wounded and not try and help him.


2 Responses

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  1. I have never read that before ! Thanks for posting this, it’s lovely.

    I hope your volunteering is going well, and that they like your choice of biscuits X


    June 30, 2010 at 9:05 am

    • Thanks Kate! Yes, the volunteering is going well. I shirked off the idea of biscuits in the end – the lady I visit much prefers liquorice allsorts! 🙂 x


      June 30, 2010 at 9:32 am

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