Valdemar Malin. Winnie the Pooh in Fantasyland of Altruism
Valdemar Malin. Winnie the Pooh in Fantasyland of Altruism
If you ask a random American in the street today about socialism, everyone knows what it means. Many will praise it because they believe that socialists take away wealth from the filthy rich.
Still majority, especially those who lived under socialism, will repudiate it because they know that socialism is a disguised robbery of everyone, not only the rich—a violent one if the victims refuse to comply.
But ask people about altruism—only very few will be able to explain what it means without confusion. Some think that altruism is something good, and that altruists are kind and selfless people who are ready to help. But others believe that it is not enough—altruists must live for others.
Why is there so much confusion about altruism? Only one fact is clear and indisputable—socialists of all colors embrace and promote altruism. Is altruism somehow related to socialism?
Let me answer this question. Oh, no! I am not going to quote Marx or Sanders! I will use…allegory.
Imagine that a robber catches you in a dark alley. Typically, robbers are reluctant to use violence right away. That is why their strategy is carried out in two stages.
The 1st stage is to persuade you to surrender your wallet, voluntarily. To encourage you to cooperate, a robber will threaten you—give me your money…or else!
If you refuse, a robber will proceeds with the 2nd stage—he will use violence and take away your wallet.
So, what does it have to do with socialism and altruism? Here is the point. If socialism is a robbery, then altruism isthe first stage of this robbery in which socialists are trying to persuade people—surrender everything you have, voluntarily…or else!
But how to sway the entire society to part voluntarily with everything the own without excessive commotion, resistance or confrontation? This violates the very core of human nature! For this purpose, there is a reliable method—to start unnoticeably with kids and preschoolers.
And this is the subject of this essay—one of the fascinating stories about altruism.
Millions of fans around the world love an Oscar-winning animated film “Winnie the Pooh and Blustery Day”—a window into a magic, nostalgic world of our childhood that will never come back. Produced by Walt Disney Production in 1968, it was based on the books written by a famous English writer Alan Alexander Milne.
Milne’s books about an adorable stuffed-toy bear Winnie the Pooh have been the world most beloved icons of children literature. They tell the stories about Winnie the Pooh and his friends—community organizer Rabbit, a selfless altruist Piglet, a sad philosopher donkey Eeyore, a single mother kangaroo Kanga, a bouncy tiger Tigger and other stuffed and live animals living in an “enchanted” place called the “100 Acre Wood.”
In the second book “The House at Pooh Corner,” among a huge pile of fun, laughs and hilarious events, a very short, trivial episode appears at the very end of chapter IX.
A stuffed-toy little pig named Piglet does а “Noble Thin”—he gives up his home to homeless Owl—the Owl’s tree house was blown down in a blustery day. The toy bear Winnie the Pooh is proud of Piglet’s “heroic deed” and, realizing that Piglet became homeless, let him stay in his house.
A seemingly unnoticeable, insignificant episode, but it comes home to hearts of many readers. “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts,” Milne notes.
One day browsing the Internet, I stumble over an emotional debate inspired by the same episode in which Piglet gave up his home to homeless Owl. The debate was originated by a Milne’s fan who asked whether the authors went too far in brainwashing our preschoolers into altruism, an important part of socialist ideology.
I stayed away from the debate, but some comments surprised me by their naivety and ignorance. Obviously, the readers and the viewers loved the hysterically adorable and cute characters so much that they became oblivious of subliminal messages conveyed by the book and the Disney film. Let me show you some memorable comments (and my commentaries—I couldn’t help myself).
Here is an emotional comment of a dedicated altruist. ”I feel so good when I see such kindness and selflessness. Instead of criticizing Piglet, let’s admire him and celebrate his altruistic actions to reduce homelessness.”
Just a minute! It is not kindness—kindness should not destroy the giver. The selfless altruist Piglet, who gave up his home to a homeless, became a homeless himself. The homeless Owl, who shamelessly accepted Piglet’s self-sacrifice and became a homeowner, demonstrated blatant selfishness and egoism. The famous English philosopher Herbert Spencer was right—extreme acts of altruism breed selfishness and egoism.
As a result, Piglet’s self-sacrifice accomplished nothing—he did not reduce homelessness, or increased homeownership. So, why does this altruist feel such euphoria? Because what matters to altruists the most is not the actual results, but to feel good in the process of doing good deeds.
Here is a comment of a young mom. “Oh come on, altruism, socialism! Don’t exaggerate, please. It’s just a very funny animated film intended just for kids. I love the Piglet’s message—it teaches kids to help others in need.”
Beautiful words, mom! But the Piglet’s message is not about help—Piglet did not give or collect donations; did not help to search for a new or to rebuild the old house for Owl or offer some other affordable help. The message is about an ultimate self-sacrifice! But in the long run, the self-sacrifice never helps anyone! As for the Piglet’s lesson, it teaches kids that to sacrifice yourself is the most noble and moral way to help others. That’s why Piglet is hailed as a “hero” and his act as a “heroic deed” and a “Noble Thin.”
And kids learn the lesson quickly. “Oh, this is so cool to give away your house—people will praise you for that!
The Piglet’s message teaches kids that everyone must own a free house (a fundamental principle of socialism); and that this will make the world a better place to live. But it does not teach kids that, only in a fantasy world, they can get a house for free. In a real world, they have to work hard to build one for themselves, as every living thing does in Nature.
Unfortunately, two opposite worlds—fantasy and reality—often collide in a confused mind. Thank god this young mom still lives in the real world because she did not even promise to give up her house voluntarily to homeless people anytime soon.
But this comment is probably from a child psychologist. “The so-called altruistic message in the Milne’s book is beyond kid’s comprehension, anyway. Therefore, it cannot influence them when they become adults. This home-give-away episode is just a funny kid’s game. It has nothing to do with progressive ideas of selflessness and altruism. If it does, Milne did it unintentionally—after all, the book was written in 1928, almost a century ago!”
Well said, but Milne’s biographer Ann Thwaite disagrees. She stated that Milne himself was reared by his father, a progressive headmaster, in the spirit of “unselfishness and giving pleasure” to others, which became the “wellsprings of his own books for children.”
Moreover, in his autobiography, Milne himself claims that adult’s “makeup is largely determined by childhood influences.” And he made no secret that his books were intended not only for children, but for their parents who read them the Pooh stories at bedtime.
In other words, Milne intentionally passed his altruistic tendencies to the characters of his books to influence both kids and adults.
As for popularity of the ideas of Marxism, socialism and altruism in 1928 in England, Milne’s birthplace, they were equally popular in liberal Hollywood 40 years later, when the Disney produced its masterpiece. Look at the liberal “100 Acre HollyWood” today—it did not change even now, 50 years after Disney produced the film, just expanded to 135 acres.
The naïve and clueless ranting of the child psychologist, who viewed the Piglet’s act as an innocent and funny kid’s game, brought back the distant memories of my “happy” childhood in a place that looked, in a way, like “the 100 Acre Wood,” just a little bit bigger.
You see, I grew up in a chimerical fantasyland of altruism—the USSR. It was mandatory for all children there to listen to fervent stories, similar to those about the selfless Piglet, at kindergartens or pioneer’s camps. Or their moms were reading the similar children’s books where the Soviet Piglets were doing the similar “Noble” things.
There were different animals, characters or events, but the idea was the same—you must give away and sacrifice everything for others because you must livefor others. There was no secret who those “others” were—Lenin and Stalin, the communist party and government.
I am a living witness of how the socialist propaganda machine works, and what it does to a captive, vulnerable mind of a preschooler. Believe me, it works! By the first grade, I completed my preschool indoctrination course and became a staunch altruist ready to live and sacrifice for others.
“Will you give away all your possessions and even your life for the socialist’s ideals and the communist party?”
“Yes, I will!”
“Will you sacrifice your parents to make communism triumph all over the world?”
“Yes, I will!”
No wonder my parents were afraid to criticize the Government at home when I was around. Those who downplay or discount the significance of the Piglet’s act are dangerously wrong. Altruism is not a funny and innocent kid’s game—it is a stealthy and deadly game!
Unfortunately, the Disney’s original scenario covers only a short period of euphoria when Piglet and Pooh plunged into a fantasy world of altruism. But it does not have finale. You can only guess what has happened to the residents of the “100 Acre Wood” after Piglet donated his home to Owl.
Please let me show to you my own scenario—the real finale, the plot being more realistic, at least, from a historic perspective. Well, I lived in the “100 Acres Wood,” remember? Here we go!
A reminder, first. In the Disney’s scenario, a sloppy Owl lost his home (which he forgot toinsure) and moved in a new one (donated by a naïve altruist Piglet, per advice of Mrs. Fantasy). Suddenly, Piglet comes to a painful realization that he became a homeless himself. But, luckily, Winnie the Pooh invited him to stay with him at his house.
What has happened next? Soon, both the donkey Eeyore and kangaroo Kanga lost their homes too. But after the painful lesson (in altruism) given by selfless (now homeless because of that) Piglet, there are no volunteers willing to give up their homes (awakened selfishness). This time, Mr. Reality advises the Wood’s residents to cancel their participation in the costly altruistic game (human nature).
But the game has just begun. Since there are no volunteers, comrade Rabbit is called to uphold the altruistic principles in the “100 Acre Wood.” He is a card-carrying altruist and tough authoritarian. Some Wood’s residents whisper that he is a socialist (a card-carrying altruist is automatically preapproved for a socialist card too).
Immediately, Rabbit declares that, from now on, all the residents of the Wood live in an altruistic society. Therefore, for common good, their houses temporarily (for good) become public property of the Wood by unanimous consent of the owners (expropriated by coercion). To enforce the new laws, Rabbit appoints his tiger-friend Tigger.
But contrary to expectations, there is not enough houses for everyone (altruism does not build houses, it gets them from others). Therefore, the houses are turned into identically looking, communal/hotel-type dwellings proudly called Roach Hotels. The living space there is divided equally (even if it is as small as a jail cell). The Wood’s residents (now all homeless) have to check in and rent one room per family. The low rent rate is subsidized by the only landlord in the wood—the Wood.
Elated Rabbit declares that this is the end of homelessness, once and for all! Now, the Wood has become a better place to live. But when the disillusioned Piglet and Pooh want to get out, Rabbit makes it clear that they live in the Roach Hotel now—they can check in, but they cannot check out. As for the protesters, who do not want to live in the altruistic Wood, the hungry tiger drags them away out of the wood, for common good (for good).
A moral to the story: when some selfless and kind dreamers-altruists (like Piglet) are trying to solve problems (like homelessness) with good intentions using idealistic solutions (like giving away their homes to homeless), everyone ends up in the Roach hotels.
I sent my scenario to Disney Production. Still waiting for them to accept. I wonder why it takes so long.
OK, back from the parody to reality! (Although in a parody there is some parody too). In the former USSR—the first on Earth altruistic “100 Acre Wood”—the socialist Rabbits solved the homelessness problem the same way, once and for all! They expropriated all houses, made everyone homeless and forced every family to rent a room in Roach Hotels. And who was the only landlord in the country? The communist government!
My parents lived, and I grew up in such a Roach Hotel—a shabby, communal/hotel-type apartment building, poorly constructed and carelessly maintained, full of filth and bedbugs.
How frustrating for the socialists and altruists in the US! Under greedy, egoistic capitalism, two third of us (the privileged few) still own our homes, while only 1% rent rooms in the public housing (Roach Hotels), the landlord being the US government. But when American Rabbits declare that we live in an altruistic society, all of us will become renters in those Roach Hotels.
This story is just a glimpse at the top of a huge and destructive iceberg called Altruism. Altruism affects your life, directly and profoundly. It fascinates some and infuriates others; it calls on you to be kind and selfless, but brutally coerces you to live for others; it appeals to you to help others, but forces you to make ultimate self-sacrifices taken to extremes, like to donate your home to or even sacrifice your life for others.
…I wonder sometimes. There is a medical term “pathological” that means altered or caused by a disease. Altruism looks like a disease too. It may alter your behavior beyond recognition causing you to harm yourself, voluntarily, while helping others! Or to harm even those you want to help, unintentionally! Is altruism some kind of personality disorder?
“Not literarily, but it may look like that,” says Barbara Oakley, Professor at Oakland University in Michigan in her book Pathological Altruism.
You may say that Piglet’s act is just a fantasy—that’s why it looks insane also. In real life, no one (in a sound mind) gives up their home and all their possessions to homeless people making himself homeless. You may still do so due to intimidation or coercion, but not voluntarily.
This isn’t not exactly true. There was one who has done just that and more, in real life. A scientist and altruist, he decided to live and sacrifice himself for others, voluntarily. And the things he was doing were insane too—not literarily, but they looked like that.
…But this is another fascinating story to tell about altruism. Maybe next time.
More information about altruism you can find in the book “Altruism, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly” by Valdemar Malin (Amazon.com).
Красильщиков Аркадий - сын Льва. Родился в Ленинграде. 18 декабря 1945 г. За годы трудовой деятельности перевел на стружку центнеры железа,километры кинопленки, тонну бумаги, иссушил море чернил, убил четыре компьютера и продолжает заниматься этой разрушительной деятельностью.
Плюсы: построил три дома (один в Израиле), родил двоих детей, посадил целую рощу, собрал 597 кг.грибов и увидел четырех внучек..