Why No One Likes ‘Do-Gooders’30.11.2021
The BBC recently released an article about people’s feelings towards ‘do-gooders’ and it made us feel so relieved about our hatred of altruists, that we can finally state what many of us have thought: Selfless people are the worst.
These walking saints can be annoying, sanctimonious and deeply unlikable. Although you might think that we are a misanthrope (even though we don’t often admit it), this feeling is common and could be hard-wired into our DNA.
Altruistic people are often viewed as a primitive form of animosity. This behavior, also known as “do-gooder discrimination”, is easy to observe, crosses cultures and emerges in childhood. It may even be a part of human evolution. We are almost as against altruism as we are selfishness. Numerous studies on a game that tests people’s reactions towards public giving have shown that players will give the boot to those who give too little or too much.
Why do-gooders are so hateful
Evolutionary psychology’s view of our motivation to hate the altruistic is that while generosity among cavemen would have resulted in greater group cohesion, it also led to generous people often achieving higher status within the group. Our ancestors saw life as a zero sum game. Evolutionary psychologists make many assumptions. We didn’t like to see someone trying to climb up the status ladder, since it meant that we were moving down. This may explain why we feel distrust and disgust at people who are purely selfless.
That sentence’s key word is “seem”. We dislike generous people who remind us that they are generous, even if it is subtle. We hate people who seem to be seeking reward for their selflessness.
Brown-nosers and white knights
Online “cretins” are deeply sexist and “white knight” is a slur directed at men who defend women online. The posters don’t think it’s wrong to say “don’t harass that woman” but they do not necessarily believe so. According to posters, the problem lies in the questionable motivations of the white knight. They believe that they are trying to infuse themselves with the woman they are defending, possibly leading to sex, or to be viewed as a savior. Their impure motivation is the problem. (See also: Simp.) Someone who posts “Don’t sexually harass her. She’s my sister” will not be called a white knight because their motivation isn’t sullied with hoped-for status and personal gain.
It’s like school children who hate the class brown-noser. While offering to help is admirable in its own right, trying to win favor by sucking up to a teacher to gain favor is extremely suspicious and abhorrent to the rest, especially if it’s not hidden.
The motivations behind an action are often seen as at least as important than the actual action. This is especially true when it involves doing something selfless. We judge people accordingly and jump to the worst possible conclusion, even though we don’t know the truth.
Self-knowledge is the key to charity
Research by Nichola Raihani (a professor of evolution and behavior at University College London) revealed that there are two types of people who will give anonymously to charity: the lowest and highest. This suggests that many people who are altruistic know how their gifts can cause animosity in others.
This brings us to a second level of hate for showy-givers. We believe they should be more educated. Social interaction can be complex and subtle. Someone who blithely ignores how we feel about how much others care can appear paradoxically to not care at all. They don’t seem to care about our feelings, surely?
What does this all mean for you?
You don’t need to be motivated to help others if you don’t feel the urge. Remember to be kind. Don’t forget to keep your charity secret. Giving is its own reward. Do not announce that you are reading to orphans during your lunch break. Do it. If someone asks where your dog came from, don’t call it a rescue dog. (If you are asked, say “the dog shelter.” It is much more polite.) Also, don’t show superiority by smiling a little bit. We can see through all that shit.
You can also have ulterior motives for your generosity. We are not trying to judge. While being seen as generous and kind may have real benefits, you need to be careful about how you are perceived. It is the motivation people have for you to give that counts. We suspect that Jeff Bezos is giving away billions of dollars to tax reasons. This is difficult to believe. Researchers found that people are not willing to accept a reward for doing good deeds, but will begrudge people who try to get that reward. Be stealthy and others will sing your praises.
For the rest of us, let’s focus on the positive results of someone’s generosity and give them the benefit of doubt. We should not assume that they are motivated to give. It might seem difficult for you, but for some it is easy. When you are as selfless, empathy is a natural instinct. This is what happened to many people when they adopted a rescue cat. They couldn’t bear to see an innocent animal suffering. Some people feel very strongly about these things.