Grumpy the Dwarf

September 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

As I approach the ripe old age of 21, I can look back fondly on some wonderful moments in my life; however, those truly unforgettable memories are often dark ones.  Like any other average Joe, I have seen enough violence and betrayal to question the kindness of other people.  After seeing some of my closest friends go through living hell, who can blame us for wishing for a better world?  What if we could prevent all this selfishness in the future by genetically engineering our children into altruistic beings?

Altruism seems like an all too appealing concept. Merriam-Webster defines it as “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.”   Biologically speaking, there’s evidence for altruism in ecological communities such as bee hives, where worker bees selflessly gather nourishment for the queen bee.  But with humans, things get a bit complicated.  We’re self-motivated beings, and we often times seem to be living testaments to the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality.

One of my favorite extracurricular activities is Alternative Spring Break, a week spent with 11 strangers doing community service.  On my trip, I got to spend my time learning about Tibetan culture and assisting a community of Tibetans in St. Paul with their day of protest.  Although my group provided service and gave them open minds, there was still an innate “selfishness.”  For me, doing this kind of cultural service makes me feel really happy; I have so much fun learning about other cultures and find gratification in seeing my work come to fruition.  Even though my intentions weren’t purely altruistic, does this diminish the quality of the assistance we provided?  I don’t see it that way.

My Chinese mother always scolded me for being tai lao shi.  Too honest. Too naive.  It used to be too easy for people to walk all over people like me.


So if we could make our children purely selfless beings, we would have to impose this new genetic modification on every child.  Bring on the ethical dilemmas, please.

But let’s pretend that we could actually convince every parent to agree to this genetic makeover.  One possible repercussion from this is quite simple: grumpiness.  I’m reminded of the character Elva from the Inheritance Trilogy by Christopher Paolini.  She was accidentally coerced by magic into becoming a completely self-sacrificing person after birth.  Although she selflessly protected every person around her, she was unhappy all the time from taking on everyone else’s problems.  So would we really making the world a better place?  To me, it seems like we would just become a horde of grumpy people, quietly suffering from our “goodness.”

My final verdict? I’ll pass on having Grumpy the Dwarf as my kiddo, please.

-Angela L. B4


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§ One Response to Grumpy the Dwarf

  • wilsonh6 says:

    Alternatively, a child with this altered gene would also likely have a wide net of friends as a result of his or her demonstrated selflessness. The “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality comes into play here. The friends would probably feel a sense of debt to the child and seek to repay it in some way. Perhaps the altruistic child would even feel the same happiness you felt on ASB? I loved the Elva reference though – a great point to your argument.



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