We need to work effectively in order to have food to eat. However, we need to eat good food before we can work effectively. So, tough stuff, where did this “first bite” come from? This “first bite” comes from other people, in expectation that we will use the energy they have given us to give back to them and others in turn. The result of this exchange is that we feed each-other beyond surviving, into thriving.
However, there are many people today that do not reciprocate on others’ generosity, at any level. These people trick and exploit others’ giving so that they can take, and continue taking. The effects of this virulent psychocultural behavior are toxic. When we do this, we drain energy from others without ever replenishing it. It is this dynamic which generates massive disparities in w/health. Worse than that, the behavior is contagious. When others around us — even entire societies and cultures — only take from us, they also demand of us that we in turn only take from others, out of a desperate attempt to preserve a definition of the self that shrinks more with the increasing alienation of the apparent choices we face: victim of theft culture, or thief.
So we shrink away from thriving back into surviving, and we all suffer. Whether “rational self-interest” is a positive thing depends on our definition of the self, and right now, our definition of the self is alienated, lonely and impoverished. Those of us who believe in gift culture are embattled.