Filling the Unfillable Void?
“What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.
“Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice – which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction – which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.
“Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar [as an act of benevolence; a kind of karmic investment]. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: ‘No.’ Altruism says: ‘Yes.'” -Ayn Rand
Is this commercial the enshrinement of altruism? It’s not easy to say. The truly crippled man is the other men’s friend, so it’s possible that they spend time with him in this way simply because the value of his company outweighs the drawback of having to play basketball in wheelchairs instead of on foot. However it’s also possible that these men would prefer to play basketball in the traditional way, but they do this instead because they know it’s altruistic. Since this commercial is a study in “character”, and since it does nothing to suggest that the wheelchair-bound man is better than the rest of them in any significant way, it’s likely that the correct explanation is the second one (the implication being that despite – presumably – being fair-minded, self-supporting individuals, these men are not moral individuals until and unless they behave altruistically).
The related issue is what – if anything – any of this has to do with Guinness beer. It could be argued that Guinness is attempting to conflate one’s choice in beers with one’s moral choices (ie: that Guinness drinkers are moral people, while others are not), but that’s stretching it. More likely what Guinness wants to do with this ad is remind people that morality matters (since most people, being altruists, are constantly riddled with guilt about being preoccupied with pursuing their own interests), and then – incredibly – think of Guinness whenever they do. It’s basically like – and no better than – using an attractive woman in a bikini to sell beer, but instead of using that irresistible force, they use the (if you’re an altruist) unquenchable desire for moral uprightness to draw attention to theirs.