What makes community life viable, in groups as small as a family or large as a country, is the will of individuals to makes sacrifices for others, to consider more than their own needs and wants, and to act accordingly.
The more robust this other-focused approach to life is, the healthier the community will be. For that reason, there is no greater threat to the cohesion and perpetuation of a society than narcissism.
The narcissist operates not according to an objective set of values or beliefs, nor are the needs of others an impetus for his actions, but his whole world is centered in the navel at which he gazes. The be-all and end-all reason for his existence is the man in the mirror. Therefore, the question he poses, whenever any decision must be made, is quite simply this: “What’s in it for me?”
I find this interesting because it ties in with my recent exploration of the theme of fidelity.
There was once in Western culture an emphasis on fidelity. Fidelity means that you are turned towards particular relationships. These relationships call us to particular forms of service that are selfless in one sense (i.e. the aim is not to get something from the other person) but that nonetheless fulfil important aspects of self and express aspects of our identity.
We can have such relationships with our spouse, our parents, our children, our ancestors, our church, our God, our country, our ethny and so on.
Fidelity is not the only proper focus in life. It doesn't encompass everything to do with virtue or character or spirituality or the good life.
However it is something significant in the life of the individual and was once an important part of the understanding of the good within Western culture - it was part of the mix right up to the early 1900s.