About the same time the tsunami was hitting the shores of southeast Asia, North Americans were hitting the stores in the usual Boxing Day shopping frenzy. North Americans were behaving in a way we consider "normal." Indeed, the desire to accumulate ever more material possessions is regarded today as not just normal, but basic to human motivation.
The outpouring of concern and generosity toward helpless people halfway around the globe came as something of a surprise here. Could it be that there's more to the human personality than our business-dominated culture encourages us to believe? Maybe we're not all just walking replicas of Homo Economicus — the robot-like character whose motivation revolves around his insatiable appetite for material gain — that lies at the heart of modern economic theory.
Karl Polanyi, the late economic historian and anthropologist argued that the most basic human characteristic — found in every human society across the ages and around the globe — isn't material acquisitiveness but rather a need to relate to other humans, to feel part of a larger community. >> continue(link updated)