DiscoShaman over at Post-Modern Clog has a thought-provoking post about Rousseauist drivel about childhood.
I responded with the following:
(1) To paraphrase Voltaire, if restraint and civilzation were destroyed tomorrow, it would be in man's best interest to rebuild it as quickly as possible. A child, or anybody, in "nature" is not going to be some free soul frolicking in the fields. He will be someone working as hard as hell to survive, with no guarantees of success. Even the most beautiful tropical paradise will be prone to catacylisms and unknown dangers: disease, predators, natural disasters, etc.. All his mental and physical energy would go into that task. He would, very quickly, become very disciplined, or die.
(2) Your complaint of "selfishness" doesn't tell the whole story. Although "selfish," children are highly dependent on other people, and will stay dependent through advancing years if they don't mature properly. A supposedly "selfish" child will not act in his best interest by become independent of other people's whims and circumstances. Solipsism would be the better word--a child expects all people, property, facts, phenomena, and institutions to conform to their own appetites. A child matures to the degree which he comes to terms with reality, be it of the natural world or of the proper expectations he can have of those around him.
I've had this fight before, but it bears repeating: selfishness is not a bad thing in itself. Wanting to improve your situation, wanting to be independent and self-sufficient, wanting to leave others alone when their own interests aren't at stake, is a virtue and not a vice. If a child is going to survive in "nature", or anywhere else with some respectability, he'd better be selfish. As for agape love, by definition, such a sentiment is impossible for someone unless it is some he wants to do. Before you can say "I love you," you must first be able to say "I".