When I consider the problems in our society, most can be attributed to selfishness. This selfishness is not to be confused with self-interest, which is what creates opportunity for others and prosperity in general. The baker makes bread to sell to you so that he can support his own family. If he makes good bread at a fair price, his business will thrive and he will create opportunity for the people he will have to hire to support his business. Those people work for the baker, not as a favor to him, but in their own self interest to support their families. They buy goods and services with the money they make, and invest with the money they save, and the wealth of the nation is created. Only free-market societies can do this, that is why the least amount of wealth is in countries who have command economies with over-burdensome government interference.
But back to my original point, that selfishness creates not only financial problems for a society, but also cultural ones. This is one of the reasons that the self-esteem movement of the last 20 years has been so destructive. It has taught a generation of children that their self-esteem is dependant on someone else handing it out wholesale like bubblegum instead of earning it through their own accomplishments. These children grow up thinking they are the center of the universe and develop anxiety problems later in life when they learn they are not. It's no wonder that since the 1960s, when the emphasis moved from civility to self, that there has been a steady increase in the cases of depression. Depression, after all, is a self-centered condition. It's the total submersion into oneself which causes feelings of being alone which can lead to depression. That is why there are many sources that recommend people who are depressed reach outside themselves by helping other people in order to feel more involved in something other than self.
There are many visible examples in our society of the, "It's all about me" syndrome. Some are small and seemingly mundane, like when parents plaster bumper stickers on their cars announcing to the world how special their kid is for getting good grades in school. Getting good grades use to be expected of children, it wasn't a grand accomplishment worthy of an advertisement on the parent's car. These parents have unwittingly inculcated in their children the thought they are special to the world for simply doing what they are suppose to do. It takes context away from accomplishment. Getting good grades is put on the same level, by these parents, as much larger accomplishments that may be worthy of the more visible attention. The same thing is true with the many sports programs that teach kids that everyone is a winner. When children grow up believing this, they feel victimized when they find out it's not true in the real world. Children have to learn how to lose and also that they may not have the skill in an area of endeavour that someone else has. This is how they are able to define their own strengths and weaknesses. Parents who shelter their children from life's realizations, to keep their egos from being bruised, are doing their children a disservice. As Abraham Lincoln said, "I learned more from my failures in life than I did from the successes." One thing I've learned from my own personal failures is that I'm not the center of the universe and I should always strive to make myself a better person. Sadly, this is a lesson lost on graduates of the self-esteem movement who have been told there is no need for them to better themselves through accomplishment.