I read a tedious email from a marketer the other day.
One of those types who thinks that humans are nothing but a collection of irrational impulses, emotions, and desires for petty self-interest.
I can kinda relate to that. In my most cynical moments, I share those judgments.
And for a marketer, sure, you're going to feel that way. When you're constantly exposed to the darkest and most base side of human beings, your outlook gets dark. I've heard tell that cops and first responders get a touch of this, for the same reasons.
But I don't really believe that the shadow side is the whole story.
And it does irk me whenever I come across this jaded view about people.
Not because anyone believes it, mind you.
It's the way the chuckleheads holding forth with "you know, you really are just a stupid monkey" put it out there like they've discovered a holy truth.
And if you don't believe? You're just deluded and un-scientific.
... just like any other born-again convert.
That's right. Vegans, Paleo diets, CrossFit, mask-loving nutters, and Darwinian cynics. All the same package of neurotic religious fervor.
Does that irritate you?
I sure hope so.
Besides the obnoxiousness of the know-it-all, there's also this matter of dodgy ethical rationalizations.
Why, if these rubes are mere simpletons acting out their every craven impulse, then I can fleece 'em blind and none will be the wiser. I owe it to them!
This is the equal and opposite of condescending paternalism. You're too dumb and foolish to look after yourself, so you need a clique of dumb and foolish bureaucrats to tell you what to do.
You see where this is going.
When you only see human beings as objects to study, you come up with this kind of jaded nonsense.
Let me ask you this:
Do you think humans are essentially good by nature?
Are we naturally inclined to be kind, caring, generous, and well-meaning?
Are we homo sapiens a rowdy bunch of lusty, licentious, self-interested thugs that need to be forced into line by whip-hand?
Want my answer?
Here it is:
This is a fake problem.
Forget about all the theories and hypotheses for a moment.
Look at history.
Look at how people actually behave.
You can find examples of both extremes. You can often find these extremes in the same person.
Asking whether we are essentially good or rotten is like asking whether
We're a bit of both.
The sharp reader will notice that I've copped on the answer. The question is about our essential nature, which transcends history and observation.
But I mean it. Our essential nature is that we acquire our essential nature.
It's not an either/or thing. We come with built-in tendencies, which are then refined and expressed through action.
What's "natural" for human beings is that we learn to live with other human beings.
That complicates the question in dramatic and unforeseen ways. There is no simple analogy to make with other animals.
"Humans are like wolves"
"Humans are like bonobos"
Ever notice how nobody ever explains wolf behavior by comparing them to bonobos?
But we'll compare humans to every other animal except... humans.
Things that make me go hmmmm
Anyhow, folks that read Dawkins and some BS on reddit and come at me with this bargain-bin skepticism are not convincing.
Yeah, we can be self-absorbed jerks.
But we also have a way of reflecting back what we're given.
When your experiences, your language, your culture, your friends, peers, co-workers and close relations all tell you that you're a blind, stupid, empty-headed machine, that's what you become.
My point is that we all have a "nasty" side.
And we can also be more than that nastiness.
Elevated and uplifted living is still possible.
You think you can get there if you believe you're a desire-satisfying machine only concerned with survival and reproduction?
Be good & take it easy.
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