Simpletruthiness’s Weblog

Human nature

Posted in Politics by simpletruthiness on August 12, 2009

Here is a post from a friend and below it is my response:

What cause for hope?

On my way home from work today, there was a story on my local NPR station about a severely injured pit bull who was wrapped in plastic and tossed in a dumpster to die. “Trooper” was found, initially the prognosis was good, and how she is struggling again. I think about our rescue dog, Kelby, who has been such an incredible companion to my husband as he struggled with post-traumatic stress – and to me, and to my stepdaughter – and it makes me cry. How can people be so cruel to animals?

Next was a story about how all the coral reefs in the world may be gone in our children’s lifetime. I couldn’t listen, and got out of the car – this was not a “driveway moment” for me. Polar bears face extinction, coral reefs teeter on the brink, how many other species are endangered or lost forever? I believe that the diversity of species and amazing fecundity of life is inherently worth preserving. Of course, people don’t have to agree with that. But I hope people can understand that in a closed system – which the planet is – letting things get significantly out of whack threatens the stability of the system. Rather than doubting climate change is happening as some falsely claim, reputable scientists say recent research shows it is happening faster than worst-case scenarios predicted. Even the Department of Defense – not exactly known as tree-hugging liberals – cites climate change as a coming threat to national security.

On my way in from the car, I picked up a gift from my sister-in-law: a book on the holocaust. A reminder that we are not only cruel to the animals that live with us and callous to the world that sustains us, but also we (meaning humans in general here, not each of us) are also willing to be viciously brutal to one another.

My husband often gently teases me for assuming (no, I’m not an economist, go figure) that people are rational actors – that if nothing else, humans will act in their own self-interest. So, logically, if you can just show them the facts, they will make good decisions. NO! In fact, my husband is right: this is totally false. People often don’t act in their own self-interest, and they seem practically incapable of assessing information, weighing facts, and coming to logical conclusions.

We can’t debate health insurance reform by weighing competing proposals in light of careful analysis of the risks, costs, and benefits. Rather, we scream and lie and threaten and hit.

And I’m forced to wonder: What cause is there for hope?

On good days, I recognize that over the course of human history, by and large things have gotten better: looking at measurable things, like lifespan, infant mortality, and so forth, people all around the world (with the sad exception of much of sub-Saharan Africa) are doing better today than fifty, a hundred, a thousand years ago. Follow that trajectory out, and things should continue to get better, and there is cause for hope.

On bad days, like today, I think there’s no point at all. Humans are fatally flawed, there’s no way out of the increasing consumption and growing poisoning of our planet. No hope for a moral or spiritual awakening. No way to in good conscience bring a child into this world of ugliness and cruelty and selfishness. No way that the Mother Theresas and Abdul Sattar Edhis of the world can balance out the Hitlers and Idi Amins and Saddam Husseins.

Convince me that I’m wrong. Give me a reason to believe

My Response:

The whole of humanity has gone wrong over this or that from time to time–Michael De Montaigne
There are always reasons to be down or sad but there are also reasons to keep going its what helps people endure the ugliness of which you speak. People are complicated and its better to resist the urge to say all people are bad or as some say all good(Read Morefewer in this camp). Think of this they say that truth is stranger than fiction, which is true but I think it is because fiction is the result of someones imagination where as the truth is the product of millions of variables of acts big and small, good and bad. People are capable of these heinous acts but they are also capable of self sacrifice. Yes, there are too few Mother Theresas but there are plenty of people who are flawed, who try very hard to be better, that is the essence of human nature. There are those who try to be better and those who try to hold them back. This adversity is what gives triumphs its glory.