Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ah Human Nature

Ah human nature and human beings. Some say "hell is other people." Still, others identify themselves as a "people person" or hold philosophical belief for the humanist notion of empathy. My own Uncle once told me, "Just remember, you look out for number one. That's you. Always remember that cuz you're just wasting your time otherwise." My response that I kept to myself was, "That's been the 'one' problem throughout history!"

Sure, it's easy to cite "human nature" for all the misgivings of history and for all in the future for that matter. A few bad apples with several bad ideas and we just as easily call it human nature. Not so fast.

Human nature is an old argument. It is also one that fails to take into account this little thing called "society" and the idea of construction. Obviously, a human being's "nature" would be much different now in the 21st Century than it would be for someone living and breathing in 47 B.C.E. The actual world that surrounds people in a certain and relative place governs their actions, thoughts, and being much more than their given nature. From the moment we humans are conceived we are born into something, in a certain place on the globe, into a certain culture with all of its social (or otherwise) constructs. We are introduced to an array of different ideas that are taught to us as good, normal, and even "natural."

I once had a friend tell me about a movie where a certain group of people were paid to kill other people for money. The next thing that he said was that they killed all these people for monetary gain, thus, demonstrating bad human nature. I asked if money was a part of the natural world, if God had created money. I do not want to be too theological, but (obviously) the answer is no. Humans created, "constructed" money and capitalism for that matter. If you introduce something that exists outside of the natural world can you really blame it on nature?

It has been stamped into our brains from "books" or "the One Book" that we (humans) are evil at our core. We have learned, especially in Western culture, that this is simply, "the way it is."

What if, just what if, we could learn empathy. Or even mere regard. What if knowledge about other cultures, other views, other interpretations, could be regarded in such a way that we could reverse the human nature argument?

But let's look at this with a sort of Melville-esque ambivalence. We can say that humans are flawed, but does that make us evil? We can say that history has shown us the awfulness of human capability; i.e. wars, Atom Bombs, Facism etc, but can't we also say that in the future, and even in the present, there is potential of the greatness in human capability? Certainly if you believe that you are only destined for the worst you will most likely, if not fully, end up there.

So you might be asking what all this has to do with human rights. Well, a lot actually. If we are all, in fact, human beings shouldn't we regard Others has human? Shouldn't we have the guts to speak truth to power when these others' rights are taken away? And even if "human nature" does truly triumph "human construction," shouldn't there be an effort to be involved, informed, and active in constructing something different than the world as we see it today?

1 comment:

  1. Very inspiring post here. I like how you discussed loosely the love of money being the root of all evil, yet it is something completely man-made and only given worth because man says it is worth something. Really good points though, but really, what is human nature anyway? I suppose we will never know... There is no true way to break down societal constructs. These constructs are supposed to be based on human nature (when it comes to human rights anyway), yet how is a straight-Anglo-Christian-male supposed to determine exactly what human nature is when I have personally never met two people who are exactly alike.