Whenever anyone comes up with an idealistic vision to put an end to war, prevent the destruction of nature, solve the overpopulation crisis, or put into place a socialist government that would create fairness and equality, we are always told – ‘great idea but it can’t happen because of human nature’.
What is this curse of human nature?
It seems that whenever anyone tries to do something good someone comes along to undermine it. They either selfishly exploit people or do something destructive.
This human nature is the side of us that likes inflicting pain and being cruel, greedy and selfish. It is the bullying side; the violent, brutal side.
Over the centuries religions have warned against this curse of human nature. They have set out rules and commandments and followed them up with humungous threats of eternal damnation. But that hasn’t worked. What with paedophile priests and greed and avarice rampant in society it obvious that people pay lip service at best.
Yet there is another side to human nature. There is the good caring side, the compassion and empathy, tolerance, love and responsibility. People are capable of the most altruistic acts. They give up their lives to care for others and that even extends to nature – people protect and care for the plants and animals. That is the good side.
So is the curse of human nature the fact that a minority of us are always, selfish, cruel and exploitative? Or are all of us like that to an extent?
Can nothing be done about the bad side of our nature?
Many say no - it is intrinsic in our genes and we cannot change.
I say they are wrong and that history proves me right, we are improving. History is full of the grossest deeds. In modern times we still do a lot of mean and nasty things but I would contend not on the scale of past centuries.
So what is to be done given our human nature? Do we merely say that we are beyond hope? Do we say that there will always be poverty, inequality, racism, destruction and cruelty and there is nothing we can do about it? It is in our genes. The powerful will exploit the weak. That is just the way it is.
Or do we use the power of our knowledge of psychology and education to nurture the good side of our nature and eradicate the bad?