Accepting Human Nature
One of the basic truths of human psychological growth is this: If you want to change something about your life, you must first acknowledge and accept what's true about your life right now.
The same principle applies to the improvement of human relationships and cooperation on larger scales: If we want to improve our human culture, we must first acknowledge and accept what's true – including the truth about human nature. Then we can see how to actually improve our present condition.
We in America have allowed the progressive movement to pursue their ideals for over a hundred years. Those ideals are based on a fictional ideal of how people can be made to be, which rejects much of the truth of human nature, leaving us unmoored from reality and thus culturally and politically vulnerable to seduction by the latest demagogue.
Any Boy Scout can tell you that if you don't have some way of orienting your current position, you won't be able to find your way to any given destination. Orienteering is the skill of finding where you are, so that you can find how to get to where you want to be. It's a basic requirement for the rank of First Class.
I can tell you, from three decades of working with people who want to change their lives for the better, that this is as true for personal growth as it is for wilderness navigation.
Let's say you want to do a better job at work but you are not interested in knowing that you spend way too much time on the Internet or with unnecessary emails. Well, you can read self-help books, go to personal growth seminars and practice lots of new skills that should improve your work, but if you won't first acknowledge and accept that you waste a good portion of your time on the Internet you will never make the kind of changes that you need to make.
You'll just think that there must be something wrong with you, or somehow the expectations are too high, or there just aren't enough hours in the day ... whatever it is that you think. You won't be able to make sense out of how little you get done because you aren't letting yourself know that you're wasting perhaps several hours every day on the Internet, rather than doing your work!
It will just remain a frustrating mystery: "Why can't I get ahead?"
On the other hand, if you begin with an honest look at what you actually are doing during the day you'll see that you waste several hours every day. Then you can make a choice: "Given that I am wasting several hours a day, and given that I want to do a better job at work, am I willing to limit my time on the Internet in pursuit of a better life?"
Maybe you'll decide that you'd rather waste your time on the Internet, but at least you will have made a conscious decision to waste your time, with the full knowledge of what you're doing and of the consequences of your decision.
This is the same dynamic that we're struggling with as a culture.
One of the major flaws in left-wing ideology, beginning with Rousseau's crazy notion of the "general will," is that it rejects the limitations of human nature. This rejection opens up infinite possibilities for improving mankind ... in theory. But because the theory is not grounded in the reality of human nature, it is purely idealistic and the ideals do not match what actually happens in the world. (There have been strains of this idealism before Rousseau, and versions of human domination since the dawn of time but the political categories of Left and Right originated in the French Revolution.)
This is why the Left can keep pushing for policies that clearly do not work in the real world. They do not see the elephant in the room that we see and so they are perplexed when their policies, that are supposed to work according to their theories, do not work in reality.
People are supposed to respond to being given things, they are supposed to be relieved when deprived of personal responsibility, they are supposed to perform when told and they are supposed to be grateful for all that their masters are doing for them.
The progressive/socialist/Marxist/fascist ideologies all are based on the idea that mankind can be perfected through coercion by other men; that people are a blank slate, to be molded, educated, and regulated into whatever the ideal may be; and that it is possible for some people to know how to manipulate other people into being different and better than they are.
But this is a denial of reality. The truth is that we are not available for such grandiose change. We come into the world very much who we are as individuals. We each have certain temperament styles – one person may be more sedentary while another needs a lot of physical movement, one person may have very strong emotions while another has less strong emotions, one person may be more comfortable with new people, places and situations while another prefers the familiar.
These temperament styles are changeable to a degree – a person can personally decide to become more comfortable with novelty or physical activity when such things do not come naturally to them – but it takes work and personal motivation. Such qualities cannot be erased like chalk on a blackboard by some progressive administrator.
We also share a common human nature. We can be greedy, envious, violent, self-absorbed and lazy. We can also be heroic, generous, innovative, loving, kind and devoted. We each have these potentials and many more within us, and it takes an internal motivation to choose the more positive qualities over the more negative.
I choose the kind of person that I want to be. It is a life's work to become and live as a good man. It is serious and meaningful business to become trustworthy, reliable, honest, competent and kind. When a person overcomes his or her negative impulses, habits and desires, and points him or herself toward a life of responsibility and integrity, it is a triumph.
This is our shared humanity; this is where our common struggle exists, whether you are rich or poor, whether you are gifted or slower, whether you come from privileged or humble beginnings. We all are faced with our own nature, our own demons and our own battles.
It is in this sense that we are all created equal. It is this reality that our American founders understood so very well.
It is the heroic potential of mankind that offers each of us the opportunity to fight for our own good life through whatever particular challenges we may face. How we engage this fight is what earns us each our own personal reputation within ourselves – for better or worse.
No government can do this for us, no legislation can make us other than who we are and no politician has any wisdom to direct anybody toward a better life. The use of force can scare us into behaving in certain ways but it cannot make us better – creativity and innovation are expansive qualities built on inspiration; they flourish with freedom and openness and are never enhanced by threats.
It is a government that protects and champions our individual liberty that provides the best opportunity for each of us to face this struggle for ourselves. It is a rule of law that provides for a predictable and reasonable structure of rules by which to work and live that allows us to make long-range plans and to pour ourselves into creating and producing value for our fellow human beings.
And it is a population of free men and women who can ensure that their government, their media and their academies of learning keep to their proper function of protecting individual liberty throughout our country.
We have to accept what's true; our republic is dependent upon free people keeping their government in check and denying special exemptions from the laws of human nature among our elites. We will always do this imperfectly but we the people must always do our part – or lose this triumph of the human spirit that is America.
Joel F. Wade, Ph.D. is the author of Mastering Happiness
Posted by peri1224 on 01/29/12 08:24 AM
Bischoff: Franklin pointed out, that this struggle for liberty and the common good must be passed on as an obligation one generation has to the next.
That obligation limits freedom since each of us can or should not do everything he might possibly want to do. Same with animals. Some people may want to be destructive, a nuisance, a traitor or other negative things. If habituation is not enough to assure positive behavior from all, or at least not negative to the common good, a measure of coercion is required to keep the trouble makers in line. The question is where is that coercion coming from? Can the family/clan in an anarchic setup provide enough order, or can only security forces of the state do it? If so, what is the absolute minimum profile a state and security forces can have to assure an efficient, safe and fair life for all? A good life cannot be assured for those who are not willing to work and generally behave in a positive way.
Posted by Bischoff on 01/27/12 11:28 PM
Excellent article !!! While the article does not delve deeper into the true nature of humans, i.e arboreal instincts, etc., it does points out that conscious habituation is required to overcome detrimental basic instincts harmful to peaceful existence among humans.
In comparison to animals, humans possess the conscious will to overcome harmful basic instincts for the betterment of the common good. This habituation is required of each and every generation. The founders understood this. Franklin pointed out, that this struggle for liberty and the common good must be passed on as an obligation one generation has to the next.
Posted by peri1224 on 01/22/12 10:04 PM
Individual liberty is a wonderful thing - for those who know how to handle it. But many don't. If you look at nature, you don't see too much individualism in animals. Herds of deer are pretty homogeneous. So are schools of fish, etc. Probably predators have taken the fun out of being overly individualistic. Nature seems to tell us that liberty has its limits. The need to survive appears to impose some limits on personal liberty. For humans the predators are not saber tooth tigers anymore, but other humans. So, does that limit on personal liberty apply to us too, and if yes, where is it? Will one rule fit all?
Posted by jwade on 01/22/12 11:48 AM
Yes, this is a part of human nature as well - as the "Obedience to Authority" experiments of Stanley Milgram showed. This allows tyrants to control people, threaten people, scare people, and force people to do things. It allows them to deceive and manipulate people.
But it does NOT give them the power to actually improve or "perfect" people, which is the progressive aim. The Progressive aim is to, through force, arrange society so that every person is "free" to reach their highest potential - as defined by the progressive leaders.
That means that every person is "free of" the need to think about making money, or face their own individual messes, or enjoy their "petty" individual desires or the wrong kind of ambitions - like making a lot of money, or building a successful business.
If you don't go along with the vision of the progressive leaders, then you are dumb, unenlightened, and selfish - and need to be educated to join their vision.
This, obviously, is not the sort of freedom that the American founders advocated, or what readers of the Daily Bell advocate. It is the freedom to submit to the vision of totalitarian dictators. Plenty of people have complied with this over mankind's history, and plenty have been tortured and murdered for refusing to go along with the program.
But this is not perfection, it is just slavery and murder.
People cannot be forced to be creative, expansive, and innovative. We cannot be forced to actually strive for our highest potential. That is something that comes from within a given soul, inspired by and inspiring others who take joy in generating the best within themselves, and it flourishes in a political system that protects individual liberty.
Posted by peri1224 on 01/21/12 11:36 PM
Joel Wade: The progressive/socialist/Marxist/fascist ideologies all are based on the idea that mankind can be perfected through coercion by other men... But this is a denial of reality.
Right ot wrong ideology, the facts on the ground tell us that people have been and are coerced, pushed, herded, whatever. The entire 20th century is witness to that. Media and propaganda played an important part of it. And that continues today. It would be a denial of reality to deny that this coercion has, in fact, been happening. My guess is that the number of freedom loving people who are willing to stand up for their rights - although growing - is still below critical mass. I fear the odds of the police state (FEMA camps?) winning a confrontation with freedom lovers are - as yet - heavily in favor of the police state, although I would love to be wrong on this. That means coercion will continue, maybe even get worse. The goal of improving or even perfecting the people has never been the top concern anyway. As long as the slaves don't rise up it's happy days for the elites.
Posted by seer on 01/21/12 08:54 PM
" We in America have allowed the progressive movement to pursue their ideals for over a hundred years. Those ideals are based on a fictional ideal of how people can be made to be, which rejects much of the truth of human nature, leaving us unmoored from reality and thus culturally and politically vulnerable to seduction by the latest demagogue." THIS STATEMENT IS COMPLETELY INCORRECT. I WILL HAVE TO WADE OFF THIS PAGE.
Posted by LloydMiller on 01/21/12 07:59 PM
Ok, but what realities do WE, the advocates of Libery, have to come to grips with. . .? NUMBER ONE: the "floating fantasy" state of the masses, is a sitting duck for DEM(agogues). People on the whole live a fantasy of wishful thinking, hoping, NOT A REALISTIC appraisal of themselves and their surroundings! Sure generations improve as they age, but then they die and are replaced by another generation of the fantasy infested.
Posted by Joelg on 01/21/12 03:41 PM
Was I wasting my time on the Internet reading this Daily Bell article and the feedback, instead of doing some "work" on my computer?
Am not sure. But it was an interesting read.
Posted by dimitri on 01/21/12 03:18 PM
The arising of God, Christ and the Bible in human history was facilitated by their unparalleled effectiveness in supporting authoritarian social systems. Their strength lies in the absolutism of the mind control that they exercise over entire populations. It's a big con to preach that one knows where they going after death. This con sets its believers into a (padded) cell, a no exit situation. Monotheism has had its run... and has utterly failed to provide its followers with anything but chains. Salvation is abandoning these chains, wholeheartedly.
Posted by budwood on 01/21/12 03:16 PM
Many years ago, I recall having an argument with a family man with whom I worked. He said that people were born with their own set of values and I, a single guy, said that was nonsense because environment was the total source of a person's values.
I was totally wrong. Since that time, I married and have sired (and supported) five children. It has become obvious that each child came with their own sense of values. Thankfully, those values were not strict differences, but in some cases, differences were significant. Of course, in a family unit, parents and circumstances temper such differences.
In any event, my observation of the various differences led me to do a bit of research. What I found was that each individual comes with a base set of values. I term that set of values "ancestor memory". Consideration of this base is what is missing in (so called) progressive ideologies.
The "progressives" simply don't get it. Generally speaking, "do-gooders" are people with more time on their hands than is good for them (and for us). They typically do not need to supply food and shelter for a family, do not need to arbitrate family differences, do not need to maintain living conditions, etc. Kind'a brings up the questions of whether "world improvers" like Karl Marx, Adolph Hitler and their ilk ever were active regarding family obligations.
Posted by chad2 on 01/21/12 02:58 PM
Interesting. Yes, when will we recognize we are bankrupt morally and that no free market system can save us from that. My name is 'chad2' and I'm a sinner, now I have a chance to be saved!
Posted by Von on 01/21/12 02:46 PM
Great blogs like this are a clear ray of sunlight on a muddy, corrupt, insane and blind world.
Posted by Mary S on 01/21/12 02:05 PM
Good article from human viewpoint. However, from Divine viewpoint God can change the ways of human nature through salvation and growing in grace and knowldege of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. With the Bible as our guide we can learn why we are here and as believers where we are going after death. We will always have man's nature as long as we live but we can become more Christ like the more we grow spiritually. I am not talking about emotionalism or the things we do but what we think. Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks in his heart (mind), so is he: