People don’t generally come to see me unless something has gone wrong, and this often involves someone else having done something terrible to them.
Outside of my professional life I hear a lot of terrible things too. I seem to draw that to me. I also read a lot about history, and history is pretty much a long story about people doing terrible things to each other.
So is the news.
Despite all of that, I am still amazed by the capacity for good in every person I meet, apart from a very rare subset of people that really don’t count in metrics like this. I have people tell me this belief in the goodness of people doesn’t make sense in the face of so much evil, but I think it is because of the evil that it makes very good sense.
If we really think about it, evil makes a lot of sense.
If you want to get ahead quickly, just taking what is not yours is the simplest way. Making sure your needs are met without regard for anyone else’s is logical. We are hardwired for violence and domination and making sure we get ours before they get theirs. Some would say that points toward people not being good, but I think the opposite is true.
Despite everything, despite it seeming so much easier to do evil, the vast majority of us do good, and this has held throughout history.
There was never a point where the majority of humanity was doing terrible things to each other. There has always been cooperation and love and self-sacrifice, and not just between family members and friends, but between strangers and even enemies.
I really believe the average person has much more capacity for good than for evil.
I know there are competing explanations for this, but I am not really concerned about which one is right. I am fascinated by them, but do not see them as important in the face of the fact that most people are good.
That being said, one explanation I do not see as viable is the idea that people are only good because of laws and social pressure and fear of hell. We have this inherent thing inside of us that tells us when we are out of line, and it often starts ringing when we are treating others poorly for our own benefit. I have people tell me things they’ve done all the time, they feel terrible and want to do better, and they do this outside of any chance of getting caught. It is inherent, inside of them.
The entire premise of those Purge movies is moronic.
I am aware of the evolutionary explanations for good behavior, and if these are true I do not think that it compromises my belief that people are inherently good. Yes, there may be something inside of us that rewards good and cooperative behavior, but that doesn’t change the fact that these are then the things that drive people. I think we all want to believe we have some independent, un-influenced reason for doing what we do, but everything has an initial motivating force. It all grinds down to some foundation that doesn’t have much to do with “you”.
I need to do a blog on that “you” now that I think about it. It is a lot harder to find that you think.
So, yes, I believe that evil being so logical and useful shines light on just how good people are, and on the limitless capacity for goodness that nearly everybody has within them.
I think that most people want to pursue and express this capacity, but, for a variety of underlying reasons and causes, simply don’t know how.
I still think the world is getting better, even though it often scares me and makes me very aware that I am aging and falling out of step.
Evil is easy, yet so many people choose good.
This means something.