Friday, September 03, 2004

Are human beings basically good or evil?

We believe that the answer to this question is: potentially both. On the one hand, most people are basically good to their children, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, neighbors. They’re even good to the people they know only casually, such as waiters and waitresses in their favorite restaurants, people in their vanpool, someone they chat with on the train every morning on the way to work, and others in their general community. In other words, most people are basically good to the people around them, the people they deal with directly.

The problem, however, is how people regard those outside their community: how one city regards another. How one state treats another. How one nation treats another. We admit that the history of humankind can be seen as one of wars of conquest, but consider all the good that people of capable of towards those around them: the selflessness of most parents, the many grown children who care for aging parents, the friend who helps more than any relative. The doctors and nurses who are dedicated to caring for their parents. The many volunteers who do so much, especially in this country. A lot of “good” is being done, and that potential for good can---not always, but often---be extended to a wider and wider circle beyond our own community, however we define that.

In our dealings with those around us, in a way it’s just common sense to be good, because you never know when you may need their help. We share common interests. Which explains why larger groups can be in conflict: conflicting interests. But given the increasingly global scale of some of the problems we face today---problems that no single nation can tackle alone---it’s starting to make more and more sense to work together for the same common-sense reason that two neighbors treat each other in a neighborly way.