Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Thinking out loud - Human Nature

I have to confess that I am not an anthropologist. That subject actually interests me, but I've not done any study of that field and so my question probably already has been answered by those who have, but it's fun to ask anyway. (As this is not a real post and is just a thinking out loud thing, grammar and spelling don't count)!

Anyway, every once in a while I'll read of some really reprehensible behaviour by a person or a group of people ... mobs screaming at marching Latinos or people calmly discussing the benefits of torture or any number of other things, and if you express disgust or dismay sooner or later someone will come along as say, "Well, what can you do? That's just human nature".

This is the answer whether the question is about racism, oppression, mobs, income inequality, and many other things.

So, of course my question is... is it? If there are humans around the world whose behaviour doesn't fall into these sorts of patterns, does that negate the "it's human nature" thing, or does that mean that these humans are maybe not progressed enough to have this particular nature of humans?

It seems to me to be yet one more type of thing, such as "you can't judge things that happened years ago by the morals of today" or whatever, that is brought up when discussing the past actions of say, Empire or slavery or something. This might wash, if there were not also people during those times that protested, said this or that was wrong, that they would not participate and so on. Which group was displaying human nature? The "everybody" that "does it" or the few that don't? Who decides which nature if human and which is not?

If you consider the fact that in 100 or so years, people will perhaps (hopefully!) be past the point of warmaking... possibly because things are so messed up everyone needs each other to survive, will they look back on us and say that you can't judge things by their time and morals, even though there are those of us who recognize that war is not a productive or right thing?

9 Comments:

Blogger dove said...

I love this post Nanette.

Yes. I see that naturalising move often being made to reinforce / support things which would otherwise have to be recognised as wrong, or unjust, or unacceptable.
And it is usually deployed to shore up the relatively powerful against the claims to justice of the relatively powerless I think.

And it's a neat trick too, because it moves the behaviour, the system, the practice that is described as human nature outside of the realm of explanation and judgement: it is 'just' human nature, it needs no explanation -- it cannot be judged.

Hmmmm. Lots to think about.

8/24/2006 8:41 am  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

I love this post too!

I wish I had read it before I committed my latest blogrant, I could have just linked to this.

As always, you say it better. Thank you!

8/24/2006 12:43 pm  
Blogger NLinStPaul said...

The book I mentioned in dove's last post "The Chalice and the Blade" by Rianne Eisler is all about human history prior to our "historical period" in the west and middle east when neolithic human beings apprear to have operated from a "partnership" or chalice model. Archeology shows that they did not have/make weapons to kill other humans and that their villages were not fortified or defended against war-makers. It also shows that they worshiped goddesses as displayed in mother nature and that our social constructs of dominance and ranking were absent.

She constrasts this with the beginnings of the blade culture that started over 2000 years ago in these areas by warriors who invaded from the north. These people were herders rather than hunter-gatherers and worshipped "sky gods" who then proceeded to codify religious doctrine into law, arrange social constructs by ranking/dominance and denigrate women.

Her point is that we have been living with the blade culture as human beings ever since. And that with the weaponry now available to the blade culture, unless we begin to explore our partnership capabilities, we are likely to destroy ourselves.

Unlike those who say "women's issues" will need to wait to be addressed until we get other more important things done, she says that its only by addressing these women's issues that we will save ourselves.

Amazing stuff and so relevant to today even though it was written over 20 years ago. I highly recommend the book as one of the most important I've read in addressing our current situation.

8/24/2006 2:21 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

Hey, there are comments here! Blogger is such a tease (or trickster, isn't that what poco called it? lol), it didn't look like there were any here. I figured everyone was just thinking silently ;).

dove, yes and it's said with such acceptance and authority, as if there was just no escape from that nature - even if one is in the midst of people whose natures do not at all fit in that mold. I guess they either figure those people are aberrations or that, if only given the right circumstances and chance, they do would follow 'human nature'.

It occurred to me that religion also plays a part in this - not that I am all that familiar with them, but at least the abrahamic ones seem to set out a "this is how humans are and unless they do what I say, this is how they will be" type of thing.

We have so many outs for ourselves, lol.

8/25/2006 12:13 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

Ductape, I read your latest rant, it's a good one! And it well captures the "self referential" thinking of USuns that so puzzled me, the "everything circles back to and compares to me" type of thing.

"Everyone has their price" is really more the motto of the US than "e pluribus unum", which no one remembers anyway, no matter how much more lofty it sounds in latin. Well, plus it's furrin', which is a no no. I truly believe that if the Kyoto Protocol had been named the Patriotic Americans Help Save the World by Limiting Pollutions Protocol (or some such silly thing)it would have had a far greater chance of passing.

Anyway, I should probably leave the rest of this comment over there, huh? lol

8/25/2006 12:25 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

Nancy, you have convinced me to find a copy of that book! I've been looking for something like that, especially one that was based on fact (as much as we can ascertain at this time), and archeological finds and so on.

I've often told my friends that I think that somewhere, sometime, we probably had a choice and took a wrong turn somewhere along the human history line. It sounds like this shows one of the places where.

I was just remarking... yesterday, I think it was, in the downtrodden woman post, that it seems as if the creation of more downtrodden women in these various countries, as a result of our wars and other factors, is actually a program goal and not just a byproduct of war. It's just too systematic, from the Iraq to the Middle East to Africa to Asia to South America to the US and more. Parts of Europe seem to be (for now) escaping this big push somewhat, from what I can tell.

And you're (she's) right... that's the best way to make sure the 'blade culture' thrives.

Anyway, keep posting bits of the book! Or better yet, once you finish (or even before) do a post here on the book and stuff. Now that would be cool.

8/25/2006 12:39 am  
Anonymous Alice said...

I think the real "nature" is to choose what's easiest. Research on monkey behavior has shown the same. My own behavior has shown me that unless I want to work on it, I will choose to do what is more habitual, expected by society, or learned from my parents.

8/26/2006 4:47 pm  
Blogger Sandra White said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8/28/2006 1:31 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

The deleted comment spam wasn't anything so interesting as spray on hair, so... poof!

8/28/2006 3:47 am  

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