The fact is that there is much evil in the world. The daily newspaper in any city or town in any country and all societies likely reports happenings that qualify as such. Be it a political scandal, an inner city mugging, rape, murder, State ordained execution (aka “murder”), or organized national aggression (aka “war”); evil abounds everywhere. As a self proclaimed “bleeding heart liberal” I grieve daily over deeds of humanity which are atrocious and despicable. At times it seems that there is no hope for our species.
Yet when my thinking digresses to such a level of despair, I am reminded that discouragement must not displace reason and reality.
There was a time when I would remind myself of the cliche: “There are good people everywhere”. And indeed there are good people everywhere. In every society there are genuinely good people. People who are kind and considerate. People who are compassionate and generous. People who are actively benevolent.
And when I speak of good people in every culture, I do not merely refer to organized activists, although I respect and appreciate every such individual and the groups so involved on behalf of human rights and needs. Aside from good people who actively pursue the common good through organized efforts, I likewise speak of the nameless individuals worldwide who live out goodness on a daily basis. I refer to those folk who treat every other person with respect in their everyday lives. Those folk who speak kindly to complete strangers. Those folk who genuinely care about their neighbors and friends. Those folk who listen with genuine concern to another who is voicing a grievance in their own lives. Those folk who loan a dollar to a co-worker when they themselves could use that dollar as well.
Indeed, there are truly good people everywhere.
Yet as I grow older and reflect upon humanity and our secular existence, I have come to conclude that there is a more fundamental reason that there are good people everywhere. The good people of the world are in fact those who are true to nature and reflective of a basic human quality. As idealistic as the notion might seem, I conclude that genuine goodness is a quality natural to the human condition.
I surmise then that the evil which abounds is the product of conditioning and choice. It seems to me that even allowing for the possibility of an occasional social dysfunction from birth, that generally speaking every person is inherently equipped with the capacity for genuine goodness as their natural function.
I cannot believe that any person is born with racist tendencies, yet myself being raised in the southern United States I have been raised in a culture which conditions its own to assume such a perspective. I cannot believe that any person is born naturally greedy, yet as a citizen of an extremely materialistic society I am party to and participant in a culture which conditions its own to assume that greedy ambition is a worthwhile quality and that therefore self serving, capitalistic ventures are noble endeavors. I cannot believe that any person is born concerned about another’s sexuality, yet I have seen how bigotry is justified in the name of religion and for the alleged societal moral good. For that matter, I cannot believe that any person is born a theist, yet in my culture theism is a condition so commonly taught and so widely believed that to think otherwise is regarded so unnatural as to be considered a mental illness.
The simple fact is that every person is born socially neutral. The traits we display and the thinking we assume in life are for the most part conditioned and culturally induced. From the day of our birth onward every one of us is the product of his/her culture and conditioning. Thus that which is our natural function is oftentimes assumed to be what we become, even though what we become is all too often that which we are externally conditioned to become. We of our species are all too often confused as to our natural being. So confused in fact that many lives are completed to duration with little analysis as to why we think the way we do, and why we do the things we do. Or further yet, whether our thinking is in fact true to our nature.
And thus when evil abounds, all too often we of humanity simply accept such as being “just the way it is” with little regards to whether there are more fundamental reasons open to scrutiny and consideration. And so humanity aimlessly exists midst mortal shortcomings and moral deficiencies with but minor self evaluation and social assessment. Ours is a sad state in that we allow ourselves to be conditioned instead of being true to our basic nature.
Yet if we will be true to ourselves we will be naturally kind to others. If we will be true to our nature we will be compassionate and generous. If we will but regard our own nature we will realize that the tendency of humanity is to be spontaneously good with little concern as to why or whether we should be so. We simply are. The next time you hear an animal in pain, observe whether your spontaneous nature is not altruistic and compassionate. The next time you see a car accident, observe whether your spontaneous compulsion is to stop and render aid. The next time you see a picture of a starving child on the television, observe whether you are not gut wrenched as to the state of being of a suffering sentient being.
I truly believe that we of our species are at our moral and ethical best when we discard all external ideologies and simply allow ourselves to be true to our basic nature. When we realize that there is no god to fight for, no country to defend, no way of life to secure, and no cause worth compromising our own natural values for; then we will discover that at the core of our humanity we are actually and simply good beings.
And naturally so. For despite the unfortunate fact that evil in the world does truly abound, I nonetheless maintain that genuine goodness is a natural human quality.