Does It Matter if Humanity is Inherently Good?
Sometimes, I believe that humanity is inherently good. That, ultimately, even if takes a few generations of work, as a species we’ll find a way to resolve our differences. We’ll stop killing each other and, aside from perhaps a few minor spats here and there, we’ll work together to create a better world.
Some days, I see children trying to kill each other over Cheesestrings and I wonder if humanity has any hope at all.
If even the most innocent of us struggle to get along, how can the rest of us – with our adult sized stubbornness and politics and religions – expect we’ll ever be capable of peace on earth?
We live in the most peaceful time ever recorded in human history and yet we still have war raging in various parts of the world. Horrific crimes are committed even in the most peaceful places on a regular basis.
While we might overall be improving morally, the progress we’re making as a global community is so slow that it’s difficult to argue that people are inherently good. It’s not much comfort, either, to think that the awful attitudes we have towards others are taught to us rather than naturally occurring.
The fact is that humanity can be pretty horrible – to the environment, to the other creatures on the planet, to each other.
But perhaps that makes the goodness we are capable of so much more precious.
It’s easy to be awful. It’s easy to treat other people like dirt and to put your own desires ahead of anyone else’s needs or what is ethically right. It’s easy to ignore the pain and suffering in the world around you and just get on with your own life.
It’s so much harder to choose to be kind and caring in the things that you do. It is harder to choose to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own, especially if it means detracting from something you want.
But that’s what makes it such an admirable trait.
Overcoming your own gut instinct to be selfish makes choosing difficult moral decisions not just admirable for the positive ramifications they have but for the sacrifices you make to ensure that they become reality.
If it was easy to be good, it would make life a lot smoother for most of mankind and the world would probably be a better place. But it isn’t.
But you can choose to be good.
And as long as human beings have the capacity to choose morality for themselves then we always have the opportunity to make the world a better place. We always have the choice to improve this planet for the others on it and for generations to come.
Right now, it can be horrific that human beings are so cruel to each other.
But if we make the right decisions now – and teach our children how to do so in future generations – then maybe one day it won’t matter at all if we’re not born with any innate goodness. One day, perhaps our choices will be enough to create a perfect world.
Maybe we can even become such a harmonious society that we generate goodness inside us.
Finally creating that world despite any disinclination towards it we might have will be a vastly superior achievement than if it was just easy.
The world isn’t perfect and there’s nothing we can do to change the natural order of things. Humanity’s flaws are part and parcel of that.
But humanity has a privilege over the rest of the natural world in that we can decide to behave ethically. We are not slaves to instinct. We have the choice to do what is right even when it is difficult.
That choice is one of the most special gifts humanity has. It is exclusively our opportunity – some might say, our responsibility – to use our actions to make the world a better place.
Author Bio – Kirstie Summers is journalist whose day job takes her to all the most interesting places and events in South London. She also freelances for a number of sites and publications, from gaming and literature reviews to creative fiction. She lives in London and spends as much of her free time as possible making the most of being in such a diverse city. She keeps one day a week to herself to swim, relax and keep the stress of the world at bay.