Monday, February 18, 2008


I used to think that people were basically good, with a few bad eggs here and there. Over time I've come to believe that most people are, at best, neutral. Other days I think that individuals in general don't care about anyone but themselves and I wish I could move to the farthest reaches of Alaska (but I would have to win millions of dollars first so I could have all the comforts stocked in and a deluxe heated outhouse). Where does the truth lie? Probably most people are good, the bad ones just get more press.

And I guess I don't just mean "bad" like criminals. I'm talking about rude people who don't give a thought to others. They run stop signs, cut ahead in lines, call people names. People who they they are the center of the universe. Sometimes I wonder why people can't be nice in general. For instance, the clerks at the grocery store I go to have to ask how I am doing. I always try to say "fine" and look them in the eye and ask how they are and really mean it.

But I am far, far from perfect. I try to be nice, but I have problems with the general public. Once I perceive that someone is rude to me I hate to say it, but I can be rude right back. And I try to put myself in other's positions, like when people are driving under the speed limit, but usually I get irritated. I don't honk my horn or anything, but unkind words are often spoken, luckily they can't hear them, though.

Oh, I know, people are good. Look at all the people who volunteer their time and money. But why are people driven to altruism in the first place? Is it religion? I was raised Lutheran and of course was taught to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and that "it is better to give than to receive".

And it does feel good to things for other people. So is altruism really selfish? I think there is something in most of us that drives us to care for our fellow beings. To do the right thing because it is right. Is this spiritual or just a biological instinct to contribute to keeping our species alive?

So what do you think? Are humans in general good, bad, or just human? And why do we do good deeds, or bad, for that matter?


Kristen said...

I think we are just human, and hopefully the tendency to good outweighs the bad in most people. Though altruism may contain hints of selfishness, "so what?" as long as good results from it. I'm not religious, and think religion actually is a cause of much evil; however I think it's best to "do unto others" for the good of all.

Kristen said...

Happy belated birthday! It was mamorable, anyway. :-D That was sweet of your husband to get you a special cake despite the logistics it took to get it.
I do hope you like Greenlanders. It is not exactly a bright and cheery book - lots of deaths, stark conditions etc. - but I am unexplicably fond of it. Also, it is (very) loosely based on actual historical people who lived in Greenland, from sketchy historical records. If you google around (it was a few years ago since I did) you can see what I mean.