Why Human Nature Matters

I’m not sure it should; I mean, I’m not sure if it’s important that polar bears have some workable version of Polar Bear Nature to draw upon, most humans don’t think so, we think most creatures simply are what they are, they live, act, and respond. We don’t usually imagine that a bear or a deer or a barracuda compares itself to some idealized version of their species when they are making decisions.

I’m suggesting first, and in the interests of honesty rather than clarity, that many surely do have opinions about how they and others of their species should behave, but more to the point, that if one did imagine its nature completely upside-down and backwards, we might expect trouble. A species like that might stick out so starkly that it may not be the only species to think there is something different about it from all the others.

Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the damned Canada Geese, of course. Entitled, obtuse idiots. They think they’re canaries, always singing and landing on you and waving like in Snow White, except they only have one sour note and when they land on you it’s less of a wave and more of a fistfight.

I’m sorry – no wait. Maybe that’s not all bad. It’s a little like that, isn’t it?

Human nature is important because we’ll believe any lie that we think aligns with it. I’ll restart, but I had to get that down before I lost the idea.

Human nature is literally what we name the episteme  – the premise – we live under. People don’t like to be told they believe in any version of human nature, especially the Christian one, considering the rest of their story, their “cure” for your awful nature, but I’m starting to see that those sorts of details and rational concerns don’t matter, you don’t have to explicitly believe, maybe you don’t even have to tacitly accept it, do you? Even when you see the lie, there is still no other option anyway, “the cure” is in place, everywhere. It has the advantage of not only consensus, but a secret consensus, from which dissent is hardly possible. As I said recently, human nature is the end of the conversation, of every conversation that we allow to descend so far – bah! human nature.

If we buy the Nietzsche-Foucault idea of the episteme, does it mean we agree that different ages hold different ones? I don’t pretend to have read them, just because I presume to have some idea about them at all – did they preclude the idea of forever ones? I listened to that Foucault synopsis a few times, I sort of think he did, not sure about Nietzsche. I agree, forever is a long time, but I don’t think I’m onto one of a particular age, I would put AST as in place from at least today and back into prehistory somewhere. Perhaps “Christian original sin” would count as a premise for the post-classical age, but there is an underlying adaptation that predates it, isn’t there?

This is certainly a fine “first year” look at AST, that such a view, when codified and stated explicitly, came from Augustine et al and created the nightmare of Christendom for a thousand or two years, the Dark Ages, an age preserved most prolifically and poignantly in the numerous relics of torture and punitive devices. There’s another clarification I am going to require – did they say these premises were of our own devising? Certainly, they are limits upon the individual, and not of single origin, but do those fellows posit that “society” creates these parameters with any consciousness, or that societies are simply subject to them, to the unplanned unfolding of history?

I cannot get comfortable with “society,” the word, generally that’s true, but specifically here. I think I’m onto something that exists in all societies, or close enough, and “society,” firstly, sounds like othering, like it means “everyone around here except me,” but more importantly it’s still just too small, it’s not just everyone around here, it’s everyone. So.

Not individual, not societal, perhaps species wide. So, biology, then?

I’m not sure that there is the germ of this adaptation to be found observing primates, honestly. I see alphas, I see military hierarchies . . . there is even a germ of warfare. What I do not see is non-lethal abuse, child abuse.

I know, “childhood” is new, “parenting” as such is new, – always right on the button, aren’t we? How can there be child abuse when children weren’t invented yet? Ha. No corpse, no crime? Sorry.

Funny how things work, child abuse, pre-existing in the world, just waiting for children to be invented! Funny but “true.” Used to be, we beat little, recently created adults to work in the mines, because growth and development weren’t invented yet either, apparently. Or “It wasn’t me, the little buggers beat each other spare (the publisher’s ‘moral’ provided at the end of the Nurture Assumption)?” If children get abused, there is child abuse, we are sorting the abuse by victim type when we say that. Not vouching for it, but the description of the “aboriginal hunter gatherer group’s ‘children’s group’’’ was an abusive soldier factory where the boys either became fighters or were killed, weeded out of the tribe. I went to school, and this has the ring of truth to it for me, at least the core of it does. The presence of adults is not a requirement for children to be abused, any more than adults are proof against it.

I am convinced, that as far back as the anthropologists are tracking “social control” and the roots of law and civilization in humans and just a little further back yet, that this is how long we have thought that an abused human is a better human, that the two are two sides of the same coin, for the simple reason that the very first person to be controlled with abuse was also the first one to be pissed off about it and probably took it out on someone. More to the larger point of AST, perhaps they were well controlled and did not immediately take it out baboon style on some undeserving underling, perhaps they suppressed those feelings and waited for someone to break a rule, or for a war to break out to express them.

It’s a little more than perhaps, you put it that way, isn’t it?

In the interests of satisfying an obsolete urge, to define humans, human nature, I am suggesting that the delayed gratification of these negative feelings it what defines us. This is AST, the creation and storage, by our group, of pain and hurt, to be used in a directed manner, for our group conflict.

Sure, the church tries to replace the alpha with an abstract one and they try to make themselves the reason the sun rises and the reason humankind requires abuse. They put their holidays over older holidays and rebrand everything, but a spanking or a beating by any other name would hurt just as sweetly, no? Of course, near eternal institutions like the church have their finger on something basic, something biological, and so they give it their own name and declare it to have been recently created by their replacement alpha.

I’ve said elsewhere, Mom says she went up the side of your head to teach you not to track mud into her clean house and all things refined and civilized like that, while Dad makes the counterpoint that that may or may not be the case and Mom may or may not be being fair about this instance of your misbehaviour, but that him beating your ass will “toughen you up” and that’s the positive thing he takes from the whole affair. He could well be saving your life in some future altercation, indeed saving the family, the tribe in future skirmishes. I consider this a fun little anecdote, but perhaps I haven’t made it clear why it’s always there for me, so here:

Two completely different “reasons” that are actually in conflict – Mom says soft and Dad says hard – same behaviour, kids get punished, read “hurt.” For me, this is proof that the behaviour persists, even if the explanation is completely wrong – two men say they’re Jesus; one of ‘em must be wrong, right – except both of their houses are full and not just every Sunday, but all week. For the record, Mom’s lying about what it does, Dad’s telling the truth about that. For full disclosure, Dad’s full of it that weakness is a problem and toughness is an answer. His answer is humanity’s whole problem.

Mom’s idea of human nature seems to be, born messy and wild, and she has her cure, the father, the switch , and the woodshed.

Dad’s idea of human nature is, born weak and vulnerable, and he has his cure, the switch and the woodshed.

Isn’t it admirable, this quest of personal discovery, us trying to glean our true natures and intended purpose so we can cure it. That is the part of that sentence I would have you notice – we supposedly differ about our natures, but still we have a plan. Again, always, “nature” in this sense is an innateness argument, religious and absolutist. The point of life, of living and evolution, is not some static nature but of adaptation, of struggle and striving, of becoming . . .

. . . so your plan is your nature. You are what you are trying to be – that is evolution. Where all your effort goes – that is who, or what you are.

The entire point of evolution is that the past didn’t work, that it wasn’t working, so the past is absolutely, one hundred percent, exactly the only place that answers to our problems are not going to be found.

The whole point of every selective situation is that a new way needs to be found, isn’t it? I hope we haven’t missed it, but I think this was one such situation.

 

 

 

Jeff

May 19th., 2020

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