on human nature…

My opinion on human nature is that most of us make most of our decisions based on fear. I think we’re conflicted about meeting our own needs and those of others; I think our current culture has us deeply, deeply trained to think about ourselves first – hence, anything that threatens – or appears to threaten – the self is a very powerful motivator. I don’t think we’re EITHER “essentially good” or “essentially bad”. I think we are co-constructed (interpellated) into our morality and ethics just like any other “identity.”
The challenge of “not rolling over” in the face of a reality that feels almost unbearable to many of us is to take the risk of putting ourselves on the line in ways that invite change. I *want* to be different tomorrow than I am today! If I can engage with others who feel the same, are compelled toward a similar – DIFFERENT! – future, are willing to engage and listen to the other side as we have done with each other in this class…then there might be hope of constructing an ideological narrative or grand myth that shifts the basis of debate away from fear to possibility.
There is no short-term solution, only short-term immediate actions that invoke a long-term solution.


My comments are in response to Stephen’s email, in a thread that’s been on-going for a couple of weeks now in the aftermath of the election.
On Nov 28, 2004, at 12:33 PM, solbrys@comm.umass.edu wrote:
Perhaps the issue in the sparring match between Donna, Scott, Becky and me is
that the former three are liberals at heart and earnestly trust in the demos and
see human nature as essentially good but misguided, while I only trust in the
demos with much practice and regard human nature as essentially thuggish. (You
see, Steph, why I asked you long ago to express your opinion on human nature?
We can’t talk about democracy without implicating such theories.)

3 thoughts on “on human nature…”

  1. Hi Steph,
    Nice academic and neutral way of not answering the question. Of course we’re co-constructed. But that is not a fair response to the difficult question posed to you. And while I appreciate the location of fear in the equation, that only answers the

  2. I don’t think I ever took you as a chicken/egg guy before, but it sure seems like you’re saying the WORDS have to come FIRST and the ACTION follows. What if its the other way around? Or, in concert?
    If the attitudes – let’s say OURs, just to ground the debate a bit – are already formulated along essentialist lines, how does one break out of that essentialism? Thinking about the hard sciences (I saw “Mindwalk” last night – which describes the challenges faced by physicists as they kept discovering “realities” that they had no language for)…it seems to me that there could be a parallel to be drawn with the social sciences: maybe we invent the language out of the actions and behaviors that produce new phenomena, new kinds of “human nature” or variations that don’t fit the staid old (essential?) model. Maybe the risk I’m taking is SHOWING rather than TELLING “my audience” – maybe I’m trying to live the solution so that we’re pushed to come up with language for it?
    Isn’t this the performance aspect of our DRP equation?

  3. Hi Steph,
    Admirable non-answer again, what with the whole which-came-first, language-or-action shtick. And this time you even invoke the common sense form of the dilemma to underscore the ambiguity. But alas, just as everyone knows the chicken came first

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