It is relatively easy to see someone struggling, and to say “we all have problems, deal with it“, to dismiss them as lazy. And yet, we all need somebody. Whether we find it difficult to express ourselves with words, or whether we just need a hug and to be told everything will be all right, or whether we need someone to turn to for emotional support, or whether we carry a knife on the street because we’re afraid of the night, or whether we have built up anger, or whether we just don’t have the detailed and incessant aspirations that those destined for success and great wealth seem to have. We appear to ignore those less fortunate, and to spew Western economic theory at them, as if it were binding to all mankind, when it isn’t. We are all different.
It is easy to view humanity as a great money making machine, spirituality is replaced by materialism, the passion of want, striking down the abundance of Community, to pursue our own individualistic goals regardless of the negative affect it may have on somebody somewhere. We work in jobs we hate, we judge people on the expense of their living , we look down at those who are trapped in a meticulous cycle of nothingness. And yet, in reality even those who deal drugs, are the same as all of us. Stuck in grip of Materialism, we are all looking to satisfy our own “wants” regardless of who it hurts. For the majority of us though, we are not directly involved in the exploitation of others, or the degrading of others, we simply wear the Primark clothes, we are not involved in the process, and so we just turn our heads and pretend it’s all happening in the distance, far from us.
It is assumed that the fetish for profit, is simply a force of human nature. But i’m inclined to believe otherwise. I think avarice and self importance and the proponents of this damaging way of thinking, are simply stuck in four walls of the society they we’re born into. We are taught to believe that we’re in life specifically for ourselves, that we’re self promoting monstrous beings, motivated by self interest, whose mind is geared toward the accumulation of as much material wealth as we can possibly get our hands on. If someone appears to be fighting against the flawed notion of individualism, they are merely attacked as being hippy, out of touch, socialist, they want to enslave you, they want to take away your property and give it to the lazy. It’s right winged hysteria at it’s worst. Hedonism is intrinsically woven together with the pursuit of individual wealth rather than the pursuit of the greater good for all. The Right have crafted a society which suits them, in which people must either conform or be labelled Communist, bleeding heart, or hippy. If we start to question why we are plainly dissatisfied with life, society tells us it’s because we don’t have enough materially. Perhaps a new bed will help, perhaps a new TV, perhaps a new car. And yet, when the happiness derived from “more” finally subsides, we’re back to feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned, shouldn’t we be questioning whether society’s notions of extreme wealth linked to happiness and righteousness, are perhaps misplaced?
Shouldn’t the very essence of “want” come after the entire species has the essential elements of “need” fulfilled? Why is liberty considered the right to extreme profit, whilst those who literally die of hunger are collateral; considered a necessary evil for the advancement of “want“? Why isn’t the fulfillment of essential “need” the building blocks of Liberty, the first post that cannot be past until all are equal. The cultivation of an individual’s “wants” should never infringe on the basics “needs” of anyone. The advancement of the culture of “want” is based primarily on playing games with the human characteristics of insecurity and inadequacy. Peace and compassion are not compatible with the World view that human nature is based solely and inherently on self importance and greed. When the World isn’t at war, it cannot be called Peace, whilst millions of people are left to die because the rest of us have an extreme abundance of “need” that we aren’t prepared to share, because sharing would lead to Communist sympathies?
I am inclined to believe that Humanity is not the personification of certain principles, based on greed. The prevailing message through history, whilst each culture has tried to prevent itself from imploding by insisting it is the height of human nature, is compassion.
Scientist Stephan Gould once said:
“History is made by warfare, lust for power, hatred, and xenophobia (with some other, more admirable motives thrown in here and there). We therefore assume that these obviously human traits define our essential nature. How often have we been told that ‘man’ is, by nature, aggressive and selfishly acquisitive?“
And he is correct. This is what we’re told. And yet, it just doesn’t add up. Would society be a detrimental mess, if we were to insist the contrary, that human nature is compassionate and cooperative? It would of course threaten great wealth, but why is that a problem? It is a problem only for those who have acquired great wealth, and who have succumb to the notion that we’re all ruthless monsters. If society truly were about the individual rather than the community, if a helping hand once in a while, a shoulder to lean on, a push in the right direction, were indeed detrimental, then the pillars of society would crumble. Whilst Humanity has the natural tendency to be horribly greedy and uncaring, it also has the overwhelmingly magnificent ability to be compassionate and genial. So why are we focusing on merely one aspect, the killer aspect? We have been conditioned to believe that cooperation, is simply illogical. We perpetuate the myth that human nature is greedy and that any attempt to block that greed, to promote cooperation, is a shot through the heart of our individual Liberties. And yet, we humans have the unique ability to sympathise, to support, and to empathise. We are all genetically connected, and so we are all part of one big family. We are not at odds with each other, adversaries in the great race for profit. We’re family.
I would argue that whilst greed and intense self reliance certainly pushes some to a position of unrivalled power (and thus gives them the power to push their way of thinking onto us all), you cannot force an entire populace to think the same way. When you try to ingrain into the minds of the compassionate, a sense of “me me me” you are the part of the problem, rather than the solution. You are the reason that it is cheaper to make a pill that works to give a middle aged white businessman an erection, than it is to make a pill to treat an African child with AIDs. We are not all greedy, the levels of difference between the extreme of pure selfishness to the extreme of pure altruism is so great from person to person, it is unfair to suggest that humanity on the whole is inherently greedy, whilst punishing and demonising those who do not possess the greedy gene. Charity merely exists in the World of the greedy; why can’t greed exist in the World of the Charity?
Greed is not human nature. Greed is merely a weapon in the search for power and acknowledgement. What if material greed were replaced, and power and acknowledgement were earned through the help given to those who cannot adequately help themselves? Is that some evil Communist notion? If it is, I’d be proud to wear the Communist label.
Human nature is not a choice. You cannot chose to have a specific nature, it just is. And so, if for example, a lady chooses to dedicate her live to helping others; resenting greed, rejecting the notion of incessant “want“; she is not rejecting human nature as such, she is merely acting on a personal trait of compassion and coexistence that is not based on “me me me“. We’d all say that lady is incredibly admirable. Yet, if tomorrow, we were all told by her, that society would now be based around that very same ideal of cooperation and compassion, we’d call her a Socialist. Evil. Trampling on our Rights. Rights that by the way, we invented, to act within the society…. that we created. Those economic rights are not universal and binding, enacted by nature. They are rights enacted by the wealthy few to protect themselves. I’m willing to believe there is more good in the World, more cooperation and compassion, than there is greed and selfishness. Greed is a choice, as is selflessness and cooperation. Neither, is human nature. Satisfying unnecessary “wants” becomes deleterious to satisfying the very necessary “needs” of those less fortunate.
Herman Kumara, head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement in a fishing town hit by the tsunami in Sri Lanka wrote “The funds received for the benefit of the victims are directed to the benefit of the privileged few, not to the real victims……… We see this as a plan of action amidst the tsunami crisis to hand over the sea and the coast to foreign corporations and tourism, with military assistance from the US Marines“. To the majority of us, capitalisation on a disaster area seems so horribly immoral, to even suggest it is a trait of human nature, is an insult. It is therefore comforting to know that thousands of charities like Paddle4relief and Unitingtheworld are doing the real work, getting the help to the people who need it, and not thinking about profit to be made in the future.
Greed led to the economic crises we face today. Banks did not care about the obscene debts they were encouraging us all to live on. Greed led to the U.S supporting General Pinochet when it suited them, regardless of his disrespect for human life. Greed has lead to street gangs at war over turf and wealth. Greed has led to illegal wars. Greed has led to the biggest scandal in my estimation the World has ever known – extreme yet unnecessary poverty. Greed led to the MPs expense scandal currently gripping the UK. Greed is so incredibly puerile and useless, it has not had the effect promised to us by successive Governments over the past twenty five years. It has merely created a generation who know no different, and so presume that it’s the only way through life. I reject wholeheartedly that particular notion.
We lose our spiritual connection to those around us, we lose our compassion for each other, we become a line on a map, or a skin colour, or a race, rather than an entire species who certainly need each other regardless of how much money we may have. We lose our philosophical ideas, our freedom to think above and beyond the realm of profit, because our only philosophy now is based solely on greed, and if you disagree, you’re an out of date Socialist with mental issues. We are led to believe that those who are not successful home owners are just lazy, and so don’t deserve our help. We are led to believe that the World is one big resource to be exploited by those who can afford it, regardless of the out come.
In the land of the “free”, The United States would not be the powerhouse it is today if it had relied solely on rugged individualism from it’s conception. The Preemption Act of 1841 and the Homestead Act of 1862 gave away much of the land brought by the California, Texas, Louisianna and Alaska purchases, which is the cornerstone of American success. Community was established when the Government took over lands that were filled with duelling and crime. Historian John Mack Farragher described the American frontiers as “a community experience…“. Big government in the USA then went on, extending social security to ten million more workers during President Eisenhower’s term. It spread to farmers, teachers and dentists among others. Under Eisenhower, the government financed the National highways system. Before that, under Truman, the government passed the G.I Bill of Rights, to provide aid to War veterans for homes and college. It benefited 8 million returning Soldiers, who now went to college and had their mortgages guaranteed; and America benefited economically over the next sixty five years. Anti-polio vaccines, National Institutes of Health and it’s Research and Development, National Defence Education Act, the Internet with it’s origins in the Defence Department, Medicare, integrated school system, Civil rights, and food Administration.
The point being that the strength of a Nation is not solely based on individualism, but on collective responsibility, cooperation, and sympathy. Where the markets fail to provide security and a sense of love and respect, the collectively elected Government, should step in. If it means they raise the highest rate on tax, by a little over 3%, to cope with the unbelievably disastrous equality gap, then all I have to say to the rich few is, tough.
How things change.
We consider those who become homeless to be lazy and primitive, rather than real people with real flaws that need an incredible amount of help to put right. Our hearts become stone and we see everyone else as mechanical money making stepping stones, to reach a goal of “more“. And yet, through it all, regardless of how ruthless we are, how greedy we are, the myth of individualism is so much so that we could not make it through life alone; and so in that sense, we are all that homeless man, we all need somebody.