On Human Nature...

2:28 PM / Posted by Ashley /


Imagine you are in an upstairs window looking out over a nearly empty street below. It is a scorching hot day. A child below is enjoying an ice cream cone. Up walks a man. He looks down, grabs the cone, and swats the child aside into the gutter. He walks on enjoying his new cone. What do you think, from the safety of you distance from the scene, about this man? Of course, you think this fellow is pathological. You certainly don't identify with him and think, that's me down there, I would do that too. Instead you would be horrified and you would likely even rush down to comfort the child. But why?

If humans are greedy, self centered, violent animals wouldn't we expect that all humans, confronted with the opportunity to take a delicious morsel at no cost to themselves, would do so? Why should it horrify us when we see someone do it? Why should we find it pathological? The answer is that we actually do not think that people are inherently thugs. We only gravitate to that claim when it serves our purposes to rationalize some agenda we hold for other reasons entirely, such as when we ignore widespread injustice because to do otherwise would be uncomfortable, costly, and even risky.

--Noam Chomsky

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