Abundance.Tribe Bi-Weekly Question: Can Human Nature Ever Be Changed? And If So, Should It Be And Why?

It's been a while since I've responded to one of the @Abundance.Tribe bi-weekly questions, partially because I haven't been doing the online thing much, partially because they're mostly discussed in the Discord server (an app I dislike), and mostly because I usually see the prompt and then forget about it :-P

To be clear, I'm basically going to side-step the question itself, in favor of addressing the underlying belief, which I would say is complete BS.

This one though, I knew I had to take a swing at. The idea of Human Nature is, in my opinion, a huge problem. It seems that the only purpose for the phrase is to help people justify whatever horrible acts, institutions, and beliefs they want, without having to provide any actual reasoning. Whether you're supporting greed, rape, war, capitalism, statism, or laziness; all you have to do is invoke the magic of "human nature" and you win the argument...

It's All Perspective

It seems that most of the time when people are resorting to defense, they're even limiting human nature down to those parts of human behavior/interaction that they personally see most often in their own experiences. Folks who have never left the USSA seem to have this idea that, although "Americans" make up less than 5% of the world's population, the common behaviors in this one nation-state are somehow universalities. Never mind the fact that even within the US, there are a BROAD range of cultural norms & behavior patterns.

Spending a month around humans at the Rainbow Gathering will give you a much different image than spending a month around folks in a small cattle town in Texas, which will give a much different image from a month hanging out with Congress. There are going to be some ubiquitous things, but just with those 3 sample groups you'll find that the number of similarities have already shrunk greatly. Let's zoom out even more and compare those politicians, a small village in rural India, an intentional community like East Wind, and New York City.

Step back even more, and imagine if we could compare groups from what is now called Alaska, what is now called Mexico, what is now called India, what is now called Australia, and what is now called Britain, and what is now called Ethiopa... before Europeans spread across the planet. How many more of those similarities would we realize were actually not "human" in nature, but only seem to be universal due to the influence that colonialism has had over the past few hundred years?

I travel a lot, I go to a lot of events, and I meet a lot of humans... but I've certainly not observed any kind of worthwhile fraction of the humans alive right now... and neither has anyone else (besides FB, Google, and the NSA I guess). The thing is, even if we could observe every single human on Earth and chart their behaviors and tendencies... that still wouldn't show us "human nature", it would show us the nature of humans on this planet, at this time, with all of the history, culture, and conditioning of this particular time. Show me a human born on into a world with the state, without war, without imperialism, without corporations, etc.

It's pretty bad science to observe the rats in one cage, and then assume that their behavior must be a perfect representation of all rats that have/will ever exist(ed).

Where's Your Imagination?

Since we have yet to find any humans from other planets, other times, or other timelines, it is understandable that so many would think that what is natural for humans in these specific settings is what is natural for humans in general. My own experience (and that of many others) has included many fictional worlds though, and those experiences allow for so much more human possibility.

Our experience of life happens pretty much exclusively in our brains; even the feeling of my laptop keys on my fingertips right now is being experienced in my brain based on electrical signals. Because of this, those hundreds of different worlds & universes I've explored through books, movies, games, and my own imagination are experienced just as real to my brain as the one I'm walking through right now.

I find the realms of science fiction and fantasy to be so important for this reason. They expand our idea of what is possible, they show us other realms and other ways of being. I've lived on completely anarchist worlds, I've lived on worlds where the concept of war has never existed, I've lived on spaceships hundreds of kilometers long where humans & AIs interact on equal footing, I've lived in villages where the wellbeing of one was the wellbeing of all, I've lived on planets where there is no such thing as gender/sex (because everyone is asexual, until their cycle, when they only take on a sex if they are with someone else on their cycle.)

My take on Human Nature

Human nature is adaptation.

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Humans are excellent at adapting to the world around them. Before birth, we're already adapting to the world that we'll be entering, based on the nutrition, stresses, and overall experience of our mothers. This adaptation continues through our entire lives: from our family interactions, to the "schooling" we receive, to the taboos & traditions of our religions, to the preferences of our employers and mates.

  • Create a system where the most rewarded behavior is cooperation & compassion, and every human is going to be more cooperative & compassionate.
  • Create a system where the most rewarded behavior is competition & apathy, and every human is going to be more competitive & apathetic.
  • If there are people "in power" who casually and regularly kill those who think for themselves, then we end up with a population that goes along more and more.

The same applies everywhere. The human organism is wired to "win", so whatever the rules & goals of the game are, humans are going to adapt to play the game better (and those that don't will be less likely to reproduce). If we create a paradigm where life, freedom, and differences are respected, and we open the flood gates for an infinite abundance of human variation.

Deeper Exploration

The following is a (very) short list of some scientific fields, people, studies, concepts, and books that I think might be beneficial to those interested in diving deeper into what human nature really is.

Image Sources

Batman & Robin
Perspective
Fiction
Sounds of Nature



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