July 30, 2017

Human Beings: Essentially Good, or Essentially Bad?

Let me sum up everything I’m about to say in three words: people are weird.

Yeah, that’ll about do it.

People, as a collective, are a lot of things.

They are responsible for many terrible things. And, when I say that, I’m not trying to call out any one, specific person—I’m talking about humanity in general.

War, murder, and poverty are human inventions.

Abuse, whether sexual, physical, or emotional, is a human invention. Oppression is a human invention.

It is not nature that ensures that injustices keep happening in the world every single day of our damned lives…that’s the work of people.

People can be angry, selfish, and cruel. They hold onto grudges, they can take their frustrations out on the wrong person, and they can be downright frustrating.

With all of that, it can be hard to keep your faith in humanity.

Sometimes it is difficult to think of people as a positive force, as something you feel inclined to like. But, whenever I hear someone say that they hate people, or that they want to move to the middle of nowhere to escape from people, I can’t help but think that they are only seeing one side of a much larger, complex picture.

Yes, there are people who commit atrocious crimes against their fellow humans, but there are also many people out there who want to do good.

There are thousands of people who join marches, contact politicians, and form groups aimed at helping their fellow human beings. There are doctors trying to save lives, volunteers in foreign countries getting food and health care to people who need it, activists (who you might not agree with) fighting with everything they have, because they want to help people. They want to make the world a better place.

Yes, there are devastating events caused by people and their hatred, like bombings and shootings. But, there are also people caught up in those events who die to save their loved ones; there are first aid responders who want to make tragic situations better.

There are rude, selfish, narrow-minded people who will treat you poorly, but there are also kind people who will offer you a hand, people who will smile at you on the street. The thing I love most about people is that it is possible for them to be both extremes: positive and negative.

The person who yells at you unfairly can also be the person who dies in a shooting trying to save their loved one. The doctor who wants nothing more than to save lives in their day-to-day work might go home and be emotionally abusive to his or her family. All people are flawed. But, all people have their strengths too.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why some have the tendency to say that they hate people or that they’d rather avoid them altogether—their focus is on the bad, and they forget to notice the good that is there.

It is really important we notice both: the bad, so that we can learn from it and make sure we never personally repeat it, and the good, so that we can remember to have hope in people.

I am aware that I am asking you to look at one thing in two different ways—praising the good while simultaneously condemning the bad, and that can get complicated, especially emotionally.

Nonetheless, it is something that we, as a society, need to start doing more often. If the amount of people who have told me that they hate people and want to move out into the middle of nowhere to avoid them have taught me anything, it’s that it is easy to give up on some people once you have decided that their negative side is the only side they have. And we can’t give up.

Giving up is dangerous.

Giving up on humanity means that we lose one more person who could have made a difference, one more person who wants to help people, but who has become disillusioned by how difficult that can be.

Real societal differences are never made by giving up.

The world is not black or white, good or evil; the world is what we make it.


Author: Ciara Hall
Image: Cliff/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Travis May

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