are we?

are we inherently mean and selfish?

I don’t believe we are. Its an age old argument reflected in the views of Hobbes and Rousseau.

it goes something like this…

Left to our own devices:

A – humans will be in conflict, a sort of dog-eat-dog approach to life and fight for themselves or me and mine, OR;

B -they will care, show compassion and work cooperatively.

It’s simplified but bear with me … Which do you think is most accurate?

I’m reading humankind – a hopeful history, he challenges the theories that suggest we are individualistic when pushed into a corner and argues that we’re more likely to work together and help each other.

Sound Utopian?

He debunks the dominant stories, the research, established theories and especially what we hear through the media, reinforced through word of mouth that we default to ‘I’. His view is that we default to ‘we.’ ie we care rather than fight.

We follow what we’re told and learned to accept, rather than think for ourselves.

Here’s one example:

William Golding wrote a fictitious story : “Lord of the Flies’ about young boys shipwrecked on a deserted island and how they behaved. What happened? As you might expect, they fought for themselves ganging up against each other. The result was mayhem leading to death.

This has profound implications.

By contrast, Bregman discovered a true story of shipwrecked boys. The result, was the opposite, as they co-operated and worked together to be able to survive.

Which story had you heard?

Most of my day to day experiences in life demonstrate people think about me and mine rather than showing care for another but it doesn’t have to be that way. Manjula (OK, I’m biased) was an exceptional example who throughout her life was faced with tricky uncaring people being selfish and antagonistic but she never let it stop her caring for and loving others. She was inherently kind.

I think much of our problems in society and the damage we do to each other and the planet is because of this mistaken belief and because our systems reinforce particular ways. These allow the powerful to dominate and keep their unfair share. So this way of thinking benefits some people more than others and that’s why it continues. It’s like ‘Lord of the Flies’ and this is maybe why we’re in the mess we’re in.

I believe it was Malcom X that raised the question: What’s the difference between Illness and Wellness?

It’s I and We.

Cool eh?

It’s actually our choice

I think we should try

IMG_1143I still facilitate ‘training’ workshops for corporate clients. An absolutely critical part of the sessions is to help people see things from the others’ point of view. This is, of course,  not just relevant to business.

Alexander McCall Smith puts it like this….

“People tried to understand, and many did, but not everybody could make the imaginative leap that landed one in a position of another person, in their shoes, in their very garments, looking out on the world with their eyes, feeling what went on inside their hearts; being made to cry by the things that made them want to cry. That was easy in theory, but hard in practice. They pretended to understand because they could not know – not really know – what it was like to be the other. That was because it was not them. That was why they could not think that. It had to be you.”

in his novel: Trains and Lovers.

If I understand some of his teachings correctly the Dalai Lama shows that this is what compassion is about. Seeing things from the others’ point of view.

I know its hard but in life, it’s important that we should try.