One year in and the nature of man

Well, we have now been operating this blog for just over one year. I am regretful that I have not been able to discipline myself enough to do this everyday, but sometimes issues need to be thought over at some length before I am willing to make any comment. As the home page implies, I do make a serious attempt at trying to understand the things I write about. And just regurgitating things I have read or been taught does not count. We all need to learn how to question the assumptions we operate on everyday. The difference between most liberals and conservatives do not boil down to academic opposition but rather an internal bias and world-view we adopt unconciously as we grow up into adulthood. My boss and I began this discussion yesterday:

My boss and I often debate about the nature of man. He says man is naturally competitive and prone to doing the wrong thing, i.e. man is often very selfish even though he is equally capable of limitless good acts. I argue that he nor I really knows the nature of man because we have never encountered natural man.

Man is a social creature you see, and he is shaped by the social processes that surround him. School, family, friends, mass media, art and so on all have significant effects on how man is. Man is both a free willed agent and product of temporal-spatial circumstance. Therefore, we do not have any experience with natural man. We, as US citizens, have experience with Capitalist Man primarily.

Capitalist Man is the result of our unique economically based culture. Almost from the day we are born we are being bombarded and invaded by economics: think Sunday morning cartoons designed to induce children to crave that cereal or that toy. This process is not something we can stop without serious effort and so, as our children grow up they only become more accustomed to this way of life and literally become cogs in the machine of capitalist gain and accumulation. That is why by the time we are teenagers we resemble full-grown adults in that we attempt to create an image of ourselves that is primarily dependent on the clothes we buy, the shoes we wear and the car we drive. You see, by the time we reach young adulthood the culture has already ingrained into us this sense of “keeping up with the Joneses”.

Now, we may not experience this phenomenom exactly like that because most of us are not aware of the processes that shape us everyday. We do not typically consider that what we do is for other people, we experience it as a way of being our own unique selves. “I don’t buy Nikes because he has it. I buy it because that is what I like and it make me, me,” might be the more common mentality. Image building through consumption is a by-product of our materialist culture. But, as I have said before, it is the flaw of man’s ego that causes him to ignore the forces around him and deny how they affect him.

Anyway, so my boss at one point states that man is naturally destructive. Surprisingly, this is something I think we can observe of man and claim that it is natural. But that is simply because most beings on this planet are destructive in some way or another. The requirements of our body for nutrition necessitates that we consume to survive. The process of consumption is inherently destructive and is action that must be performed by all creatures on Earth. But, it is not this part of man that is the real problem; after all, if we are a part of this planet’s ecosystem than our acquisition of energy can not be out of the ordinary, right?

Right, so the problem is the social aspects of how, what and how much we consume. Whenever man decided that he was separate from nature and above it is when the problem started. It is man’s perception of superiority over nature that makes our destruction negative rather than positive; positive would mean that man could find an equilibrium and create a sustainable type of interaction with the world like most of Earth’s creatures. Instead, man’s destructiveness is negative because he pursues the domination of nature. Man’s desire has deteriorated into unenlightened and untamed conquest over the very ecosystem that gave birth to him.

Perhaps humanity is like old Oedipus then, unknowingly slaying our father while sleeping with our mother.


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