Home | About | Donate

Human... and Kind


Human... and Kind

George Monbiot

Do you find yourself thrashing against the tide of human indifference and selfishness? Are you oppressed by the sense that while you care, others don’t? That because of humankind’s callousness, civilisation and the rest of life on earth are basically stuffed? If so, you are not alone. But neither are you right.


I try and go out of my way to notice kind acts by others each and every day. The "nice thing to do" as performed by other people is something so many just take for granted they only notice the bad or the slights.

try it for some weeks on end.Do not count your own nice acts, notice those of others. I think you will come to agree that the vast majority of people or nice or at least want to be seen as such.


Hate must be taught. Unfortunately, there are many sociopaths who cynically do so for selfish reasons. It is the basis for the divide-and-conquer mode of ruling those who would otherwise cooperate among themselves thereby depriving the "elite" of their "due".


I find the fact that 26 percent presumably identified more with "selfish values" to be more troubling than the good news about the other 74 percent. Those 24 percent can do a lot of damage - especially since that are also the ones most likely be or among or soon to be among the ranks of the wealthy.


Tragically missing from the prism of perspective is any mention of patriarchy, enculturation to social, economic, and cultural hierarchies, and the primacy allotted to the macho warrior in so much of modern Western culture, particularly inside the MIC-directed U.S.A.

From the article:

"Why? How would the hard logic of evolution produce such outcomes? This is the subject of heated debate. One school of thought contends that altruism is a logical response to living in small groups of closely related people, and evolution has failed to catch up with the fact that we now live in large groups, mostly composed of strangers. Another argues that large groups containing high numbers of altruists will outcompete large groups which contain high numbers of selfish people. A third hypothesis insists that a tendency towards collaboration enhances your own survival, regardless of the group in which you might find yourself. Whatever the mechanism might be, the outcome should be a cause of celebration."

Academia, like the Catholic church and most bodies of power is strongly influenced by an exclusively MALE perspective. So long as the authorities who endorse others' degrees and determine whether or not their careers will go further make no mention of the masculine focus on all derivatives of power--added to what's allotted value and meaning--it will NEVER dawn on these intellectual men that when society identifies with masculine traits, aggression and dominance behaviors will become prized.

Like Yin and Yang, night and day, our brain's twin hemispheres (each one devoted to wholly different prisms of perception), and all of the other interactive polarities that define life on this planet... when only YANG is valued or held up as the basic norm, then all things Yin become reduced in value, prominence, and practice.

Altruism means caring, and when people care, they CANNOT do harm. Therefore, the caring society cannot be the make-war society. Caring thus is carefully conditioned out of people... and it starts with all of the ranking measures used to fit people into their places within a variety of often cruel hierarchies. Competition is championed over cooperation, the individual (particularly when might makes right) over "society."

Leave it to a Brit to quote studies and completely miss the truly operational factors that lead to diminishing expressions of altruism and caring.

What would be interesting would be to give these purportedly accurate personality tests to members of the NRA and other white macho groupings, and say to the national nurses union. And then compare results.

It's heartening to see high percentages of children start out demonstrating altruism; but rather maddening when an intellectual pundit proves blind to the cultural conditioning devices (as in sexism and racism, and yes, classism) that foster a reversal of these percentages as people age.

Since I don't believe in coincidences, I think a certain consciousness-raising event that headed my way at the tender age of 5 played a definitive role in my understanding of human nature... and how it ends up conditioned.

I was the youngest enrollee at a summer sleep-away camp and new to the experience, when all sorts of HELL broke loose suddenly. And all I heard were the words: "Color War!"

That's a popular dynamic of these summer camps and now I wonder if there wasn't covert CIA money behind these "recreational operations." In any case, campers were spontaneously divided into 2 teams--based on color--and for the duration of summer, competed in all sorts of activities.

The amount of fervor for one's team added to the viciousness attached to the competitive games, the almost savage perception of "the other team" was such clear Theater of the Absurd to me. At 5, I could see how best friends were turned into instant enemies overnight. And all for this inanity, this manmade abstraction called "color war."

It's not that different today, is it?

When Dr. Seuss took on this same subject, he sought to inoculate children against this virtual virus... war based on specious charges.

Many would argue, a la tests done by Stanley Milgram, that this easy conditioning is proof positive than human beings, by nature, are prone to following authority straight down the road to acts of sadism and cruelty. I counter this conclusion by offering in its place the fact of centuries-old conditioning mechanisms, particularly those of church and/or State. With the faintest premise of individual freedom arriving in the 18th century, for MANY generations human beings were bred to NOT question kings, noblemen, church fathers, etc. This penchant for following authority figures in "Father Knows Best" style enactments is part of most people's DNA. Behavior is encoded and passed down. I learned that in first year college biology as proven by behavior taught to flat worms that the next generation immediately replicated.

So many would-be experts take the product of operant conditioning and conclude that it points to "human nature."


The number of people who go out of their way to be kind to strangers actually astonishes me. I've used solely public transportation for the last dozen years, and particularly on buses -- where the riders tend to be lower income, sometimes quite poor if we knew it, and frequently have limited mobility -- the response to someone in need seems to be typically very kind.


Yes, the buses in my town are often sort-of-rolling kindness-and-solidarity-generating machines. Low carbon footprint too. Always wishing the driver a good day when stepping off is a Yinzer tradition not seen in many other places. It is never done in Toronto - one only hears stories of drivers being verbally abused by irate riders - and these are Canadians yet!


"Interestingly, and alarmingly for people of my political persuasion, it also discovered that that liberals tend to possess a dimmer view of other people than conservatives do."

Could that be because liberals see and decry the atrocities conservatives uniquely commit, whereas conservatives won't criticize themselves?


I abhor television for many reasons, but I recommend that you watch Shark Tank. It is a great insight on how the wealthy think. They love and live for money.


"74% – identify more strongly with unselfish values than with selfish values".

That leaves 26%. That is close to 1 in 4, which is more than you need to destroy civilisation by greed and callous indifference to others.


It is what human nature does to itself... what condition is your condition in?


George, where are you coming from? Of course most people think they're wonderful and better than everyone else (Prairie Home Companion: All the kids are better than average). Simple numerics however proves that most of them are deluding themselves with flattery and narcism. Including you! (And don't try turning the tables on me -- I'm just a gadfly being what God intended it to be.)


If I remember correctly, Darwin described humans as being cooperative -- said they had to work together in order to survive when they moved out of the forest and onto the prairie. Lee Loe


"we are good people, tolerating bad things"

Actually, we are imbecile and greedy people tolerating bad things. People are trying to improve the planet for the last 30 years but it keeps going down so much that even China is having problems...because they thought the world will keep going up with them....sad...


I think I would agree with ThisOldMan on this one. Not only is there the 4 to 1 difference whereby the few make it bad for the many - do evolutionary theorists have anything to say about the weakest links or the lowest denominators - but also when asked are people in general going to mentally conceive of themselves as uncaring when all sorts of cognitive biases are at play. Of course not. The question is whether these same people know that their polluting cars causes premature death, that their reliance on fossil fuels is causing climate change and that their consumption habits are causing environmental degradation, all of which are hardly caring activities. Im sure there are many more externalities in many people's thinking including those mentioned above.


Human beings have both good and bad tendencies, our better selves and our worse selves. I think our American culture has been deliberately manipulated both ways. Our government makes us believe in the goodness and greatness of our country, the purity of our motives, our generosity and superiority. All this in face of the facts of the destruction of the indigenous peoples, the enslavery of Africans, the imperialist acquisition of lands and countries, the covert operations to destabilize weaker and smaller countries and make them part of 'our interests' through wars of choice. It was all 'necessary' somehow.

In order to do this, they have the help of the mainstream media which does a real job messing with our heads, bringing us stories that will melt our hearts, of lost or injured animals, people who overcome adversity, with making heroes out of poor soldiers who might rather have their arms and legs back than useless medals.

But the media also gives our worse side permission to rear out of us like the monsters in Alien with programs that began with Rush Limbaugh and his ilk that demonize and ridicule his political opposites. And every little point they score reaches into the listener down past his good heart into the heart of darkness and whispers, yes, I feel that way, too, and it's okay to feel this anger and hatred. Rush is right. I am good but now I see how bad these others( liberals, women's libbers, peaceniks, Democrats) really are. They are my enemy. They are trying to destroy me so I must destroy them.

If the powerful were only selfish we might be able to co-exist with them. But it seems they will use both our best and worst selves to confuse us and disguise their destructive influence on the rest of us.


perhaps it is the working together that is the key... we will forgo our alleged predisposition to be kind in order to feel a part of something regardless of its innate worth or lack or worth... maybe these are competing urges with kindness losing out in many/most cases when the fear of being abandoned by the tribe is a real threat. Then we have someone like Snowden. Assange. Rachel Corrie. People who have no ability to rationalize away belonging to an errant and cruel tribe and opt out. They are essential to our evolution as well.


one of my favorties... have to convince someone to put it on a big screen again


I like Koyyansquatsi too - but 80% of this imagery (are the Twinkie and hot dog factory scenes in this clip?) mostly depicts how awful the automobile is - not the urban environment itself. Think of how nice cities would be without them!


A "pet peeve" for me: The "bully pulpit" is so often provided to people who have, by any humane criterion, absolutely no standing to use it. Mr. Monbiot's observation about psychopaths on the platform is spot-on, IMHO.

How to achieve a more equitable allocation? The corporatization and consolidation of the MSM is such a massive issue, but I'm struggling here not to fall into the author's "undue pessimism about human nature" and appreciate that 74% majority!

My characterization of Capitalism is a "Darwinian selection mechanism for predators;" this article gives me a lot to "chew on" about that other 26% and the intersection between nature and nurture. BTW, did anyone here follow the link to the Forbes piece on "the Homo economicus of neoliberal mythology?" It's worth a minute.