Friday, March 27, 2020

Don't Buy The Myth That Humans Are Selfish By Nature

One thing I really want people to take away from this pandemic is that in times of crisis, humans come together. We become less selfish, less self-absorbed, and help each other more. We go out of our way to protect each other. I've seen it myself as people happily follow social distancing recommendations in public. Stories of people helping their neighbors and complete strangers abound.

This isn't new. We all know that people do the same thing at times of economic crisis, and before we were perpetually at war as an excuse to bomb brown people and retain control of resources, during wartime.

So why do people believe that humans are selfish by nature? It's something that seems to come out of people's mouths by default any time you suggest that socialism or communism might be better than capitalism. In reality, humans are social and communal animals by nature, just like our evolutionary ancestors. Humans have an instinct for self-preservation and an instinct to protect their children. Humans are self-absorbed in a way, because how can we not be? We are ourselves, so we're going to think about ourselves a lot. But that doesn't mean we're selfish in the way we tend to think about selfishness.

Movies tend to depict humans as banding together in small groups and attacking others for resources during a crisis, but that doesn't reflect reality. Before we had the technology necessary to keep crises from bringing everything down around us, people were still kind and generous to each other when the shit hit the fan. In fact, generosity to strangers was such a strong cultural norm around the world thousands of years ago that it was written into multiple religious texts, including the Bible.

I believe that certain people who hold a lot of power like to push the myth of human selfishness in order to protect capitalism. But the truth is that capitalism is what encourages selfishness and greed.  And it's not natural. Have you ever noticed how fucking weird rich people get? Nothing's natural about what they do in their spare time when they're out of the public eye.

But regardless of politics, please take some time to notice how much people are helping and caring for each other right now. It's easier to get through the mental stress of life in general, let alone a global trauma like this pandemic, when you think the worst of people. I know there has been some sensationalizing of people panic-shopping, but I'm hearing more and more that the lack of certain groceries is less because everyone's buying up a ton and more because they're buying more at once of their usual groceries so that they can go to the store less often and practice social distancing more.

Sure, some people bought up a shit load of toilet paper and are assholes. But for the most part, people are being kind and generous. People are donating money and volunteering. People are reaching out to one another and offering what support they can.

We're banding together to survive, just like we've always done.

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