What’s wrong with people? Has the savagery, selfishness, and raw, animal hatred within the human species finally come out of the darkness to devour our society?
We’ve seen fanatics in MAGA caps rabidly cheering a tyrannical, lying, insane president. We’ve seen gangs of “Proud Boys” strutting around in militia costumes beating protesters whose politics they dislike.
Seemingly every day we hear from wackadoodle extremists who advocate violence by promoting the group hallucination that Nancy Pelosi is leading a fiendish Democratic cabal of child sex traffickers and cannibals.
And we saw all of these people sack our national Capitol building in a vicious attempt to overturn a democratic election.
But is that really who we are?
Given the media and political focus on all things awful about people, you would think so. But consider a couple of little discussed truths about humanity — two maxims might help all of us get a grip, step back from hopelessness, and push ahead in our political work with a fresh perspective on what is possible.
Warning: These truths are so contrary to our present-day conventional thinking — and so at odds with our recent sojourn through the dark jungle of Trumplandia — that when some people are first exposed, their brains whiplash.
So, brace yourself. Here goes:
Truth No.1: Most people are fundamentally fair minded, kind, and generous.
Truth No. 2: The basic human instinct is not dog-eat-dog selfishness, but social cooperation and sharing.
You might holler in disbelief: How can such happy “truths” jibe with the litany of horrors we are experiencing?
Well, although there are obvious exceptions to the rule, decades of behavioral studies, recurring surveys, in-depth conversations, cultural histories, real-life experiences, and every other kind of group observation have by and large produced the same finding: The great majority of people are guided in their daily actions and relations by deep values of fairness and sharing.
It turns out that humankind is, well, overwhelmingly kind.
That’s the deep, promising virtue that we should highlight. In these angry times, we need to make people’s innate desire for an equitable, cooperative society the basis for every one of our economic, political, and social policies.