Humans, Good or Bad?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

There are these two very odd instances in history that have bewildered me to a broader question about us humans. With both of these examples of human nature in extreme opposite ends of human values, I have been pondering to find meaning about us, the people. The question being: Are humans intrinsically good? Or are we inherently bad? Both in individual and collective capacities.

This essay is the outcome that I arrived at, through years of historical and philosophical research.

What are we?

There is this place called ‘Liberia’ in the South African continent. A country that is claimed to be originating source of the ‘Ebola’ virus. An impoverished nation among other neighboring nations of the same fate. A country embroiled with years of civil unrest, numerous ganglords, and wars after wars for domination. Its people living in the most horrible conditions with no food, money, shelter, and laws. One of the poorest nations in the world. That is Liberia for you. But this is not the story about this country.

There was this cruel ganglord named “General Butt-Naked” among many other ganglords in the country who were always on the siege to take over the country and its rich resources. Undoubtedly, General Butt-Naked was the most brutal one. He acquired this crazy name because of his outrageous ritual. Before the start of every attack or act of war, he would kill a little baby child, eat their raw heart and then charge for the war wearing nothing else but loads of armor. His devoted army was also one of the cruelest ones. When the leader was done with eating the raw heart out, others would devour the remaining organs of that child and wage war later. The wild army had “soldiers” of all ages including adolescent children induced with drugs, orphans, and brainwashed to be bloodthirsty. This gang had terrorized everyone in the country. During the reign of General Butt-Naked’s gang, they had committed horrifying inhumane atrocities among the people and other gangs. Raping women, mutilating women’s genitals, killing children, eating their victims, torturing people, and amputating their limbs, and leaving them to die. Think of any evil deed and they did it. Such was their reign. Such was this General.

Be that as it may be, this is still not about that “General Butt-Naked” either. So here is a twist. One night during the peak of his reign on Liberia, the General has a dream in the dead of the night. Lord Jesus has come to talk to him in the dream and the God asks him to stop the violence. Jesus further tells him to repent for the dreadful sins he had committed and ask for forgiveness from everyone immediately. Stupefied by this dream, the General is now awake and starts crying for the whole night. But he had decided to follow the words of the lord. From the next day onwards, the general quit everything and went on a journey of seeking forgiveness and repentance. He goes to every house and street, reaches every family that he can, and asks for their forgiveness. The same families which he might have halved, robbed, decimated, or brutalized. The same families that might have witnessed him doing the atrocities in front of them and felt powerless or permanently scarred. The men who would have seen their mothers, sisters, or daughters being raped, mutilated in front of them. The women who saw their families ripped apart for cannibalism by this Satan and his army. The orphaned children might have seen their entire family being butchered in front of them at their tender innocent age. Having known and done all of this, still, the General took all his courage for the words of God and went to each of this family and begged for their forgiveness. Ready to be punished by them or even killed if they wanted.

Now, however outrageous and incredibly little his plead of forgiveness may sound; apart from a very few people, most of the others actually forgave him. They accepted his apology however extremely extremely hard or undeniable it appears to even us as mere readers miles away from this place. Keeping in mind the fact that we, the readers, have never even witnessed anything like this in our lives. While those people who have lived, experienced or witnessed this horror actually forgave him. How is that possible? These people have nothing to eat. No facilities of any kind to survive for long. No knowledge of Human rights. Completely cut-off from the outside world and their existence. No law and order. No education. I mean, no one even cares about their presence. How could these people by any rationality, dignity, or meaning left in them, forgive this bloody cannibalistic evil?

To provide a counter side of us humans, think about Hitler’s Germany. Years of constant hatred and demonizing stories about the Jewish people in Germany, Nazis massacred 6 million Jews all over. Such was the intensity of their hatred towards them, that they invented an industrial method of mass killings. During the last couple of years of World War 2, when it was increasingly becoming clear that Germany is going to lose the war, the Nazis didn’t stop the concentration camp genocide. It is a tactical move all over the world, whenever the nation faces a shortage of soldiers, they use the prisoners for serving the country as enslaved laborers. Astonishingly, the Nazis instead of using those prisoners rather decided to completely eradicate the Jewish existence. Let’s talk about these Germans now, the people who built the industrial-scale gas chambers were educated, engineers, and professionals. These people had already been in a war before and knew the cost of war. They wanted world domination, which also meant that they were aware of the world around them. Their technology was literally getting powerful by each day to a level that many allied nations actually saved these scientists and intellectuals for their technological or strategic development. But none of the education, knowledge, privilege or understanding stopped these Nazis from the genocide of 6 million people.

This story is about people. Us as humans collectively. Having furnished the two completely opposite side of our collective nature, I have wondered for years to find as to why it is the way it is?  Are we humans intrinsically good? Or are we bad? On one side, there is the example of isolated and scarred people of Liberia who chose to forgive Satan. While on the other side, educated and privileged people chose to find Satan in every innocent individual of an entire community. This big question has baffled my mind for years. I kept reading philosophies, history, and other such historic cruel instances trying to find the answer. Somehow, years later, I kept making progress in my quest.  The reason people having suffered the horrendous atrocities but still chose to forgive the perpetrator was because of the same exact thing. They had seen the worst of the human crimes, witnessed immense pain, seen the adversities of greed and violence upon the nation and finally realized that peace, love, and forgiveness is the only way for a normal future. For us as readers of such stories, it takes time to understand this. But for those poor Liberian people, forgiveness was all they could see. It was right in front of them and nothing else apart from all of this.

Now coming to the Nazis and the broader question of whether we humans are inherently good or bad. The answer that explains this extreme duality in nature of us humans collectively is this one simple truth: That there is good and bad both in us.

Neither only good exists in us, nor can we be only bad inherently. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an author, and philosopher lived in the Russian Gulags (concentration camp) for several years during the Iron curtained rule of Stalin. Stalin’s dictatorship saw the deaths of 25 million people during his 3-decade rule. (Hitler was responsible for 18 million deaths in twelve years.) Similar to the German concentration camps, the plight of prisoners in Russian gulags was the same. It was during his prison years; Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote the book: Gulag Archipelago. The most important point of all, that I want to quote him here, is when he talks about people and their general nature. He says,

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains ... an unuprooted small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”

Aleksandr had seen people being killed, left to die, murdered, tortured with the same kind of hatred and inhumanity that the Nazis did. In the same way, he had also witnessed the excerpts of wonderous humanity among the gulag prisoners for collective survival. He had seen how the entire nation came to start believing their leader as God, the almighty. With each passing day, he saw countless people dying, crying, hungry and brutalized. He also saw different tactics and way of life people adopted in the prison to somehow, just somehow survive till an invisible day of freedom arrives. This where he says that the good and bad in people is like a ‘Pendulum’. It keeps on oscillating within them as per the external atmosphere. So, if the leader is someone like Hitler, the pendulum of people oscillates towards evil. In the same way, if the leader and atmosphere are like that of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the pendulum oscillates towards good.

Let me bring this with a recent example as well. The same people in Obama’s administration seemed progressive and open-minded, turned out, 75 million of them became everything but the former, by the end of 4-year Trump’s presidency. The pendulum of that nation shifted.

Having said all of this, and our human nature. Now the question I bring forward to yourself is:

Dear People, now that there is an answer to what we are collectively, who among the two kinds of people mentioned in this essay, you want to stand with?

Believe it or not, but we are going through an extremely crucial period of human history. We have on our heads a political crisis, a humanitarian crisis, an environmental crisis, a pandemic, resource- depletion, a highly divided society, fear-driven ideas, highly unequal financial divide, a massive poverty-stricken population, among many significant other problems

I ask you this one final question. What can you be?

We are the intelligent beings of this planet. We have done incredible things. Changed our ways, approach, and methods to reach amazing goals. We have done it before and can do it anytime. We know also that we can be anything we want. My dear people,

What can you be?

- An Earthling


Submitted: January 22, 2021

© Copyright 2021 An Earthling. All rights reserved.

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