Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Great Human Pretenders

Have you ever wondered how we've managed to survive so long while living life as if the atrocities we've been through, witnessed, or perpetuated are ignored?  Or forgotten?  Or just never talked about?

There is a dark side to every human mind.  In the greatest among us--those that are saint-like in their behavior--this dark side still exists.  At the very least, it would surface when their lives or their families' lives are truly threatened by another human or an animal.  A mother who looks like the perfect, model-mom will rip your face off if you attack her child.  She will tap straight into the ugly, automatically.  Wired in.  Unchangeable.  And that's good.  It becomes questionable when she knocks another mother and child off of a floating piece of lumber after a shipwreck so that she and her child, instead, can survive.  All kinds of questions arise, then.

Maybe that's how the strongest among our species has made it this far; tip of the hat to Mr. Darwin.

But for any living creature to ensure long-term survival for his species, he must constantly make right decisions when in critical situations.  When making decisions, do we not require information to make good ones?  Information is everything when making critical, tough decisions.  We need to stuff as much info. as possible into our brains so that when we need to make a decision, a good one can be made.  Those who consistently made bad decisions were, presumably, removed from the gene pool early on.

Fast-forward to now.  Not fast-forward through evolution as I firmly believe that evolution is an illusion (we have never grown toward a greater status or finality; we have simply changed in response to stimuli... in response to environmental demands and the supporting genetics for whatever those very random demands happened to be during a time of real change).  Just fast-forward to today through all of the random loops and curves that got us here.

A 21st-century people doesn't talk about its dark side much.  It doesn't talk much about extreme behaviors involving physical abuse or attacks.  Doesn't talk much about vengeance and rage.  Not much about incest, murder, or dangerous group-think dynamics (basically, the way people can somehow justify a behavior while in a group that they would not be able to justify as an individual, such as the Russian rapist soldiers as they entered Germany in 1944 or the Japanese rapists entering China or the American murderers who killed known innocents in Vietnam--no people is without those that have dark sides).  You don't hear much about the strategies involved in corporate competition or cheating on a spouse without getting caught or seeing somebody in public who obviously needs immediate help as people drive on by.  It's negative, and I hate negative more than anybody, but because of this shroud, we don't have all of the information, do we?  To make good decisions?

Have you ever noticed that weird feeling that comes when a "dark issue," I'll call it, arises among a group of people?  It's a kind of, "You are now way too close to an area that I don't know if I'm comfortable talking about," feeling.  When it happens to me, it's not comfortable (I'm usually the one bringing up the dark issue because I believe it needs to be discussed but it doesn't matter if another brings it up; the feeling is the same).  I don't like it, but I feel a sense of obligation to further humanity.  For example, just a couple of weeks back, I felt a need to show two little girls a scenario that could happen to them.  We were in a store, and I told them I would walk up toward them first as a normal man who was just shopping--one who was just going to walk on by or grab his product and go, and then I showed them the nervous, slithery behavior of a man who might try to snatch them.  I walked up beside them, looking around is if looking out for authorities or cameras.  I randomly picked up and put down products with a relatively wide-eyed, definitively non-shopping related look.  I made them study me.  I wanted them to be able to recognize the questionable people.  I didn't like it; it actually depressed me a bit as it always does when I have to get into these types of discussions about bad things.  I only do it because I believe the information can help people and save lives or lead to, at least, further study by way of exposure.

Yet we walk along in public, bobbing our heads and smiling like the world is a Utopia and nothing ever goes wrong.  Not aloof; we know how bad people can be, but we shut it out.  And that really does bring up a serious question, which is this: Can we keep the facts about how bad people can be in our active, conscious minds and still remain happy?  It's easy to picture a person not trusting anybody, for any reason, and walking around always suspicious, and always worrying, and never enjoying life because they finally have let into their conscious thoughts the fact that a lot of bad people do a lot of bad shi8 in this world, and sometimes, the best of people do bad shi8 in this world.  Who wants to think about that?

What I know already is that we are quite good at pretending.  Religions often push the dark matter under the carpet, but even non-religious folks abide by the out-of-sight, out-of-mind creed.  What I don't know is how we can keep a more realistic view of human behavior in our minds without spoiling the joy we find in daily living.  I don't know how I can expect those two girls to smile while shopping if they're scanning for shady types.  Yet, it is information that they need to potentially save their lives or others.

I'm a instant reactor.  That can be good or bad.  It's good when my family or friends are threatened; I'm the first one, always, to get into the face of the threat and take action.  I like to believe, as I've said a few times before (and in one of my books) that I'm the guy you want to be around when shi8 goes wrong.  It's bad to be an instant reactor when it is a misunderstanding or when used to spray hate at somebody who has behaved in a way I dislike instead of dismissing their (probably) child-like behavior.  To credit myself, I will say I've become much, much better at containing the instant reactions in questionable cases; I will never contain it if I know it leads directly and instantly to defending innocent, living creatures, especially those that I care about.  I actually made a Facebook page titled something like, "I'm a nice person; please take the shirt off of my back.  But threaten my family or friends or get in my face and I will erase your ass!" which lots of people "liked," as I imagined they would.

So let me wind this down in the form of asking for your opinion on a few questions (which will help lead us all to a better way forward).  How do we get people thinking about the very real, very negative threats and human behaviors while not sapping their happiness, whatever happiness they may be normally feeling?  And to what degree, and under what circumstances, should we use our instant reaction capability?  In WWII, they used to make German soldiers wait at least 72 hours before filing a grievance--theory being that they would calm down in that time and be thinking more rationally and less hatefully which can dramatically change the tone and outcome of a complaint.  Where is the balance between reaction now and necessarily reacting some hours or days later?  And, finally, do you agree that we as a people should have more forthright conversations about the dark sides within all of us?  Thank you for all of your input; help all of us understand what the best approach would be in your view; we will not judge.  We just want to learn.

Next week or two, I'm going to blog about what could happen during an economic collapse, and what your hindsight might show if you hadn't prepared as well as ask your ideas on how we should prepare, if at all. 

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