Out of every ten people, I think there are 5 that subscribe to ‘nice’ selfishness. They’ll do for others, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them. They say please and thank you, tip the server 15-20%, and really don’t have extreme opinions on anything. On a given day, they don’t really think about anything outside their immediate spheres. ‘Gee it’s terrible what’s happening in _____, I’ll send in my 5 dollar a month donation’. They do some good to ease any guilt feelings that incur when someone brings a bad situation to their attention in a way that prevents them from looking away, but as soon as they’ve done their little bit they’ll move on, convinced it will all be okay somehow. Sheep, basically. They aren’t bad people, but they can be lead to do bad things out of fear or via a strong enough leader because it often doesn’t occur to them to actually question.
At least one of those people is essentially a sociopath. He or she is literally incapable of empathizing with another human being. These people can be successful, and even do good, but it is purely for their own gratification. As a fictional example, take Dr. House. As real life examples, take folks like Tom Delay. Ultimately, it’s all about them, their wealth, their power, their fame. I’d say 75-99% of politicians fall into this category, depending on how cynical I feel on a given day. On the lower scale, these are drug dealers, con men, etc…. Wolves.
One will be a protector. This can be for the good, or this can be for the worse. Protectors give us the police officer who will not hesitate to lay down his life to save an innocent life, the soldier who will unhesitatingly jump on a grenade, the random bystander who will jump into the fray to stop an assault. The doctor who goes into a disaster area to save whatever lives he or she can. It will also give you inquisitioners and book burners, who are told something is harmful and thus do their best to save people from themselves. These too, operate on a variety of scales. Sheepdogs.
Then there are the shepherds. Again, you have the benevolent and the malevolent. No offense intended to our current instructor, but think of teachers. There was that one teacher that taught you critical thinking skills, how to grow and learn, who guided and nurtured some talent. And there was that one teacher who was determined to mold your mind to his or her whim regardless of who you were or how wrong they might have been. What politicians aren’t wolves fall into this category. Martin Luther King Jr. was a shepherd. So was Jim Jones.
And then there are the goats. From a genuinely outside perspective, they aren’t much different than the sheep. To the sheep though…. These are your weirdos. Your people who fall on the outsides of the bell curves. They often overlap into another category. They are however, different, and that marks them. Some band together conforming to their own herds, but they aren’t part of the larger group. When walking down the street, these are often the people you notice.
And then, there are the donkeys. Unlike the sheep, donkey’s don’t just fail to question what goes on around them, they are borderline incapable of questioning what goes on around them. Often, these are the folks used to scare the sheep and are the first to fall to the wolves, but just as often, they terrify the hell out of the wolves and sheepdogs. The shepherds have a rough time handling them, because once they get a notion in their heads, they are hard to sway no matter how much evidence you put in front of them. Some have delusions of being shepherds, wolves, or sheepdogs themselves. Many aren’t bad people, they just aren’t smart. Some can sound intelligent enough that it takes you several minutes to realize the person you are talking to is actually a raving lunatic. There are people out there still convinced that the sun revolves around the earth.
And it’s important to note, in that breakdown, few will admit to being sheep, even as they acknowledge sheep make up the majority.
I don’t think we can fully rid this planet of prejudice and discrimination for the same reason why I think anarchy and communism look good on paper but ultimately can never work. Humans, ultimately, are animals. While we are a pack animal, even pack animals display signs of selfishness. Wolves hunt together because they have to, but the biggest, strongest wolf always gets the best part of the kill and the weakest wolf goes to bed hungry. And everyone wants to be the biggest, strongest wolf, but because it takes food to get big and strong, there will always be wolves that don’t stand a chance. Some leave the pack and some are driven out.
The only thing humans have going for them is enough intelligence (in theory) to recognize and attempt to mitigate this. But as my above breakdown demonstrates, there will always be those who accept the status quo and those who attempt to reform the status quo to suit them them them and only them. Even the founding fathers, who tried to create laws that would prevent some of this behavior, ultimately engaged in the same behavior by initially ensuring the laws applied only to them. The original bill of rights and constitution applied only to white male landowners. Every now and then, the good shephards outnumber the bad ones and the sheep will lean towards equality, but no sooner does that happen than the other shepherds try to lead the sheep back away.
A world without discrimination cannot happen without a fundamental change in human nature. How many gods have humans invented over the years? Thousands? Millions? Billions of supposedly perfect beings, some of which are claimed to be pure embodiments of goodness and love? And yet, we’ve never once concieved of a god that didn’t engage in discrimination and prejudice. We’ve never once concieved of a god that wasn’t, ultimately, possessed of the same flaws that make up human beings.
I believe things can improve, and hope they will. I just don’t maintain any illusions that we will ever reach a point where we say ‘okay, everything is fixed now’. Things will get better, then they will get worse, then they will get better again. Education helps. The human brain fixes itself into patterns defined by our cultural expectations. It is possible that education can bring about that fundamental change in human nature. It just has to be the right education, the education that encourages people towards critical, rational thinking, not the type of education that reinforces bigoted ideals.
© 2011, Within this mind. All rights reserved.