Auld Lang Syne

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nature vs Nurture really?

We are in trouble. We are in so deep I often wonder if there is a way out. Gun violence has risen to the point that I cannot recall a day in the recent past without some news story about an unarmed person getting killed by the police, or some kind of mass shooting somewhere. We have a segment of our citizenry defending gun rights as if the guns were their firstborn children. We have politicians behaving as if stepping up to enact safety laws is their own kiss of death.Truthfully, it is in many cases... the kiss of death for their political careers. They act expediently, with no political will do right by their constituents for basic safety of all. We act self-righteously indignant when we hear of, read about these senseless killings. We snicker and sneer over stories of rape and violence all the while not doing one whit to stop it all. Oh sure, we sign petitions asking for change, for help, but these go to political hacks who have not enough courage to even try to make a difference for us. When and how will it end?

I studied psychology in college... many many courses (if I had a declared minor, that would have been it) and in those courses, one of the big issues was an ongoing debate over whether nature or nurture made the difference in a person's moral outcome, the resultant world view/behavior of that person. I have studied philosophy and there the debate is similar: is a person inherently good or does "good" have to be learned? (I have, by the way, had THIS discussion with my 14 year old grandson and my 15 year old granddaughter who stand on opposite sides of the question). Nature vs Nurture. If it is Nurture, why do some of the BEST (defined as morally upright i.e. "good", kindness, acceptance of others over self) come from homes and environments where there is rampant moral turpitude and some of the WORST come from homes where there are good and loving parents who exemplified and taught uprightness?

Some religious people would have us look to a purported baser nature of mankind or womankind that derives its origins from the Fall of Adam. They say that humans naturally revert to "sinfulness" or lawlessness without regimentation and control by others, particularly those in authority. Areligious folks might argue that it is this very hemming in or control that pushes some folks toward the brink of bad behavior.  Others might argue that worldy influences and fear are the roots of evil. I do not have the answer.  I do believe that people are inherently good (seen any evil babies so far? I have not) and that something has caused hurt and that some may lack the life skills to seek peaceful resolution to their hurt. I also believe there are people (a tiny percentage) who have short-circuited brains that misfire enough to change personality in that person.

These are the folks with no apparent "conscience" or moral compass. These, I believe are RARE. This certainly does not fit with the tidal wave of violence that we face right now, which I believe comes in large part from a learned fear of others. I also believe that we are facing a time where we have been taught to fear thinking. I just cannot understand this at all. Mankind is so much more likely to be swayed into mob action if kept undereducated and marginalized.

I believe we must keep asking questions, holding one another accountable for our actions, and be brave enough to call a wrong a wrong when it happens rather than rushing to find/make excuses for it. We cannot hope to eradicate rape, for example if we keep blaming the victim, saying "this is just boys being boys," or looking the other way when women and girls (and some men too) come forward to tell us what has happened to them. We cannot rush to find a reason an unarmed teen is gunned down, or a woman is beaten by cops avon the roadside, or a deaf man is beaten because he didn't hear what the cops were asking him to do, or a man is beaten and dragged out of his car for simply telling the policemen that his son is autistic and cannot understand what they are asking.  We have to say WRONG and hold these folks accountable. We have to say that their training (nurture) is flawed and change it. We have to say that their nature is being overcome. We have to promote peace and not supply tools of violence to anyone not seeking and acting on peacefulness. We cannot keep taking sides in armed conflicts.

I swear I do not understand what the point is to the arrogance, "me me me" attitude that is running rampant these days. It sickens me. Makes me want to escape to an isolated spot and wait for the shooting to stop.  But then, I would not be part of the solution. So I have to blame myself too if nothing changes for good.

We have to ask ourselves the hard questions and not give up until we have answers and solutions. Why are guns more important than peace? Why is money to be made from doing harm more important than people? Why do we glory in some people being advantaged at the expense of others who are already struggling? Why do we look at others who are not like us and see with eyes of fear rather than seeing how we might learn from them and become more ourselves in the process? Why is hatred more attractive than love? Why are we less interested in being helpful and KIND to those we come to us for help and safety? I do not think or believe that it is at all Nature vs Nurture. I believe it is fear vs peace.

Therefore I will be peaceful no matter what. I will promote peace by voice and example. I will keep saying it is better to be happy than "right." I will keep believing that we are better than who we appear to be right now. I will not live in fear.

And I will pray that there are more people interested in peace than there are people picking up guns to defend their own fears.


  1. Do you remember the Kent State killing of 4 students? Your article brought back the memory of the young girl who bravely walked up to the young National Guardsman and placed a flower in the barrel of his gun. A time when peace was stronger than fear, indeed.

    1. Clear memory for me. We are experiencing troubled times. Are we ever not? Discouraging, but people need to keep saying and saying and saying. Light on, no deeds done is darkness.