king of the hill
ROBERT J. LEWIS
who has so little knowledge of human nature
as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition
will waste his life in fruitless efforts.
Human Nature is the
only science of man;
and yet has been hitherto the most neglected.
his essay on Goethe, the Spanish philosopher Ortega Y Gasset observes
that every life is a reaction to the insecurities of life.
just as easily be argued that every life is an asymmetrical negotiation
with, reaction to human nature, which was the late-in-life conclusion
arrived at by Sigmund Freud culminating in his seminal Civilization
and Its Discontents (1930).
to their ordering and harmonizing effects upon which the tidy
functioning of any society depends, Freud and others have argued
that our laws, customs, traditions and institutions arise in a
concerted effort to deny human nature a say in the daily conduct
of life, that the latter is inimical to the very notion of what
it means to be civilized.
the “stuff dreams are made on,” the incurable idealist
despite a history written in blood and barbarism, with each new
generation convinces himself that he merely has to exercise his
will and his better, more civilized self will emerge and prevail
through thick and thin.
despite best intentions and the eloquent language the rational
mind conceives for an ideal template of human comportment, including
explicit punishments set forth in response to its violations,
thwarting human nature has proven as effective as a screen against
incoming smoke. It seems that at every instant of human endeavour,
the laws and institutions that have been devised to decommission
human nature have been circumvented, subverted, vitiated. Left
holding the bag is the divided self, torn between doing what one
wants and what one should. Restating the same in the universal
language of mass culture, we have the sum of the world’s
religions and their injunctions on the one hand, and on the other
hand holding a drink and/or a drug, we have casino culture and
its repeating cycle of diversion and gratification. Both are proxies
for not the great clash of civilizations but the even greater
conflict that has tormented the species since its took his first
steps and turned its back to the animal world with a smirk and
assurance that would have us believe that when push comes to shove,
reason, and not human nature, wins the day. But just as every
dog has its day, every day has its night, and what the night tells
is enough to recommend the species to the psychiatrist’s
couch followed by long-term rehabilitation therapy.
religion and civil society sets forth the equivalent of the Ten
Commandments, proscribing behaviour deemed detrimental to both
individual and community. It requires but a cursory reading of
history to comprehend that The Ten Commandments didn’t arise
in a vacuum. At some point in the evolution of the species, when
human behaviour was found wanting as it concerned the greater
good and man’s growing conception of an ideal self, checkmating
impulse and instant gratification necessitated codes and commandments
that became the cornerstones of civilized life.
of happiness and prosperity, human beings gradually came to the
conclusion that it would be better for one and all if they comported
themselves in a manner consistent with an objective set of rules
and regulations as opposed to doing what one felt. In other words,
it was no longer acceptable that A, due to his superior strength,
should be allowed to expropriate B’s bananas and/or woman
without his consent. These initial curtailments were the first
in what would eventually become a tsunami of restrictions on human
behaviour, obliging civilized man to radically suppress his nature
and refuse most of his pleasures. In other words, the happy functioning
of civilized society required that its citizens voluntarily submit
to laws that rendered them unhappy.
what we learn from headline news around the world is that not
everyone is equally competent when it comes to refusing his nature;
some are constitutionally weak while in others human nature is
so imposing that despite harsh and sometimes lethal deterrents,
it cannot be tamed: murder, rape, assault, theft and extortion
are common to every culture. We also notice that most human beings
aren’t as miserable as they should be because many have
learned how to dodge the laws and better synchronize their desires
with nature's desires: in particular, the world’s power
of state and religious leaders, with the levers of power at their
disposal but who fear the law and its consequences (incarceration,
ignominy), to more effectively connect to their natures, have
mastered the art the fudging or outwitting the law, which often
means rewriting it in their favour, or creating an environment
that is granted institutional immunity from it. What else has
the Catholic Church become if not a red light district for human
nature where trust has been reconfigured as an accessory to lust.
The same for the recently Chapter-11nd Boy
Scouts of America.
with their legal teams and huge reservoirs of cash and capital,
have amended or modified the laws so that what once stood in their
violation is now legal. Once upon a time corporations had to pay
taxes on revenues like everyone else; but then a law was written
so that a corporation could transfer its profits to an off
shore tax-free haven and avoid paying taxes.
Human beings crave absolute power and since wealth is an accessory
to power, human nature has found a way to satisfy the craving.
Gangs and criminal organizations are cut from the same blocks
of ice as the corporation. CEOs and gang leaders run their organizations
like tyrants, dictators; the former pay lip service to the practice
of consultation and consent, the latter don’t take lip from
candidates for the highest office in the land are chosen for their
presumed loyalty to their superiors and not the institutions they
represent, human nature is calling the shots; and again when government
appointed representatives – in Canada former Governor General
Clarkson, senators Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy --
run up outrageous travel expenses paid for by the public purse.
As a matter of convenience, it never occurs to them that the average
tax payer (secretary, farm worker, cashier) who pays $10,000 annually
in taxes might not approve of their hard earned monies being squandered
on luxury hotels, limousines and the finest wining and dining.
telling example of human nature’s deaf ear to the laws is
the much storied response to the Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery
commandment. Like the losing war against drugs, the infidelity
commandment is the equivalent of a sling-shot aimed at an invading
horde. “The male body will climb into the air, burn itself
into a cinder, and happily fall away dead if there is even a slim
chance of getting some semen where it is supposed to go,”
observes Mark Kingwell. The incredible body of lies and deception
that especially men have implemented in order to satisfy their
sexual impulses underlies the history of human striving. There
is an industry’s worth of evidence that all human accomplishment
reduces to man ceaselessly looking for an excuse to give himself
permission to spread his seed and increase his tribe. He builds
bridges, erects skyscrapers secondly for the common weal and firstly
to more efficaciously work his favourite appendage.
human nature is indeed pulling the strings while reason fiddles,
where do we go from here? Do we simply toss out five thousand
years of civilization and revert to a Lord of the Flies
state of affairs? The answer has to be an emphatic ‘no,’
but with an eye on the root cause of what has been until now not
a failure of will but failure to recognize what human willing
is capable of.
are to reacquaint ourselves with who we are, we have to journey
back from whence we came and come to terms with the uncivilized
species we once were. In that violent, impulsive golden age, and
with the blessings of nature, there was no such thing as rape
and infidelity. Men were bent on propagating their kind, with
the more powerful among them collecting as many women as they
could manage. As for the women, their soul concern was security
for themselves and their progeny. Consent was never an issue since
it was subsumed by the safe-keeping clause. Only gradually, a
century at a time, have our laws turned all that into something
suspect, and now, a way of life that was once natural is regarded
as infra dig (beneath dignity). But everyday experience
and a prison system that is bursting at the bars remind us that
we have not severed the link with our animal selves, and that
our laws, in varying degrees, are ineffectual next to the overpowering
desire to be untamed, unbridled and free.
had prevailed over human nature, there would be no need for a
judicial system or judges. Every guilty person knows he’s
guilty, but that does not prevent him from doing everything in
his power not to own up to his guilt because his nature is bidding
him to be free, to acquire territory, to dominate his surroundings,
to revenge wrongs in his own manner, and to eliminate all those
perceived as a threat to his dominion.
of the noble cause, what is war if not an excuse to give free
reign to human bellicosity and the territorial imperative. An
estimated 1 billion people have been killed in all wars –
a society decides that it is in the interest of its membership
to refuse nature’s bidding, it has to be sure what exactly
it is refusing, and what free will can reasonably be expected
to accomplish. Communism
believed it could squash the territorial instinct in man. In a
mere century that proved to be a costly miscalculation. Had human
nature been considered in the calculus, the Communist experiment
would have been terminated in the work shop.
the key to peace on earth and good will between people and nations
lies in reshaping our laws and categoricals to better harmonize
with our natures and the limitations of reason. Since man is territorial,
and most don’t have it, it might be wise to grant the landless
a plot of their own if it means diffusing the anger and frustration
that precede social upheaval and the wanton destruction that often
are simply too many people in the world whose nature’s are
being stifled, which makes for an unhappy and restive planet.
Since the wealth of the world and its distribution is a variable
subject to human intervention, and man is constituted to require
the bare necessities of life, it makes sense that our laws and
institutions be recalibrated to answer that sine qua non.
jobless Joe on the corner selling drugs a criminal or simply a
salesman, not unlike a salesman of shoes who is providing a product
for which there is a demand? Should the laws that call for his
incarceration be more accommodating to his nature?
the legalization of prostitution result in a reduction of violence
against women, sex trafficking, murder of indigenous women?
what exists isn’t working well going on dysfunctional, and
ideally prior to a major planetary catastrophe, what preponderance
of data is required to urge a major tweaking, a major rethink
of our basic assumptions and principles as they concern the relationship
between human behaviour, human nature and the law? And if after
lengthy partisan deliberation we decide to continue on our present
course, are we likely to be living in peace and harmony by the
end of the century or facing a peril that may lie outside man’s
ability to manage it?