Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 19, No. 2, 2020
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editor
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
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Charles Tayler
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Stephen Lewis
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Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

king of the hill




He 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.
Samuel Johnson

Human Nature is the only science of man;
and yet has been hitherto the most neglected.

David Hume

In his essay on Goethe, the Spanish philosopher Ortega Y Gasset observes that every life is a reaction to the insecurities of life.

It could 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).

Prior 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.

Man, 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.

However, 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.

Every 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.

In pursuit 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.

However, 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 brokers.

Our heads 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.

Corporations, 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 anyone.

When 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 Adrienne 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.

The most 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.

So if 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.

If we 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.

If reason 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.

Stripped 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 – and counting.

When 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.

Perhaps 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 unsues.

There 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.

Is the 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?

Would the legalization of prostitution result in a reduction of violence against women, sex trafficking, murder of indigenous women?

Since 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?


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also by Robert J. Lewis:


The Trouble with Darwin
The Life & Death of Anthony Bourdain
Denying Identity and Natural Law
The Cares versus the Care-nots
Elon Musk: Brilliant but Wrong
As the Corporation Feasts, the Earth Festers
Flirting & Consequences
Breaking Bonds
Oscar Wilde and the Birth of Cool
The Big
Deconstructing Skin Colour
To Party - Parting Ways with Consciousness
Comedy - Constant Craving
Choosing Gender
Becoming Our Opposites
Broken Feather's Last Stand

Abstract Art or Artifice II
Old People
Beware the Cherry-Picker
Once Were Animal
Islam is Smarter Than the West
Islam Divided by Two
Pedophiling Innocence
Grappling with Revenge
Hit Me With That Music
The Sinking of the Friendship
Om: The Great Escape
Actor on a Hot Tin Roof
Being & Self-Consciousness
Giacometti: A Line in the Wilderness
The Jazz Solo
Chat Rooms & Infidels
Music Fatigue
Understanding Rape
Have Idea Will Travel
Bikini Jihad
The Reader Feedback Manifesto
Caste the First Stone
Let's Get Cultured
Being & Baggage
Robert Mapplethorpe
The Eclectic Switch

Philosophical Time
What is Beauty?
In Defense of Heidegger

Hijackers, Hookers and Paradise Now
Death Wish 7 Billion
My Gypsy Wife Tonight
On the Origins of Love & Hate
Divine Right and the Unrevolted Masses
Cycle Hype or Genotype
The Genocide Gene











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