“To be human is to care for your fellow human beings and protecting the environment.”
– Jacque Fresco
“It is not that people are evil or greedy. The conditions that socially support the system force us to behave in socially offensive ways.”
– Jacque Fresco
“People are the people who help people”.
– Gary Vaynerchuck
So there I was one day, back in 2009 or so, watching an interview with a man named Jacque Fresco. Fresco was one of the people featured in the documentary Zeitgeist: The Movie and I was doing some additional ‘research’.
I found Fresco to be a fascinating and interesting man. He said a great many things during the course of the interview that challenged beliefs I’d held for the longest time. But the thing that spoke to me the loudest was his treatment of the term ‘human nature’.
I don’t recall his exact words, but the gist of what Fresco said about human nature was this:
What we often term ‘human nature’ and are often led to believe about it, is not really human nature, but conditioned behaviour.
From the time I first learned the phrase ‘human nature’, it had come to mean something negative to me. I am not sure how this happened. I think it may have had something to do with how often this term had been offered to me as an explanation for the motives behind crime and other wrong-doing. I didn’t realise that I felt this way and having more or less accepted it as fact, I hadn’t given it much thought (talk about being asleep). And it’s not just me. I had a look at an online thesaurus just now and the synonyms listed in response to ‘human nature’ don’t bring to mind sunshine, flowers and fluffy bunnies.
Despite the above, and although it was the first time I had been exposed to this alternative view of human nature, Fresco’s view of the matter made sense to me. When I looked back on my life, I could see clearly how other people had loved me and cared for me and pretty much carried me through it all.
- Human nature had fed me, clothed me and nurtured me all these years.
- Human nature had taken care of me when I was sick.
- Human nature had given me money when I was broke.
- Human nature had pulled over and offered me a lift when I was getting soaked in the rain.
- Human nature had carried me home when I was too drunk to make it on my own.
- Human nature had comforted me all those times when I was sad or heart-broken.
- Human nature had helped me pass every single exam I have ever passed.
- Human nature had patiently helped me learn the ropes in every new job I ever took.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg! In short, I am here today, alive and well thanks to human nature. If that wasn’t enough, human nature was responsible for most of the things that I loved and held dear in life. And yet, all this time, I had it wrong!
While Fresco’s stance was somewhat neutral in the sense that he simply said human nature wasn’t inherently bad and he didn’t go to the extent of saying it was inherently good, my own experience led me to arrive at this conclusion – very firmly.
When I thought about how much others had helped me in life and compared it to my idea of what I thought human nature meant, I could see that the two were far from compatible. Something had to give. So it came to be, that my notion of what human nature meant, changed from something negative and became instead, a synonym for the word ‘kind’. I am pretty confident that it will stay this way, regardless of what any thesaurus had to say about the matter.
Some years later, while studying psychology, I came to understand the important role that conditioning and repetition / reinforcement plays in moulding our thoughts, beliefs and perceptions. This knowledge led me to appreciate Fresco’s words even more. I began to realise that human nature is very much influenced, shaped and moulded by the social and environmental conditions that prevail. I could see how the way I had been treated made me into the person that I am today.
Building on the idea, I came to realise that human nature is not only shaped by our environment, but also by how we respond to our environment. Human nature is not only determined by how others behave towards us, but also by how we behaved in return. Therefore, it seems to be the case that the people we choose to become and the society we choose to create, will ultimately determine what human nature is to become.
So the all important question then is: what do we want our children and grandchildren to believe about human nature?
And now, what are we going to do about it? Because, in the end, it is all down to us and what we do now.