Why I Say People Are Good

good peopleThis is a thing (a doohickey, a thingamabob) I say quite a bit, usually on Facebook because I don’t get out all that much, and usually accompanied by some video clip or photograph as an example. When I do, there’s usually a bunch of people who like the thought, think it’s nice, and react that way they do to Internet memes of fluffy kitties, a few who understand even when I did not, and some who disagree, at least with the broad strokes I use to paint everyone that way. At first, I didn’t think too much about the phrase, to be perfectly honest. It felt right. I liked watching YouTube videos of people doing good things for others, but they’re like crack cocaine or Soldier Surprises Mom clips; just once, and you’re hooked.

In the past, I have said that I believe that when we’re born we’re not a tabula rasa, a blank slate. There is in all of us as human beings a bootstrap code that drives us, forms us, makes us people that not only participate in the social structure we become part of, but requires it to thrive and survive. It’s basic human nature, instinct, whatever term you care to give it. It’s the healthy primitive brain doing its thing, and part of that is a drive to care for the clan as a whole as well as the smallest of us, too. Actually, it may be a basic mammalian nature now that I think about it. Who can forget ever seeing the footage of a group of water buffalo attacking a crocodile that had leapt out of the water and grabbed a calf?

Sure, male lions sometimes eat their young, but they’re just assholes. Don’t interrupt.

Human nature is complicated, though. “Man’s inhumanity to man” is a phrase I remember first hearing in a junior high social studies class (do they still have those?). How can we explain the physical and emotional damage one person can do to another let alone to an entire people as we’ve done in our past as a species, and then still fit it into this framework of a preset nature imprinted into our genes?

So many people much smarter than I will be able to answer that by discussing the intricacies of sociological development, debating nature versus nurture, and citing scholarly academic articles (many of which may even dispute my own points), and I could touch on all of those things if I was of a mind. In fact, a deeper exploration of those had been my primary goal when I first formed the idea for this essay. I’m not going to do that, though I will leave the door open for it later on. As often happens when we begin pondering stuff deep and difficult, all sorts of other neurons begin firing and thoughts we never realised we had come to the fore.

Occam’s razor, man. I say,

People are good

because it helps me feel good.

People, figuratively speaking, sometimes eat their young. It was a common saying (still is, I understand) among Toronto EMS medics about each other and our service. We all have the capacity to be assholes to some degree, some far worse than others, and I’ve been one more times than I care to remember. But though that simple three-word phrase isn’t completely true, I want it to be and thinking that way helps me heal.

There are those who consistently create angry and bitter tirades against the system on social media, whichever ghostly system it is that has harmed them. They seek relief, both literal and figurative, in the expression of their pain, perhaps justice, as well. I was that way for many years, and all it did was keep me miserable and spiralling downwards. I do believe in justice, I do believe in compensation when deserved, and I do believe assholery needs to be responded to, but effectively, not to the point where it eats into your own well-being and costs you bits of your own peace.

So I say that people are good, and post examples of it along with cute puppy pictures (ERHMERGHERD PUPPERS!), because my calm, my serenity, though sometimes tough to hang onto at times, is more important to me than anything else in the world.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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