I’m reading an article about whether good is intrinsic in human nature; many people would say not, but I used to teach a short course about the topic, and research done up until then was encouraging, as well as frankly quite scary in the case of undue pressure being put on people to do ill to others.
Some interesting paragraphs here; one about whether we do things for reward (italics/bold mine):
A fascinating paper in the journal Infancy reveals that reward has nothing to do with it. [helping someone]. Three- to five-year-olds are less likely to help someone a second time if they have been rewarded for doing it the first time. In other words, extrinsic rewards appear to undermine the intrinsic desire to help. (Parents, economists and government ministers, please note.) The study also discovered that children of this age are more inclined to help people if they perceive them to be suffering, and that they want to see someone helped whether or not they do it themselves. This suggests that they are motivated by a genuine concern for other people’s welfare, rather than by a desire to look good.
I think that there’s no greater satisfaction than helping someone, and not expecting thanks or a reward; if at all possible to not let ‘the left hand know what the right hand is doing’ and achieve it secretly. I know someone who sponsors children but won’t write to them. When I asked why, the person said, ‘well if I wrote to them, they’d have to be all thankful to me, but I’m just doing what I should do and so no thanks is necessary’.
The author also makes the point that we have such a negative view of human nature due to ancient observations that have now been disproved. So when we see the selfish world of fame and money, we assume that selfishness is the norm, but it actually isn’t (bold/italics mine):
The media worships wealth and power, and sometimes launches furious attacks on people who behave altruistically. In the Daily Mail last month, Richard Littlejohn described Yvette Cooper’s decision to open her home to refugees as proof that “noisy emoting has replaced quiet intelligence” (quiet intelligence being one of his defining qualities). “It’s all about political opportunism and humanitarian posturing,” he theorised, before boasting that he doesn’t “give a damn” about the suffering of people fleeing Syria. I note with interest the platform given to people who speak and write as if they are psychopaths.
Finally (bold and italics mine):
Misanthropy grants a free pass to the grasping, power-mad minority who tend to dominate our political systems. If only we knew how unusual they are, we might be more inclined to shun them and seek better leaders. It contributes to the real danger we confront: not a general selfishness, but a general passivity. Billions of decent people tut and shake their heads as the world burns, immobilised by the conviction that no one else cares.
You are not alone. The world is with you, even if it has not found its voice.
it’s good to know that people do generally care, but my confidence has been hit a little in this regard when I’ve faced ‘comments’ whilst being out, and heard general discussion about the poor. Interestingly the poor tend to give far more to charity as a proportion of their income to charity. I know people who give up a good chunk of their basic pension each week to charity; others that have bought shopping for people who have no money, when the hardly have any money themselves.You must know people like this too, but we tend to focus on the negative, well, because what many of us are facing is negative, and brought about by a very selfish group of people indeed.
Those stories make up in part for what we perceive about current society. That said, it makes you wonder what on earth is wrong with our government; how mentally ill they must be to foist there pernicious policies onto people who are already desperately poor? And now – as I predicted in 2010 when I read their policy document ’21st Century Welfare – I warned that if they would do such terrible things to the vulnerable, the least able in society, what would they do to everyone else? Well, the answer is to now hit the working poor, force the rest of the poor into prison (see my earlier article today), and carry on with their schemes, this time hitting the middle classes: doctors; nurses; lawyers; teachers etc.
As my dear retired friend always quotes [disputed origins, and I must say that I totally agree with the sentiment:
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men to do nothing
Although, I am absolutely positive that good will triumph over evil, as you already know dear reader, and hopefully, over time, I will convince you of that. Meanwhile, however, it’s the case that good men do something, but it’s not enough.
Read the whole article here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/14/selfish-proof-ego-humans-inherently-good