Gongol.com Archives: March 2023
A person who assumes that other people are up to no good will never find themselves entirely without evidence. Either they will encounter someone who really is out to do wrong (as will all of us, unfortunately, from time to time) or they will find ways to interpret the innocuous behavior of others in the most nefarious light. Either way, the person who chooses the unflattering view of humanity will usually find reasons to stick with it. ■ But it's an unsound approach to the facts. There are antisocial individuals among us and there always have been, but humanity never would have lasted as long as it has without a strong collaborative streak. We're good at many tasks as individuals, but we really shine at team efforts. Michael Jordan was a sublime basketball talent, but he was better when surrounded by the Dream Team. ■ The most basic understanding of market-based economics is founded upon the understanding that we don't have to like one another to benefit nonetheless from getting along. Team-building wouldn't be a lucrative industry if the dynamics of cooperation didn't matter. ■ Despite all this, the default assumption of any kind of doomsday orientation is to assume that society will collapse and people will resort to violent anarchy. From "Mad Max" to the feverish forecasts of climate apocalypse, people often assume that civilization will break down and violence, scarcity, and conflict will be the result of any bad thing taken to its farthest ends. ■ All too often, doomsayers overlook the fact that humans have a very strong instinct to try to work together. It doesn't mean we always do the right thing, nor that we do it as soon as would be optimal. But faced with disasters, we usually band together instead of collapsing. ■ A passerby rescues a woman trapped in a flash flood. A pizza delivery driver runs into a burning house to save five children. Rescue workers go door-to-door to check on tornado survivors. ■ That's how almost all human beings are wired: To work together. In fact, we're probably inclined to work together even more when faced with calamities than we are in day-to-day life. Urgent situations bring out the best in human behavior, and those who don't rise to the call -- the ones who run away from an opportunity to help, or who take advantage of others when they are in distress -- are the deviants. ■ We shouldn't run from challenges, nor should we abandon hope when things look bleak. And above all, we should remember that, like the radio operator on the Titanic who stayed at his post until the ship went down, most of us would rather be known for working with and helping others than for anything else. The doomsday believers of all stripes ought to take note.