I was told today on my forums that I am an optimist. I don’t think I was in the past, so I’m not quite sure when this transformation happened, but now I think about it more, I’m not even sure if I am.
The reason for this was that I believe that people’s basic instinct is to do the best thing in their circumstances, whether this is being polite to strangers, holding open doors for others carrying shopping, or leaving some money in the hat of a busker whose song you’ve enjoyed. I don’t hold with ideas that say that mankind has a basic intent towards sin or rivalry. Humanity has become the dominant species on the planet (well, except for mosquitoes) because we work together. I think that the people who worked together in the past were the most successful, and that the genetic traits for social existence are programmed into us on a very deep level.
To go off on a tangent for a moment, a few years ago, I read a very interesting article about the role of homosexuality in preserving early societies. It’s one of the common arguments against gay people that they aren’t ‘natural’, but this article put forward a very interesting perspective. Basically it had investigated homosexuality in small tribes in Africa and came out with an interesting perspective. It argued that in hunter/gatherer social structures the men would go out hunting for one or more days at a time, but homosexual men would stay in the village. They would be the ones that gave the paternal figure to the children, and they would be the ones in the role of shaman. Admittedly, this article didn’t mention female homosexuality, but it suggested that homosexuality was a product of the needs of a society to have a figure that could straddle the divide between the absent hunting men and the needs of the children for masculine figures. Some people might laugh at the idea of gay men being described as masculine, but in some cultures gay men are regarded as more masculine than straight men because they do not have physical relations with women. Obviously there was no conclusion about whether homosexuality was produced through a genetic response to a certain population or from spontaneous adaptation to the needs of the tribe (like some species of fish that have the ability to change sex in response to the need for a male among the group if there are only females there), but either way it’s certainly an interesting proposition, and might explain why groups of people who are staunchly against homosexuality always seem to end up with at least one member being gay… Or is that just Murphy’s Law?
While checking out some background for this I stumbled on this site about a pair of gay penguins in Central Park zoo. They had built their own nest and were sitting on a stone instead of an egg. The keepers replaced the stone with a fertilised egg and the proud gay penguin fathers “did a great job” at raising it, says one of their keepers.
When I woke up this morning, I really didn’t think I was going to be writing ‘proud gay penguin fathers’ today.
Anyway, back on track: So, I believe that we are programmed to want to work for a better society, so why don’t we do it? I think a lot of it comes down to laziness. Being nice takes more effort. Maybe it’s because the societies that we now live in have reached such a critical mass that it seems unnecessary to us to do anything to help that society survive. Maybe this too is programmed into us, because a population the size of most cities certainly wouldn’t have been able to live off of the local land without rapidly stripping it and starving to death. Maybe we’re all being lazy because the conflict in us is telling us on one hand that we should help those that need us, and on the other we’re being told that the society is too big and a bit of a cull wouldn’t go amiss!
I’m an optimist, because I really do think that our basic natures are good, but I’m a realist in that I don’t expect that everyone, or even many people, will live up to my hopes. So why should I bother hoping? Because someone has to.
We are now the ones that are responsible for the way that the future will be shaped. There’s no use in waiting for other people to change the world for us, or for them to make it a better place. I don’t think that we need a revolution; I just think that it would be as simple as everyone trying a little bit harder. Don’t be rude to staff in restaurants and shops. Hold open doors. Recycle whatever you can. Treat everyone fairly and try actually listening to them and realising that they are an individual who is just trying to get by in the world and that maybe you can make their life if not better then certainly don’t make it worse. Smile at people.
Heh… There goes any credibility that I ever had with goths! 😉 Actually, people who feel that society doesn’t give them the chances that they would like might understand the need for this better than anyone, but there’s no point in waiting for other people to start it. We have to take control of our lives to create a quiet revolution, and we have to do it now. The change will not come through pushing against the world. If someone pushes you then your instinct is to push back. All change must come from the inside of organisations. We have the power to do this. Each of us is hidden away in structures and organisations, from schools, through shops, into the governments of the planet, and we can all make that difference. It’s only a little effort, and it feels good to be doing it. Do you know why you feel good? It’s not because you should feel proud, it’s because you know it’s right. It feels right.
So I’m an optimist. I have belief in us all.
Moving on: here’s today’s junk mail poetry:
already meant surely
spoke commit taken
opposite certain knows however one find
I love these things! Admittedly I might love not being on junk mail lists more, but you don’t run a website for this long without turning up in a few places. ‘Glad I’ve got a good spam blocker. I am beginning to suspect that there’s a digital Shakespeare hiding on a mainframe somewhere. Am I alone in thinking these things are great?