Tag: Human Nature

A Tale of Two Doors


The Uvalde, Texas mass murder is a tale of two doors: a teachers’ door and a classroom door. Both represent challenges to the best-laid plans, however earnestly advocated and lavishly funded. Any after-action review, any honest assessment leading to future recommendations to protect school children, must incorporate the human elements revealed by the teachers’ door and the classroom door.

The killer gained access through a door designated for teachers. This door was shown, on camera, being propped open by a teacher shortly before the attack began. We may surmise that propping this door open was a fairly routine occurrence. Hands up if you have an explanation for this behavior.

Halloween, the Boogeyman, and Why ‘Lord of the Flies’ Matters


He served in the British Navy during World War II. Before the war, William Golding was a humanist, assured that people are perfectible, that humans can bring into being some future utopia. In Golding’s words, “All you had to do was to remove certain inequities and provide practical sociological solutions, and man would have a perfect paradise on earth.” After the war, Golding wrote a novel, the theme of which was about what he called “the defects of human nature.”

William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies tells the story of military schoolboys left to themselves on a desert island after a nuclear holocaust. Apart from any adult supervision, the boys devolve into a state of savagery, falling from modern to primitive. Split into two groups the boys vie for power. One group, fighting an island beast, erects a pig’s head on a pole which is soon surrounded by flies. The title of the novel, Lord of the Flies, reveals the true nature of the beast – the monster is not the pig but the boys themselves.

Monster costumes around Halloween are related to Lord of the Flies. The word “insect” comes from the original word for “bug,” later, boogeyman. Movie titles with the words “ghost,” “specter,” “goblin,” or “scarecrow” come from a fear of some beast, some Lord of the Flies. But as Golding and his novel teach us, the real monster, the real beast, is us. We may be haunted by supernatural entities – which do indeed, exist – but our first problem is the problem of our nature. Just like the boys on the island, left to ourselves, we will always be the monster. So, dressing up for Halloween as our favorite monster might be easiest if we just go as ourselves.

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[2 minute read] I am constantly bringing to my mind the classic, “What if?” My query is not a matter of doubt but of certainty. What will happen if I leave my garage door open all night long? Will people who want what I have be tempted to enter or will the person be stopped […]

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Quote of the Day: Leftists are Prisoners of Their Own Ideas


Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. –Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke foretold the disaster that would become the radical political Left in the United States. The Left is disdainful of the morality to which many of us subscribe. They are weak and greedy and are therefore doomed to failure, because they don’t value the most honorable aspects of human nature: generosity, trust, respect and many other attributes that those on the Right have come to appreciate and venerate.

A Philosophy of Werewolves


One of these days, I keep telling myself, I will write the quintessential werewolf story.

There are quintessential tales for golems (Frankenstein) and vampires (Dracula) because those stories offer more than mere entertainment. They dig into the darker side of human nature not just for cheap scares but to make us reflect on pride, lust, and daring.

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was the title of a campy sci-fi/horror film of the the 1960s. Of course, Mars is a frozen, airless rock spinning in infinity and needs nothing. China, on the other hand is a nation on Earth. In 1979, the Chinese Government adopted a policy of allowing, subject to certain exemptions, each family to have only […]

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Achilles’ Heels, or Am I Being a Heel?


[Updated upon considering some comments. Deletions noted by strike-through; italics annotate additions.]

The conservative media space, social and otherwise, is abuzz with another woman of the left speaking truth we wish to hear to the power of Big Media. Lara Logan is a woman of immense physical courage and moral courage. She has spoken hard truths to real power. She is a real, old-fashioned reporter. Kudos to Lara Logan are warranted. And. Lara Logan is human, like all of us, and we may choose to overlook parts of her humanity that complicate our preferred narrative.

At the height of the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood drove the Egyptian military’s geriatric President Hosni Mubarak from office with massive street protests, as a prelude to parliamentary election victory for the original Islamist movement. Lara Logan led an unarmed reporting team into a large Egyptian public square to capture the people’s story. The crowd of men turned into a mob, gang-raped, and nearly tore her limb-from-limb with their bare hands.

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I’ve been pondering over the years what laziness means, prompted by a family member who says, “Don’t call me lazy” (in a lighthearted way) when I make a general suggestion about something that would be obviously helpful. For example, it’s easier to start a fire in the basement stove if you first go upstairs and […]

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A work of non-fiction is understood in a context. A great work actually articulates the context before anybody else gets it. A review of such a book may go seemingly far afield, if the book’s power can be construed to provoke and, indeed, license the inspired musings of its readers. Such is the case here, […]

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When VICE initially asked me to go down to Colombia to dig into this scopolamine story, I was pretty excited. I had only a vague understanding of the drug, but the idea of a substance that renders a person incapable of exercising free will seemed liked a recipe for hilarity and the YouTube hall of fame. I […]

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The Nazi Within


amis_cover_3019706aI recently finished Martin Amis’s novel, The Zone of Interest, the plot of which centers around the conflicts of a host of characters inside a Nazi death camp — German soldiers, their wives, children, and, of course, the Jews. The book was rejected by Amis’s German publisher and received mixed reviews when it came out last year. That’s largely because of the unconventional and sometimes uncomfortable use of satire in a Holocaust novel.

The book reads much like a conventional character drama, centered around themes of jealousy, lust, ambition, and longing. Only, in this case, this rather standard human tale happens to be taking place in the midst of the most inhuman atrocities imaginable. Gruesome and brutal crimes of world-historic proportions serve as a mere backdrop for a story that stubbornly focuses on the mundane and rather unremarkable relationships of those guilty of the crimes.

You’ve never read a Holocaust novel like this one. Some readers might feel that Amis’s approach minimizes the heinous crimes that are taking place. But for me, it worked in just the opposite way. Amis’s focus on the trivial “drama” taking place among his Nazi characters has the effect of humanizing them and making the horrible genocide they are carrying out seem all the more incomprehensible. By the end of the book I was left wondering how, how, how did the genocidal mania of Nazism ever take hold of nearly an entire nation of seemingly normal human beings? What was the origin of this great hatred, and of the great collective will to act on it?

The Nature of Our Nature


In recent threads, there’s been some back and forth regarding Mankind’s nature and some… speculation as to how attitudes about it correlate with political ideology. I’ve my own theories on the matter, but I think more might be gained at this point from asking than guessing (differences tend to get exagerated in debates, so it’s sometimes best to take a step back and explore each other’s first principles). So, Ricochetti, here’s this morning’s assignment:

  1. Do you believe Mankind to be inherently good, wicked, or neither? Explain briefly.
  2. Which philosophers and/or theologians do you identify with on this subject (bonus points for providing a representative quote).
  3. How do your answers above inform your political philosophy?

What Makes Men Good?


shutterstock_105095180Nothing. If history has taught us anything, it is that mankind excels at doing bad while pretending to be noble and otherwise.

Sorry to be so pessimistic, but the last century has proved beyond doubt that human beings are not getting better. In fact, the opposite has occurred: we’ve regressed. The myth of progress be damned and forgotten evermore. Sure the last century saw many positive examples of growth – technology and applied science come to mind. And, yes, this growth has been at an unprecedented level too – since 1915 we have had the invention or upgrading of planes, automobiles, vaccines, indoor plumbing, freezers, dishwashers, modern medical advances such as the heart transplant and chemotherapy, television, radio, mobile phones, satellites, and the computer. I could go on and on, but I shall stop where I am. Human technology and its use has been a definite benefit.

But the story of the last century encompasses much more then the good uses of technology. it also saw the rise of three totalitarian threats (the legacies of which are still with us), which nearly wiped out all life on earth; two unbelievably destructive great world wars; genocides (I use the plural because even in our “enlightened age” they occur still); mass torture; starvation; a Cold War (that included multiple actual wars); the unleashing of political tyrannies never seen before, whose great claim was making many of their subjects never to be seen again; the rise of police states to a level Orwell could not envision; biological warfare; chemical warfare; poison gas; gulags; concentration camps; the emergence of religious violence and the deaths of 200 million people. More people died in the 20th century from secular regimes than all the wars in history up until that point.

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No, no, you read that title correctly. I did mean to write ‘heterosexual.’  But, now that I have your attention, I’ll add that, also speaking as a Christian, I don’t think there’s any such thing as a homosexual, either. Nor a bisexual, nor a polyamorite, nor a member of any of the other uncountable this-or-that-sort-of-sexual-preference identity groups that […]

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The Horrible, Horrible Bill Cosby Story


imageIf you haven’t seen the headlines already, NBC has officially cancelled its plans for a new sitcom starring Bill Cosby. This comes on the heels of “The Cosby Show” being pulled from re-runs and Netflix’s announcement yesterday that it was “postponing” the release of a new stand-up routine they’d commission from the comic.

Reflecting on his own experience with Cosby, Ta-Nehisi Coates — generally not my cup of tea — explains exactly why all this is so disturbing (wade past the anti-Republican digs; it’s worth it):

I spent parts of 2006 and 2007 following Bill Cosby around the country. He was then in the midst of giving a series of “call-outs” in which he upbraided the decline of morality in the black community. Our current organic black conservative moment largely springs from these efforts. It’s worth distinguishing an “organic black conservative” from a black or white Republican moment. Black Republicans, with some exceptions, don’t simply exist as people who believe in free markets and oppose abortion, but to assure white Republicans that racism no longer exists. Organic black conservatives (like Cosby, for instance) are traditionalists, but they hold no such illusions about America’s past. They believe this country to be racist, perhaps irredeemably so, but assert nonetheless that individual effort can defeat trenchant racism. The organic black conservative vision is riding high at the moment. Thus even the NAACP cannot denounce the outriders of Ferguson without the requisite indictment of “black on black crime.”

A Life Schematic or Just Winging It?


Were the most important decisions of your life all the result of cold, hard math? Or did you ever follow your gut?

How did those decisions turn out? Did your grand strategies collapse under unforeseeable circumstances? Did your enthusiasm for impulsive or intuitive commitments wane? Or have your preparations proved fertile? Have your feelings guided you to joyful, surprising experiences?