Are people inherently evil?

2023-05-04 08:06:00, Kuriozitete Norberto Olivar
Are people inherently evil?
Illustrative photo

In June 1965, 6 boys from St. Andrew's College, an Anglican boarding school on the South Pacific island of Tonga, stole a boat, filled it with food, and set out to sea in search of adventure. They wanted to go to the Fiji Islands, although no one had thought to take a compass with them.

The oldest was not even 15 years old. At one point, the boys fell asleep on the boat until they awoke to a raging storm. After spending 8 days at sea, they saw a rocky island, not knowing where they were. They landed there and built a fire, pledging to keep it burning until they escaped, just like the boys in William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

As we know, in this novel the lost abandon their civilized lifestyle and turn against each other, causing 3 casualties. Meanwhile, the boys of Saint Andrew's College made an agreement to protect each other, and kept their promise for a full 1 year and 3 months. It was a period of anxiety, disease and accidents, as might be expected on a deserted island.

The human species

But at some point a miracle happened, and they were rescued by Australian captain Peter Warner on September 11, 1966. This real-life adventure belies the premise of Golding's novel: that people are inherently evil and can barely hide their evil side. dark under a thin layer of civilization.

The boys' Christian education may have helped them quite a bit. But for historian Rutger Gregman, author of the book "The Human Species: A Hopeful Story," human wickedness is learned throughout life. It is acquired during a "nocebo effect", which makes us believe that we are doomed to be bad.

Bregman believes that goodness is innate in people, and in the book he cites many historical episodes to illustrate this claim. In this case, my mind goes to the heroes who entered the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, knowing they would die but aiming to save others.

The same can be said about the Chernobyl disaster in 1986: Aleskei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov and Boris Baranov, members of the so-called suicide squads, who volunteered to enter a flooded part of the nuclear plant to prevent a disaster greater, despite the terrible danger.

"nocebo" effect  

Neurologist Sigmund Freud believed that hereditary factors explain the pleasure some people feel in killing. Renaissance thinker Niccolò Machiavelli describes humans as ungrateful hypocrites, while Christianity attributes our wickedness to the original sin of Adam and Eve.

In contrast to history, literature seems to see only the "nocebo" effect of evil. Like Golding's novel, the story of Dr. Jekyll and Lord Hyde depicts the opposition between good and evil. In his novel "The Stranger", Albert Camy questioned the well-known concepts of good and evil, placing at the center of the book an "amoral" character with no emotion like Merso.

I myself cannot remember more than one good person in a novel or literary work. The prophet Job is found in the Bible, but he too is stained by original sin. But beyond its moral realm or matters of piety, wickedness has an immediate impact on faith, which in turn is a fundamental pillar of everyday social life.

If you think others are evil, how can you trust them and lower your guard?

Mistrust creates a society where everything must be verified. Bjung-Chul Han, a South Korean philosopher, says that transparent society paradoxically creates mistrust. So to have a better society, let's curb our lower instincts, but also a part of our freedom./ Adapted from CNA.al

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