Hardwired for kindness
“The underlying nature of human beings is not savage, but essentially nice.”
“Humanity thrives in a crisis. Our innate kindness and cooperation have been the greatest factors in our long-term success as a species.”
“We are hardwired for kindness, geared for cooperation rather than competition, more inclined to trust rather than distrust one another.”
Oh, really? These statements are a tough sell, especially for those who have lived close to the Holocaust or 9/11 or a Sandy Hook kind of malevolent, depraved event. Our knee-jerk reaction might be, “Has that writer been living in a cave?” or “What’s he been smoking? He hasn’t been watching the breaking news that I have.”
The guy is Rutger Bregman, Dutch historian, journalist and author. In his book, “Humankind: a Hopeful History,” Bregman, 33, makes a strong case, with research well-footnoted, for the better angels of our nature.
Locally, consider the WHAS Crusade for Children. Since 1954, it has raised more than $200 million for the special needs of children in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Most of the millions have come from thousands of un-rich dropping their coins and small bills in buckets at intersections, not from a rich few writing a check.
Are humans nothing more than naked apes, ever-ready to brutalize and destroy each other? Maybe philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ observation that life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” doesn’t tell the rest of the story.
I thrill, or choke up, every time I hear one of those stories about a wheelchair being stolen from someone who depended on it. Scores or hundreds of people chip in to buy her a new, better wheelchair and also slip her some grocery or department store gift cards.
“Believing in human generosity and collaboration,” someone said, “isn’t merely optimistic; it’s realistic.”
Got kindness? It’s a natural.