Human Nature Social or Competitive

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"Human Nature Social or Competitive"
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Why are we so full of contradictions? Also, why do we go to such great lengths try to hide these inconistencies when we are interacting with society and try to pretent that we have the same views as the crowd. In many ways our attempts to harmonize within a group, or compromize ourselves, has reduced us to the roles of lemmings - a role which usually ends in self-destruction.

If we go back 3000 years in history we do not see mankind all worshipping one Supreme and Benevolent Being. Many ancient deities had dual charactacterics, for example Indian Kali represents good and bad. Once we started to believe in one good God, we had a problem. We had to explain to ourselves and society the existence of evil occurences in our world. So the solution was to create a counter-balance - a Devil, a Beast or a Dragon. This was social psychology at work. Yet we know that we as individuals often have a good and a bad side within us and curiously enough these extreme sides of us can often surface during times when the social forces are taking sides in a battle over religion  or philosophies.  

The question can be asked - Are we social or competitive creatures? Archaeologists tell us that we started out as social hunter-gatherers. Then we became farmers and fought wars over land and resources. While discussing this question with friends one of them came up with an interesting answer, when he said that he believed humans by nature are 60% competitive and 40% social and added that we were becoming more social as we currently live in such calm times.

This view was simple and enlightening. Maybe it was right or maybe it was wrong, but it was certainly a good starting point. As he said that it depends on the social or economic conditions as to whether the people are social or competitive. This was an excellent point, as when things turn bad in a big city, the people will often steal, kill or commit cannibalism to survive.

One documentary film about the people of northern Siberia in Russia showed how life there can be very difficult to live, especially due to the extremely hard winter. However, the people looked very relaxed and very happy, because they had huge stretches of land all around them and they did not feel threatened by other people. This was a real surprise.

Another friend said that as a human being he was social, but that he did not like competition and he asked why cannot work together and win the game of life. However, his wording sounded to be more like John Nash's Equilibrium, or game theory, where the people could not work together and eventually somebody would have to cheat, the so-called prisoner's dilemma. My friend was disturbed by competition so common in this modern world and said it was everywhere, from our childhood, in our schools, at college, at work, and with our neighbors. He conceded that competition is fine and necessary for the growth of an organization or a country. However, he argued that it should be treated as pure competition or a game, but need not involve becoming a rival or showing hostility towards each other. Rather we should enjoy the progress and development together.

Unfortunately it seems that competition has become a greater part of our nature. Indeed it has become an obligation in the "greed is good" world in which we currently live. However, this instinct is not completely natural to human beings and I witnessed it many times, where people are doing evil to others or trying to destroy them and at the same time they are crying. Why is that? Besides competition is not the only successful economic model and there are some very successful companies which were founded as a collective, e.g. Quaker Oats, or the charitable trust which founded the Welcome Pharma company (now half of Glaxo). Maybe Adam Smith's competitive economic model is over-rated.

In conclusion, the ancient ways of recognizing our complex individual makeup and allowing us to freely associate with nature and others has evolved into social philopsophies and rules which try to force us into behaving in ways which do not tolerate our truly complex nature. However, any Carpenter will tell you that it is not wise to cut against the grain and sooner or later humanity and society will have to correct its path again again and if necessary be reborn.

More about this author: Martin Chapman

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