Human Nature

fullcircle principles

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

For quite some time in my life i was very confused about this. When searching inside myself, i always received the clear answer that humans are on the friendly, collaborative side - until they are under pressure and fear. When looking at the world and its symptoms, the answer is different. It seems that one has to be selfish to succeed.

One day i discovered that there are two different games a human can play. James Carse has written a nice little book on these two types of games. The finite game in his sense is a game you play to win while the infinite game is a game you play to play.

Another hint comes from the discovery of Tit for Tat which essentially states the same: collaboration trumps competition in the long term but might lose in the short term.

A third clue is Douglas Rushkoff's green room experience which makes viscerally clear that no matter how independent we think we might be, in the end (as in the beginning and throughout) we will always depend on other people.

Rutger Bregman has written a whole book on this, debunking the often cited myth that humans are inherently selfish. Riane Eisler and Douglas Fry go even deeper on this in their book "Nurturing our humanity". In it they develop the foundations for the "partnership - domination lens".

In their observation each group of people, community, society falls somewhere on a continuum between being based on power hierarchies on the one end and partnership relations on the other end. Not only do they make the case that the bias towards the domination end of the scale is only a few thousand years old and that before that people were leaning towards the partnership end - they also make the case that the direction in which a society leans can be a conscious choice and deliberately changed.

Vulnerability and love are at the root of all of this. Both are the most fundamental human forces. Without them we would not survive the first years of our lives, as we can learn from Gabor Maté and many others, not least ourselves.

fullcircle principle one: Humans are Good. I choose to loose in the short term and win in the long term. I choose to trust in the friendly, collaborative nature of humans over fearing and protecting myself against the idea of selfishness and competition.

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