Humans Aren’t Bad, Our Systems Are Bad

The more I read of Daniel Quinn’s work, the more I start to embrace humanity’s potential. As I’ve stated in other posts, I’ve always felt a stronger kinship with other species than I have with my own. It is hard to feel as loving toward humans when we are constantly bombarded with news and real life examples of people at their worst. It makes us start to believe that humans must just be inherently flawed, selfish, ignorant, violent beings.

However, learning about the ways in which the societal systems we’ve built up throughout the centuries affect us is beginning to change the way I see my fellow humans. We are all the product of our environments. I do believe we have free will to a certain extent. But the choices we can make are limited by a lot of factors. A major one of those factors, I’ve come to realize, is our society itself.

Now I believe that if humans were still living within the same structure of community we once did, a more natural one, we would be just as innocent and lovable as other animals. I may even believe that other animals could become as disturbed as humanity is if placed in the same detrimental systems we’ve placed ourselves within.

I hope that this new perspective will help me be more gentle and loving towards other humans. Now that I can clearly see the bars of our collective prison, it’s harder to blame anyone for their poor choices or violent actions. In reality, crime, poverty, severe mental illness, famine, corruption, these things are not natural parts of humanity. They don’t reflect who we are as a species. They are merely the symptoms of a larger problem. Our systems. Our systems of government and the ways we have all been conditioned to live.

I have felt like a victim of these systems for so long. I’ve desperately wanted to escape into the forest and leave this life behind. Live close to the earth as I feel we were all meant to. Yet for some reason, I didn’t think that was a normal desire. I felt like an outlier. That most people were comfortable and happy with the way humanity has been heading. And maybe a lot are. But that doesn’t change the fact that my instincts turned out to be right. We aren’t made to live in this way. It brings out the worst in us. It makes us hurt one another. It causes mental illness, aberrant behaviors, endless suffering, subjugation, environmental devastation, mass extinction, war, hunger, disease, death, etc.

I can no longer find blame in any individual now that I see the true error of our society. One that no one person created or decided upon. One that was thrust upon all of us. One we feel powerless to change. One we wouldn’t really know how to fix if we wanted to at this point. We are all in this mess together. And it’s no one’s fault. I don’t have the answers to these problems. I don’t even really believe we have enough time to fix them before we’ve damaged the earth beyond the point at which it can support us.

What I can do is be kind while I’m here. I can stop seeing the worst in people. I can stop harshly thinking “they should know better,” “they should be better.” Instead I can acknowledge and focus on the good, that glimmer of animal innocence inside all of us. Instead I can think “thank you,” “you are doing your best with what you’ve been given.” Because in the end I do believe that’s true. We are all doing our best. The fact that hasn’t been good enough for me a lot of the time made me think humans were the problem. Now I finally see that is not the case.

From now on when I see another human, I’ll think about Pitbulls. They are not bad dogs. They are not mean dogs. They are simply a product of their experience and their environment. And just like with Pitbulls, even the ones trained to be dangerous, I will love them anyway.

Photo by Mati Mango on Pexels.com

Find Your Tribe

After reading Ishmael, the book I mentioned in another blog post, I’ve been reading another book by the author, Daniel Quinn. In this book, titled Beyond Civilization, he discusses how human beings can change society and live in a way that works better for not only the environment, but for us as well. There are so many insightful and profound things within just the first few pages. I absolutely love this author and cannot wait to read all he’s published.

In Beyond Civilization, Quinn explains how for the majority of human history, we lived in tribes. Once we broke away from that and built social hierarchies, that’s when he had our “fall from grace” so to speak. Not only have our societal systems, governments, and particularly capitalism led to the destruction of our planet, they have also created a culture of violence, apathy, drug abuse, and mental illness.

He uses circuses as a metaphor, likening them to modern day tribes. He explains that unlike big corporations like Amazon, a small circus creates an atmosphere of personal interest in the success of the group as a whole. At Amazon, the people in the warehouses most likely feel no personal attachment to the company as a whole. Nor does Jeff Bezos give a single fuck about any of his employees. Quinn explains that the members of the circus, while technically employees, work not for the money, but earn the money so that they can continue to do what they love and keep their group together.

As I was reading this explanation, I realized that I had been lucky enough to stumble into my own tribe! The job I currently have feels so much different than any I’ve had in the past. There are a lot of little things about it that contribute, but I couldn’t really put my finger on why it was so different until now.

At my small non-profit I can literally count all the employees on my fingers. While we do have an executive director, it doesn’t feel like a hierarchy. Everyone understands and respects the value and importance of each position in the organization. Thinking of this group of people I work with as my tribe makes so much sense. It feels more like a tribe than just a job. I couldn’t explain it exactly before. Explain why suddenly I don’t mind working late or going above and beyond what’s required of me. Why I desperately want to do a good job, not so I’m not fired, but so I can be an asset to my team, my friends, my tribe.

At all my old jobs, my goal was to do as little as possible without being fired. I was absolutely indignant if I had to work late or miss a break. It was painfully apparent that if I wasn’t being paid, I would not be there. At my job now, I look forward to being there. I no longer dread Sunday evenings. I am happy when I wake up to go to work. I truly feel like I am a part of something, rather than just another cog in a huge machine. I genuinely never knew it was possible to feel this way about work.

We’re conditioned to accept that for the majority of people, work is an unpleasant requirement of staying alive. It isn’t fair, it isn’t fun, but it is a necessary evil. I felt this way my whole life. And I’m sure I still would working anywhere else. What makes this job different is that it is such a small organization. We all know each other. We all care about each other. We all see the value and worth of what we do together. We are a tribe. We work to support one another and our organization, not for a paycheck.

Quinn has helped me understand that this is the way humans used to live. Things were smaller, more intimate, more meaningful. He believes we can change society so that we may all benefit from this type of system again. It is something I had never dared to dream. And while I still think humanity is too far gone at this point, I hope that he’s right. It feels so good to hope. And to experience a small piece of that life I hope everyone can have someday. I sincerely hope that you can each find a tribe of your own out there.