Last Updated on by Anil Premlall

The Limits and Great Potential of Human Nature

We humans evolved in a very different time and place. Many of our now problematic behaviors had great survival value for small tribes on the wild plains of Africa.

A week ahead of Halloween, my short piece on the Dark Side of Human Nature offers some scary specifics.

For example, there were big advantages to favoring our side, right or wrong, and seeing more evil in our enemies.

In those brutal times there wasn’t always enough food to go around. Tribes who believed they had a right and even a duty to conquer, enslave or kill others were more likely to survive. Those genetically ready to act this way survived. That’s part of everyone’s all-too-human heritage.

Whose land is it anyway?

Here’s an insight that could be helpful where various groups believe they have an exclusive right to national territory they now share with others. No matter where that is, the same land was conquered – stolen – many times from others who also took it from someone else. The “original” or rightful owners were conquered, enslaved and killed many times over. Most conquerors believe that God – or their gods – gave them the land.

Some extreme Muslims want to re-conquer all land that was ever part of Islam, including most of Spain and Portugal, lost to other zealots of a different but also monotheistic religion over 500 years ago.

Extremist Muslims seem to forget that their ancestors conquered land from others. By the same logic, Christians would take the entire Byzantine and Roman empires, everything from Morocco to Iraq. Hindus would want lands that are now mostly Muslim in Indonesia, Pakistan and elsewhere.

When Hitler conquered much of Europe, in many ways he was acting similar to how many European nations acted while building their own colonial empires.

I believe all of this continues primitive human behaviors started long ago on African savannahs.

One million years later

Now we face unprecedented, complex, modern challenges, most of which we humans are bringing on ourselves. These include weapons of mass destruction and a much larger ability to damage our environment.

To avoid really huge, man-made disasters, we need to use the most constructive parts of our human nature. These also helped us survive and adapt to many challenges throughout history.

Great powers for change

We can think creatively and come up with new solutions. That’s enabled us to go from hunter gatherers to builders of great cities with modern communications. We can connect with each other all around the globe.

We can also think things through on a deeper level. As we understand the advantages of positive change, we can motivate ourselves and others on a massive scale. These are the qualities we need to solve our very dangerous, modern problems.

Hearts & Minds is here to help. For example: Easy, effective actions you can do right now

You Can Help End Global Hunger and Poverty
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