Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Too Much Hippy Love

During a recent political discussion with two Canadian friends, one of them accused me of being oblivious to humanity.  He said that if I knew more people then I wouldn’t be so hopeful about our common future.  He argued that people are naturally lazy, selfish, and cruel.  Moreover, we need greed to motivate us or else society will never progress.

It wasn’t the first time that I’ve been accused of such things or heard similar arguments.

As a result, you’d think that I’d have responses ready.  But I don’t.  Well, I have statistics and case studies against the usual capitalist arguments advocating greed in the form of healthy competition, that poor people deserve to be poor, that progressive taxation limits innovation and creativity, etc. etc. – but I don’t know what to say to refute the personal criticisms.

It’s true that I view the world through my own paradigm: my upbringing was filled with love and security, I’ve never experienced any serious hardship, and the majority of people I’ve encountered in this world have been kind and generous.

But that doesn’t make my opinion less worthwhile.

Does it?

I worry about this.  I worry that my middle-class, educated background somehow discredits my experience of the world.

On the other hand, I’m mostly arguing with other middle-class, educated people – yet somehow their cynicism validates their opinions.

It’s not that I haven’t met petty people – or people who are selfish, cruel, or lazy.  If you ask my friends, they’ll tell you that I used to be incredibly nice.  But I’m not anymore: I’ve learned that if you give people the chance to take advantage of you, they will.

But that’s no reason to judge others too harshly.  The unfortunate truth is that very few people are looking out for you – you have to look after yourself.  You have to put your needs before others because no one else is doing anything different.

See?  I’m not completely full of rainbows and sunshine.

Despite these beliefs, however, I still contend that humans have infinite capacity for love.  We each contain both angels and demons – neither side is more “natural” than the other.

Humanity is evolving.  Most of our history is full of brutal violence.  Much of our current news is full of brutal violence.  But the violence is decreasing.  Slowly.

I have confidence in my fellow human beings.

Maybe this means that people don’t like my opinions.  There are lots of reasons people disagree with me: too socialist, too feminist, too focused on power structures, too critical of capitalism.

But too compassionate?

Ad hominem.


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