Good, bad depend on cooperation
(My Clovis News Journal column for August 21, 2015)
Through years of observing people interacting, I have noticed something: People are better and more cooperative than they are given credit.
By “better” I mean less likely to intentionally harm others, and more likely to help; even strangers.
Yet you and I are fed a constant stream of bad characters who are the exception. The exceptions get noticed precisely because they are exceptions. People tend to not notice what is most common.
Even truly bad guys are only evil part-time. No one could get away with violating everyone they encounter. Regardless of how safe they might believe their special case makes them, someone would put an end to them sooner or later. Probably sooner than later. That's the way it is, and the way it should be. This truth is no threat to decent people, and keeps most bad guys somewhat constrained.
Then you have the cooperative nature of humans.
Most people want to get along. Those who believe people won't try to get along are ignoring the majority of life and focusing on the exceptions.
Cooperation is practically universal, but it is a double-edged sword. When you think of cooperation, you probably think of cooperation's light side. You imagine people joining together to repair a neighbor's damaged house, or pitching in to get a desperately ill kid the medical care she needs. This is healthy cooperation, and it is wonderful.
However, cooperation also has a dark side. Much evil depends on the cooperative nature of people, perverted. Gangs wouldn't cause trouble, and wars of aggression couldn't happen, without the cooperation of large numbers of people joining together to violate others on a massive scale. It's not only the bad guys who cooperate in unhealthy ways, but normal people, too. No dictatorship could stand without the victims cooperating with the majority of the tyrant's commands. Humans are highly cooperative, even when it isn't in their own interest.
Cooperation isn't the problem; using it badly is. Don't cooperate to violate person or property, but only to build up others and protect people and property. Don't cover for those who cooperate with the wrong things.
I try to cooperate for good, while being prepared to encounter those who won't. I have picked up hitchhikers and helped stranded strangers. I have given money to people I knew were in need- and some whose needs I suspected money couldn't fill. I don't regret even the times it didn't go exactly to plan. For the most part, people are amazing. Now, if they would only see where they are being inconsistent and self destructive, and understand when to cooperate, and when they shouldn't, they would be even better.
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