Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The contradictions in human nature

Most debates in the realm of politics and religion boil down to one's conception of human nature. The two poles of the debate are:
  1. People are fundamentally Good by nature, but are corrupted by outside influences (society, parents, media, peers, etc.)
  2. People are fundamentally Bad by nature, but are capable of Goodness by outside influences (society, parents, media, peers, etc.)

So (and these are very broad generalizations here, so bear with me) political liberals tend to be on the People are Good side, and political conservatives tend to be on the People are Bad side.

In the realm of child-rearing, this polarity shows up in the Authoritarian school versus the Unconditional Parenting school. (Warning, generalizations ahead.) The Authoritarians believe that children will be inherently lazy, selfish, stubborn, etc. and require firm discipline to teach them to be disciplined, generous, cooperative, etc. The Unconditional Parenting school would say that children are always trying their best, that when nurtured correctly they spontaneously manifest the qualities we desire.

I thought, when I started writing this, that I would be able to place myself somewhere on this continuum, and justify it, or at least make an interesting argument about it. But I've tried writing the next paragraph six times now over the last hour and half, and I keep saying, no, no, that's not right either. Every time I think I've got it cornered, I realize that I have to unpack all the terms: what do we mean by "Good" or "Bad", exactly? What do we mean by "naturally?" (I'm not turning into a mushy relativist here, far from it . . . but I keep realizing that not everyone is going to buy into my notions of Good or Natural, and so they stand to be defined.)



Post a Comment

<< Home