Human Nature and its Exploits

So I just stumbled over an article on my news feed about a school system near Chicago that’s being given an ultimatum – allow x-gender-identifying students access to whichever locker room they choose or risk losing federal funds. For the sake of not deviating from my main focus on this entry, I’ll just say this: that’s absurd. Don’t get me wrong – I support whatever choices people want to make about themselves, it’s none of my business. But this locker room thing is going too far. If you’re a boy and you say you’re a girl, fine. But you can still dress with the people who have the same pieces as you. After all, you’re used to seeing your own, right? So for the sake of everyone else, just deal with making the compromise instead of losing your cool and crying discrimination. You want us to respect you, but that’s a two way street. If it helps, maybe we should say locker rooms are based on anatomy – not gender.

Anyway, rant over. My point with the above reference was that it sparked me to think of a much bigger picture. Here’s my point, based solely on observation and intuition: our entire society has been shaped by the exploitation of human nature. When you look at it, almost everything we do associated with satisfying an innate need. For some reason animals are wired to desire dominance and status – and humans are no different. The smartest people among us understand this, and they take advantage of it. For example, the masterminds behind marketing over the past couple centuries have somehow created the concept of “branding”. Do you think brands have always existed? Of course not. In the good old days (which we never experienced), people valued things on practicality and relevance. Yet now we live in a culture that judges people based upon what tag is on their clothes or what emblem is on the front of their car. All these marketing gurus did was identify the human desire to be important or exude status, and then develop something that satisfied said desire. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing in most cases, but its still something we should be aware of.

But branding is just a very small example. The concept applies to almost everything we do in life. Mark Zuckerberg identified our need to be social, and created something that soothed that need – and how much have our lives changed because of it? It’s actually pretty simple stuff when you really think about it. I think this is what the smartest and/or most successful people in life do. The “smartest” people aren’t necessarily the ones who can do quantum physics problems on the back of a napkin – they’re the ones that understand human behavior and act accordingly. I suppose it depends on how you define intellect, but psychological comprehension is probably the most valuable asset one can have in their interpersonal arsenal – really knowing what makes people tick.

So yeah, that’s great and all – people who understand people usually become successful, we already know that. But here’s the problem: it also breeds the opportunity for manipulation. One of the main behaviors people are born with is the instinct of self-preservation; we play to advance our own agendas. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we all do this from time to time. I think one of the main things that separates people from being manipulative is self-awareness. If you’re AWARE that you’re doing something for your benefit at the detriment of someone else, then you have the option to control it. The danger is when we rationalize and tell ourselves that we’re doing something good when subconsciously we know we aren’t (or even worse, just don’t care in the first place).

Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of this, as I’m sure we all have. We’re human, after all. But the issue I have is when it becomes so impactful that it affects everyone. Take government, for example (the obvious case study). The most powerful people in the world are SO good at this that they can convince millions of people to love them, and yet do things that completely harm them. I always wonder if these people look in the mirror at night and really care about how they affect people. I imagine not, otherwise they wouldn’t do a lot of the stuff they do. But it’s something I’ve always wondered.

So yeah…sort of a scatterbrained post, but all this political stuff lately had me thinking about all this. I really think our culture needs to change if we ever want the big picture to improve. This whole Information Age thing has had some great benefits, but its also softened us quite a bit.

And for God’s sake, we really need to start getting along.

human nature


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