The world on TV is not real. How does it affect our identity and “Human Nature?”

I know I didn’t write in a long time, and I kinda sorry for that, not because I thought you all wait for me to write, but also because this blog for me, is a place to test various ideas, a place to think out loud and share it with whoever is willing to read. I hope that whoever read these ideas or loud thoughts, enjoy them, and try to think about different things for a change, and taste something that is not “more of the same” news articles, or gossip garbage.

I was busy with my thesis, as I completed my first or second chapter’s draft (depends how you look at it). It is fascinating, and I had great fun in these five tedious days of writing. Of course I had many days to read and digest everything, so I could actually write down everything in 5 days. It was challenging to produce something worth called a research. I’ll sure try to share it with you, as I will feel that I had this subject of “human nature” out of my system.

So, I talked about how some people believe that we are evil, that the only thing that keeps us from eating each other alive are laws, and the sovereignty of the state, as it monopolizes the use of force. But, some believe that our nature is not necessarily “bad” but self-preserving kind of egoism that we can channel it to advance ourselves through our economic system. We are all greedy, but we can be all happy if we create a system that takes this greed, and turn it into a way for us to produce things that make us better off. That we are rational in our attempt to be happier and more wealthy, and we carefully device plans to maximize our profits.

These are arguments within philosophy\economy about what we are. Even though many other philosophers argue about different things which I will try to tackle someday. The last trend in philosophy is Postmodernism and constructivism. We are not born, or we do not operate as X because we are born, or we function as such, but we are the product of our environment, both physical and social ones. A violent criminal wasn’t born a violent criminal; it is most likely because he was born into impoverished conditions or into a family that abused him or her. They grew up in such an environment that their understanding of the world, and how one should navigate his way in it is different from a “normative” child who grew in a happy, loving family. We experience life, and through those experiences we come to understand the world, which shapes our character and identity and act according to it. As we act we reaffirm our identity. Identity is a fluid thing that can change over time, so people who say “people are bad” just experienced the world in such a way that drove them to conclude that. Maybe they were born in times of wars and great violence? Or were abused themselves? Victims of their reality? So, maybe there is not “human nature” at all, as we recreate ourselves over time, depends on what is going on around and within us.

Maybe there is no right or wrong, good or evil, truth or reality? We all live the world through our experiences, our social encounters and so on. Maybe the world we think we know, through TV, is not actually what is going on at all? I think the media has a big part in our perception of the world. Though it is essential for us to see and understand that there are different realities outside of our own, media has its limitations. But, most people’s lives are to some degree predetermined, meaning that they fall into a daily routine. Then in most places, people relay on the media to understand the “bigger picture.” Think about it, when do you meet the “state”? when do you encounter different people? Most likely rarely. The “state” you meet when you go abroad and go through custom or immigration, or when you have some bureaucratic business with it. Otherwise, the “state” is an amorphous body that is hard to grasp for the ordinary person.

In the end, we get these “realities” through some other people. They are like a filter, that sort out what is essential for us and what is not. They produce a program or write an article that then we consume. But who said they got it right? Who said they don’t have any agendas? Or maybe they lack understanding of the subject? Maybe they don’t do their job that well? And it happens quite often. Newspapers and news sites live by advertisements. To sell those they need to create traffic or ratings. How they do that? Well, one of the ways is to create a “Moral Panic.”  This idea was developed by Stanley Cohen, as he identified that there are some things, or some phenomenons in a society that become to be identified as “dangerous” or detrimental to the core values of society. Then the media for a certain period, discuss about this phenomenon and keep it in the head of the news. Thus, creating this “panic” of morality. He gives an example of how youth violence was this issue in the 60s and 70s in Great Britain. It can be things like domestic violence, or robberies and drugs, or corruption.

But, in many cases, these issues are constantly happening and more or less at a stable rate. The thing that had changed is not the “real world” but the attention this phenomenon get from the media and through it the public. So suddenly everytime a youth violence occurs, there is a big scandal of it in the news. This is precisely one of the features of “Moral Panic.” This is an example of how the media can distort reality, make us believe that human beings are bad or the world is a cruel place, even though we have never experienced the world in this manner. It effects out a way of understanding the world, and how we perceive it, so do we actually understand the world? Or just get a distorted image of it? I’ll continue to speak about things that might make our understanding of the world different, and ask, maybe there is no real world?

Does money Makes The Human Nature Go Around?

I’ve discussed some aspects of human nature. Does our nature, in its most fundamental aspect, a bad one? Are we all sinners and have to work hard to overcome our most primal instincts? Given a rules-free situation, will we eat each other alive, as Hobbes and many other filmmakers claim? Or will human can also show altruism, and good qualities even in the direst situations?

Some people, most of them are economists, believe that for the most part, we are evil. We are not evil in the sense that we will kill each other, but we are evil in the sense that we are selfish. To be more specific, we care most about our material situation.

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages”

. We are, they say, a selfish materialistic animal, that will go great lengths to make sure that we take care of these selfish desires and needs.

Capitalists think that it is a good thing. If everyone fulfilled their selfish desires, we would be all better off. We will work hard to fulfill our selfish needs. The baker is greedy, that is why he opens his bakery. He might want people to eat good bread, but the idea in its roots is selfish. If his bread isn’t good nobody will want to buy it. Thus, the desire to make good quality goods might also be born out of selfishness. Capitalists think that it is so fundamental in our psyche, that people used barter economy until money was invented. I’ll give you four oranges for your one potato.

Though, they usually conducted what is called a “gift economy.”. People helped each other out of a straightforward and implicit code. If I help you today; you will help me tomorrow. When someone’s house fell down, the village people came to help him. By that people knew that if something would happen to their homes, they will get help also.

Money has such great powers, that it can ignore national borders, language, cultures and a matter of fact anything. If you had spices or precious metals, you didn’t need to understand different languages or cultures, or political realities, you could just trade with them. Muslims and Christians fought for hundreds of years, but money and trade took place between them for example.

Even states that don’t have official relations can trade. Usually, the “small guy” or trader, doesn’t care with who he conducts business, money is the same no matter its origins. That is why the U.S have some trouble to crack down all the companies that still trade with Iran.

In many cases, the possibility of profits from trade push countries to establish good relationships or to keep them peaceful. Many International Relation theories stress the importance of economic variables in world politics. They identify economy as a significant factor on peace and wars. They argue that if country A and B benefit more from peace rather than war, they won’t fight. If the economic relations are too good, war will become too costly to think of. If in the political sphere things get tense, many financial players (let’s say big corporations) will put pressure on their governments to ease down the tension because it is bad for business. If the trade volume is significant, the politician will cool down as soon as their economies suffer greatly and the public will feel that in their pockets.

So, selfishness might be seen as part of the core values of human nature, and the question is, how do we harness this for the better of humanity. Capitalists say that they have successfully harnessed it for the better good of us all. But, what about wars over scarce material goods? Like water, oil and so on? What if there is no way that everybody will get enough because there is not enough to go around? Then, this selfishness is deadly, and we might get a Hobbesian situation, a war over these resources.

There is a famous saying that goes like this: “it is easier to visualize the end of the world, rather than the end of capitalism.” After the USSR fell, nobody can even think of an alternative social system to capitalism, meaning a society without money or something similar. Try to think about a world that has no money. I can’t. We all come up with communism, and we all know that it failed.

People are so convinced that money is here to stay, and that it will ever be one of the core social regimes of powers in society. “Money makes the world go around”, and if we don’t have money at all, the world will stop. Jaron Lanier in his book “You are not a Gadget” talks about “Lock ins”. Meaning, a situation that was locked in and has become one of the building blocks of everything that comes afterward. Let’s say, the idea that we have files on a computer. It is a ‘locked in’ design, that now no other computer or program can work without this concept taken into consideration. Money might have been ‘locked in’ so hard, that we cannot even think about an alternative system that will work without it. So it might be natural to think that if this is the only available system to arrange society, this might be a natural concept for human beings.

The idea is that, it is not as Hobbes describe. People can overcome hostility if they can profit and be better off from cooperation. Thus, human nature has an aspect of evilness, but also of cooperation (out of selfishness), and if this aspect is dealt with appropriately, we will be able to limit the “natural state” that leads to war and violence and bring our dark place under some degree of control.