The Greater Good

Sometimes I hate being human. Humanity makes me succeptible to all manner of painful things, be they physical, mental or emotional. Humanity makes me weak. I am imperfect and all too aware of it, and I have my humanity to thank for it.

I wonder how many people in this world really understand the concept of being human. Between what I see on the news, what I read on the blogs, and what I find in the paper, I get the feeling that people are beginning to forget that “only human” means we don’t always get it right.

There have always been people opposed to fighting wars. Even during WWII, a war we knew we couldn’t escape fighting, there were enough people opposed to abandoning diplomacy that it caught attention. Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq–many people have protested all of these conflicts in varying degrees. There are always those willing to fight for their belief that war is never the answer (kinda defeats the purpose, though, doesn’t it?).

The same people are typically supportive of gun control measures. Many countries outside of the United States have gone so far as to ban civilian ownership of firearms, most notably Great Britain and Australia in the past decade. Australia now has laws against non-kitchen knives, too. These folks typically say, “what do you need a weapon for? If you’re attacked, just call the police!” If only it were so simple.

The general theme running underneath all of this is that civilized people shouldn’t fight. The reason for that is they believe that all people are inherently good. And since good, rational people can carry on a conversation, we should just sit down and talk, right? Much like David Crosby going on Hardball with Chris Matthews and claiming that a concert is going to open dialoge with terrorists, more and more people are espousing the notion that negotiation is easy.

Don’t misunderstand me; talking rationally does work. I still believe that peaceful, civil means should be attempted first if circumstances allow. I’m not by any means saying that violence will save us all. That accusation (which I’ve gotten more than once) is just plain silly. But the suggestion that talking and getting our feelings out will solve all the world’s ills is equally as silly.

To get a good idea of how imperfect the world is, think closer to home. Have you ever had an argument with a friend or relative? What was the disagreement about, and why did you fight about it?

Everyone understands the language of romantic relationships because it’s something we’ve all dealt with (unless you’re a nun). Are you still with your first-ever significant other? Why not? What about your second, your third? You loved them, didn’t you? Why weren’t you able to keep the relationship alive? You should have been able to talk everything out, right? At what point did you realize that it wasn’t worth trying to fix anymore?

The answer to all of those questions is singular and simple: we’re all human. We’re all imperfect. Consequently, we won’t always get along, and some things we may never be able to work or talk through. If we are unable to calmly fix every little issue in our own lives, what makes us think all of these violent militants and terrorists are going to be willing to change their ways? Humanity, in all its imperfection, is rife with pain, disappointment, stubbornness and selfishness. Give a person the power of your trust and the opportunity to hurt you and it is guaranteed at some point they will let you down. That’s the way the world works.

If selfishness is genuinely so wrong, I fail to see anyone doing anything to change it. Maybe the question of whether we should stand and fight could be answered by taking a look at our own lives. I think it’s amazing that so many wish so much to make this world a better place. Peace is an admirable goal, one we should (and mostly do) all strive for. But is the greater good best served by a tacit refusal to fight? Or do we achieve more with the courage to do what really should be done?