The Curse of Human Nature  


Whenever anyone comes up with an idealistic vision to put an end to war, prevent the destruction of nature, solve the overpopulation crisis, or put into place a socialist government that would create fairness and equality, we are always told – ‘great idea but it can’t happen because of human nature’.


What is this curse of human nature?


It seems that whenever anyone tries to do something good someone comes along to undermine it. They either selfishly exploit people or do something destructive.


This human nature is the side of us that likes inflicting pain and being cruel, greedy and selfish. It is the bullying side; the violent, brutal side.


Over the centuries religions have warned against this curse of human nature. They have set out rules and commandments and followed them up with humungous threats of eternal damnation. But that hasn’t worked. What with paedophile priests and greed and avarice rampant in society it obvious that people pay lip service at best.


Yet there is another side to human nature. There is the good caring side, the compassion and empathy, tolerance, love and responsibility. People are capable of the most altruistic acts. They give up their lives to care for others and that even extends to nature – people protect and care for the plants and animals. That is the good side.



So is the curse of human nature the fact that a minority of us are always, selfish, cruel and exploitative? Or are all of us like that to an extent?


Can nothing be done about the bad side of our nature?


Many say no – it is intrinsic in our genes and we cannot change.


I say they are wrong and that history proves me right, we are improving. History is full of the grossest deeds. In modern times we still do a lot of mean and nasty things but I would contend not on the scale of past centuries.


So what is to be done given our human nature? Do we merely say that we are beyond hope? Do we say that there will always be poverty, inequality, racism, destruction and cruelty and there is nothing we can do about it? It is in our genes. The powerful will exploit the weak. That is just the way it is.



Or do we use the power of our knowledge of psychology and education to nurture the good side of our nature and eradicate the bad?

45 thoughts on “The Curse of Human Nature  

  1. Nicely done, Opher. I believe that we all possess the same human nature with both sides of the coin present. We don’t seem to have a handle on the reason(s) why some people’s actions are directed by the dark side, while others are directed by the positive side. I agree that there has been progress over the centuries, but we still have a long way to go. Thinking back to the early days of democracy in western Europe and North America, there were plenty of naysayers that claimed that the concept was preposterous. The system survived and evolved. Your House of Lords and our Canadian Senate are examples of safeguards put in place by “our betters” to protect the country from the whims of the riffraff. They need to be scrapped. The US Electoral College is a bad joke that needs to be scrapped. Even with the current rule by the 1%, I remain hopeful that humanity will continue to progress.

    1. That is true. There have been many proposals to get rid of the Lords but they are still there. I do believe that a good psychologically based education system can compensate for some of the bad parenting and help to develop the caring side of our children. It is my big hope.

      1. I think it would look like what I describe in my book – a caring system which workd for all kids, restorative justice, emphasis on creativity, effort and not attainment, processing bullying, racism and violence, friendliness, openness and tolerance, lessons on empathy, compassion, thoughtfulness that permeate the curriculum, a focus on morality and justice to replace religion. That sort of thing.

  2. Hey Opher,

    Reasoned, thoughtful, distilling,yet still so huge to consider this evening. I tried. So I need to ponder a little longer and may come back from the edge or not 🙂

    Tis a brief inception from me. Regards education: what use is made of traditional storytelling and ‘fairy-tales’ as a vehicle to introduce, reflect upon, and refine fantastical, educational, psychological principles/ideas throughout a child’s entire schooling period? Creativity in working method and creative options for a flexible delivery of such tales could provide an immersive experience for the imagination and educate in a rich multifaceted language easily eaten and nutritiously digested. I believe the imagination is the key component to developing a mind that one gets to call ‘all’ mine.

    Anyhoo I have to go. It’s way past my bedtime and I don’t want miss my story, Disney’s, ‘Naughty Lampwick’ 🙂

    Namaste 🙂


    1. Oh yes – there are many such tales which formed the basis of our school assemblies. I replaced a religious assembly with a moral story or personal story.

      1. Hey Opher,

        Excellent! How did it go? I hope you dressed for the part? 🙂

        I recall several very enjoyable occasions during my early school-days when story-telling as an extension of English Comprehension/Composition was taken out f the classroom an enacted via adaptation. My starring role that as the Mad March Hare from Alice in Wonderland. Fans still talk about my performance to this day lol 🙂

        If interested, here is a superb title by Bruno Bettelheim that unpacks the Fairy Tale from a psychological perspective.

        Or if interested still further any title by Jack D. Zipes would fascinate.

        A good teacher would have a full academic years worth of material available at their disposal with any of the main stories featured in either Bettleheim or Zipes. And then there are adaptations productions, plays, and assemblies to consider. The literary Fairy Tale opens up a whole world of inner discovery that can be nurtured, explained, accepted and finally taken in to the real world.

        Namaste 🙂


      2. Dewin – why not indeed. If I was tempted to go into education at the minute I would talk myself out of it. There is no room left for individuality or creativity. I had 36 years teaching and loved it – but I had freedom and did it my way. This robotic approach with added bureaucracy is a nightmare. I cannot understand why we don’t celebrate individuality – it is our strength.

    2. Dewin – depends what I was doing!
      I still find it sad to think that all those lessons I worked so hard on are now defunct. They were so idiosyncratic that they could not be passed on.

      1. Hey Opher,

        Indeed 🙂 I imagine you distinguished yourself with aplomb regardless of your choice of costume or not.

        The impact the lessons you worked so hard on remains in the memories of all those who were there to engage with them. That is part of your legacy.

        Do you miss the school environment? Teaching and engaging with pupils?

        Idiosyncratic types make interesting teachers (and interesting people), at least that is my personal perspective. One never forgets a good teacher nor forgets the impact they had in one’s life. I recall two such individuals: one from University the other from high school. The first would play entrance music for themselves each time they came in the room: actually pretty cool, it got us singing in union! The second taught me history and was an gently eccentric chap with an endearing manner: he’d always make time for his charges and was often seen strolling the school grounds engaged in quiet conversation with a classmate. He was very supportive to me.

        The world needs more idiosyncratic teachers prepared to push the boundaries and bring ‘magic’ back into education. What say you?

        Namaste 🙂


      2. Dewin – I agree entirely. A teacher teaches from the core of their personality. A good teacher cares for their students and tries their hardest to engage them. I found humour was great. The kids are switched on and if you give them room they will teach you as much as you teach them.
        I do miss them a lot. I loved my time teaching. It was precious. And I miss my students.
        I am horrified by what is happening to education. The government is stamping out all the creativity and joy. Those idiosyncratic teachers are being driven out. There’s a formula now. It is teaching by numbers and results are the be-all and end-all.

      3. Hey Opher,

        I knew when supermarkets started selling homogenised milk it spelt doom for society! 🙂

        Independent thinkers do not fit the State vision of the ideal sausage and are therefore labelled ‘different’ and seen as an immediate threat to established regimes of power in later life…neutralise the mind of a child, fill it with nonsense and redundancy during its formative years and a human being becomes a cog in the machine until awakening. I detest the idea of institutionalism and the indirect erosion of freedoms of self-expression. It is much the same in the real world with employers who try to compartmentalise, categorise and squeeze the entirety of a human being – the ‘worth’ of their performance for example – into an arbitrarily conceived integer that can be slotted into an excel spread-sheet to satisfy a person wearing a tie. It is a nonsense and people cannot be contained either in their spirit of intent or in their inner drive to express, nor in their propensity to actually relish the idea of being treated as a human being.

        Contemporary education – other than the three ‘R’s’ (and science) does education really teach a child anything of Life or does it merely pass on the thoughts, philosophies ideals and conventions of the current age?

        A family relative left teaching because they could not operate within the current educational framework, the absurd expectations and hidden agendas, the volume of paperwork etc. and that after 20 years. Crazzzzzy.

        Why do we not embrace and celebrate individuality as well as diversity, inclusion, and acceptance?

        Namaste 🙂


  3. The negatives are part of human nature, along with the positives. The side of us that grows and evolves is the side that we nurture. That’s for calling out a pathetic excuse for failing to fight the good fight.

    1. JoAnn I agree. We have to nuture the good side and get the bad side to reduce. It works. But many children are traumatised by bad experiences – death, abuse, divorce – that make them bitter and distrustful. They need lots of care and love to help them get over their trauma.

      1. They regard anything that doesn’t make money as a waste of time. They don’t realise that it all feeds in. A happy, well-adjusted society functions better.

  4. I hope it is in our genes to evolve and improve this beautiful world we now dominate except for the forces of nature! I have hope that empathy with all living things will win out but there are going to be some who lose out in the meantime.

  5. We all have a combination of good and bad traits with varying degrees of each, but the troubles we have today are, for the most part, due to an insidious agenda put in place by wealthy people who decided to devise a system to guarantee control over the majority of the population. Too many people are blinded from the truth – some due to a lack of intelligence, some to excessive ambition, some to a combination of the two. The rulers are extremely clever and have a variety of ways of convincing us that we neeed them. They manipulate through control of information and until enough people learn to see this I’m afraid we’ll continue to wallow in greed, intolerance and misunderstandings.

    Thanks for an interesting post. Peace.

  6. An excellent and timely post, Opher. Too often the excuse for inaction is that human nature is what it is, can’t be changed, and so on.

    People clearly and demonstrably behave totally differently in different circumstances. We are a social animal and will do anything to fit in with the dominant cultural force – dare I say, zeitgeist? – especially and increasingly driven by the explosion in communication that we call the internet. And there’s a can of worms, but why should those beautiful creatures take the rap when they do so much good in the world?

    More than ever we need the intellectual, emotional and aesthetic tools and abilities to battle against inertia and indeed entropy. I couldn’t have analysed the situation better – or, actually, nearly as well – myself and will therefore reblog this without further ado.

  7. I agree with you that human nature is very contradictory. However, it is understandable that benevolence could drive one’s acts only if the others acted in the same way. Furthermore, we tend to judge a deed from one point of view.
    I.e. our judgement on an independence war hugely depends on the side we belong to.

    1. Yes – and back to the dilemma of who is a freedom fighter and who is a terrorist. I think human beings are basically, for the most part, benevolent. It is the minority who are selfish. They spoil it.

  8. I would like to believe that in essence we are all good and that the selfish, greedy and cruel are a minority. I would like to believe that things are improving, that human nature is becoming more kind, caring and altruistic. I actually believe that our Western culture of individualism, capitalism and consumerism breeds more of the same, selfish, greedy, ruthless, dog eat dog humans. That in my mind, are responsible for the majority of the atrocities in the world. I see no evidence of us improving 😦

    1. I can see exactly what you mean and I share your disgust at the selfishness of western culture. I take hope from the long view. History does show signs of improvement – less violence, less murders, more social awareness, more democracy, better standards. I just hope it continues and one day we change this culture to a more caring one. I live in hope.

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