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Beyond the Dark Side of Human Nature

Often, we can experience "technical" difficulties created by our very human natures. This may include:

We can work against limits on our humanityDemonizing opponents, discounting good ideas brought up by those we disagree with. At its worst, this fuels awful violence. Both sides cheer terrorism by their "freedom fighters" while using similar acts on their enemies that "inspire" further bloodshed (tragically "confirming" how horrible their enemy is and why their own extreme measures are justified).
     In most disagreements, both sides have valid, valuable ideas. We can accomplish much more by building on common interests.

Harsh judgments: It is easier to condemn others than to work on our own faults.

Fanaticism: We can also do things to groups that we would never do to individuals.

Superficiality: We support an ideal. We feel good about supporting it. And at least in small ways we do. For example, some people feel like environmentalists when they recycle some beer cans - but remain very wasteful on a much larger scale.

It's possible to mouth ideals mechanicallyFalling for attractive, emotional appeals: For example, voting for candidates based on what they present in 30-second commercials and sound bites.

Hypocrisy: It is much easier to support an idea than carry it out ourselves. One prominent anti-abortion leader had two abortions.

Inertia: Getting caught up in activities because we are used to them, neglecting better alternatives.

Grasping the tangible: It's much easier to relate to something we can see or touch first-hand. Unfortunately, things happening halfway around the globe, including in Iran, North Korea and Iraq, may be far more urgent situations.

Taking the short-term easy way: Politicians often win or lose elections based the state of the nation and its economy just before an election. Company stock is bought and sold based on the most recent, short-term profit and loss statement.

We can add more ideas to this "hall of shame" - other all-too-human limitations. They have done plenty of damage throughout history.

But we can also transcend our faults and focus on the positive: We are also capable of great altruism, insight and creativity. Understanding our limits makes us more effective.

By Bill Blackman, Hearts & Minds founder/president. More of his thoughts are in the Hearts & Minds' Blog.

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http://www.heartsandminds.org/ideas/darkside.htm - latest changes October 24, 2006
this article   1997 and 2006 by Bill Blackman, illustrations 1997 by John Michael Jones

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