Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Are People Basically Good or Basically Bad?

As a creative writer and writing coach, I’m the first person to acknowledge that writers deal with deep philosophical questions every time they push a plot or grow a character. Across genres, it’s difficult to start a story and impossible to complete one without touching on issues like:
  • Does life have value?
  • What’s love got to do with it?
  • Are people basically good or basically bad?
I know one creative writer – let’s call her Kay – who has a definite stance on that last question. She firmly believes people are naturally self-focused and have to work hard at being otherwise. And her manuscripts reflect that philosophy.

Considering Kay’s life experiences, I can’t argue. Knowing what she’s gone through, I’d love to confront the people in her life and ask them a few deep philosophical questions, such as:

  • Have you heard the words that come out of your mouth?
  • Can you take five minutes to focus on someone else’s well being? And not because you want to keep them happy enough to stay with you. Just because they’re human.
  • How would you feel if someone else treated you how you’re treating others?

The people Kay interacts with aren’t axe-murderers. They’re not rapists. They’re not extortionists. They’re everyday men and women, friends and colleagues, who – if asked – would doubtlessly consider themselves decent. Yet their everyday choices indicate otherwise.

They expose that they’re in it for themselves. Which is basically bad.

Thinking about it though, it seems impossible to write a captivating novel that espouses the idea that people are basically good. At least I know my stories wouldn’t hold.

Without fail, they’re about protagonists – 1st century Jewish misses and Roman soldiers, 18th century American patriots, 21st century kidnap victims, and fantasy creatures from different Earths – struggling with not being self-focused against antagonists – fearful parents and hateful husbands, snooty British soldiers, evil government employees, and agenda-driven organizations – who are making the continuous choice to be self-focused.

My heroes and heroines are flawed. They’re human (even the non-human ones), sometimes giving in to hatred, bigotry, the urge to go with the flow and a litany of other selfish tendencies.

In other words, they’re realistic. Because human nature is flawed, always tempted toward the wrong despite knowing what’s right.

That’s precisely why big government – the kind that President  Obama and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and too many Republicans out there espouse – can’t work.

Our flawed human nature can be tough enough to control under limited circumstances, much less situations where we have a whole lot of power over our fellow people… as our bloated political establishment does now.

No matter what promises of equality and service those legislators make – no matter how much they believe themselves when they say the words – don’t trust them to follow through. Human beings aren’t trustworthy unless they’re held accountable. And it's near-impossible to hold them accountable when they have the kind of power our politicians are asking for.

It doesn’t take a creative writer to realize that. It just takes life.

No comments:

Post a Comment