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Keeping The Dark Side Of Human Nature In Check—the Paradox Of The Mountain

Ever since humans have walked the earth, history has revealed the dark side of human nature- the human propensities for rage, violence, aggression, unscrupulousness, domination, and tyrannical behavior. All previous forms of social organization have demonstrated the truth of this fact.

Many philosophers, economists, and scientists from Karl Marx to Stephen J. Gould have agreed that human nature is determined in a specific social and historical formation as well as being in part biological. This fact has too often been neglected or given insufficient attention. The human brain, transmitted through evolution, is the biological basis for human nature:

The famous scientist Stephen J. Gould commented, “Violence, sexism and general nastiness are biological since they represent one subset of a possible range of behaviors. But peacefulness, equality, and kindness are just as biological…” Gould believed that humans are a peaceful species and that the commonplace human tendencies are cooperation, empathy and kindness. The dark side of violence and aggression are unusual, rare, and contrary to our everyday nature. This asymmetry is in our human nature. “The problem is… how to put commonplace human tendencies firmly and permanently into the driver’s seat.”

The commonplace tendencies of cooperation, empathy, and kindness have been in the driver’s seat of most hunter-gather societies, which are generally egalitarian, with equality of members and no centralized power. The rank and file, the 99%, enforces equality through, exposing, limiting or punishing those who exhibit the dark side of humanity and wish to dominate, bully, control, and manipulate. Equality is enforced through reverse hierarchy, the constant vigilance of the rank and file.

On the other hand, violence and aggression have been in the driver’s seat of social status hierarchies with centralized decision making--chiefdoms, and states. The resulting positions of leadership “open the door for a plethora of injustices and cruelties that come with warfare, slavery, and other types of exploitation by unchecked power-wielders.

S. J. Gould states--“But the center of human nature is rooted in ten thousand ordinary acts of kindness that define our days. What can be more tragic than the structural paradox that this Everest of geniality stands upside down on its pointed summit and can be toppled so easily by rare events contrary to our everyday nature—and that these rare events make our history.”

Understanding the paradox requires seeing the essence within. Contained within the upside down mountain is another mountain standing right side up-the mountain of status hierarchy. The few at the top, the 1%, have centralized power and decision making, allowing the dark side of human nature greater ability to expand its power and influence, and then topple the desires of the 99%.

Resolving the paradox requires that the inner hierarchy of centralized decision making be reversed so as to become a “reverse hierarchy” where the vast majority, the 99%, becomes the decision-makers, thus conforming to the geniality of human behavior. The mountain can now remain stable, standing upside down on its pointed summit.

Discouraging, limiting, restraining, and punishing tendencies of the dark side of human nature, requires a militant egalitarianism, a society of economic, political, and social equality. Through eternal vigilance and control by the rank and file, equality can flourish, while the dark side of human nature is kept in check.


Dr. Nayvin Gordon writes on health and politics.

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