Jaime Richards: Rising above human nature

HUMAN NATURE — a lot of it, anyway — is pathetic.

There’s no hope for us unless we learn how to overcome it.

A conversation with Stephanie Wynne, my former student and now a USF sophomore, put me in a pensive mood. As another difficult year draws to a close, I’m discouraged. My species disturbs me.

Steph and I were talking about the Not For Sale Campaign. If you haven’t heard about it, I hope you’ll take the time to learn about it.

That’s the first step in ending human trafficking and modern-day slavery — awareness. Did you know that in 2009, 27 million people are enslaved? Sadly, tragically, slavery didn’t end in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation.

I can’t stop asking, “Why? Why aren’t we better?”

It’s a question that has been asked through the ages, but I’ve yet to hear a satisfying answer. Maybe it’s as John Denver wrote, “If there’s an answer, it’s just that it’s just that way.”

Fair enough. Yet, even if we accept that we are inherently weak, hard-wired to succumb to human weakness, does that mean we shouldn’t fight it?

Remember that scene in the movie “Troy” when Hector had to fight Achilles? He knew he was fighting a god, and there was no way he could win. Yet he fought.

Are we destined to ineptitude? I say, “No!” We’re not fighting a god. And even though there are people selling people and men buying sex with young girls and boys,
there’s the opposing force — people like Stephanie, who are battling evil. For every bad, there is good.

Our best weapon in the war against the worst of humanity will always be education. If we do it right, if we don’t alienate our students and turn them off to learning, we can teach them how to live correctly.

That means giving them some sense of what it will take to obliterate their worst impulses: apathy, inertia, laziness, jealousy and self-indulgence.

Chris Rock says a man is only as faithful as his opportunities. I respect Chris Rock and his brutal but refreshing honesty. Still, I won’t let myself believe that only homely men of average means are able to resist the urge to cheat on their sweethearts.

“Everybody cheats.” Well, no. Some of us don’t. Never have. Guys, am I right? You’re out there, aren’t you? Faithful men who, if you had wanted to cheat, could have, but didn’t. You understood that it wasn’t worth it.

Deep down you knew that a few moments of fleeting pleasure would have given perpetual pain to the woman you love.

We live in a world where it takes only an instant to wipe out a lifetime of work. Anyone who has ever been in shape knows that it takes months to get fit but only days to lose it. Anyone who has ever worked for anything and lost it knows that getting it took much longer than losing it.

How do we teach kids to care? How do we teach them to fight their flaws?

We start by teaching them that the best, most satisfying human experience is doing something difficult. And there’s nothing more difficult than conquering our destructive urges.

Throughout history, people have done it. So can we. We have to. If we don’t, we’re doomed.

source: http://www.contracostatimes.com/teens/ci_14014532

Published in: on December 19, 2009 at 9:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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