Far too often it seems that our actions done in order to please another only increase their distaste for us, whilst those done in an attempt to distance oneself from another only further increase their attraction.
Why do we pursue what runs, and shrink away from what reaches out?
Because we unconsciously assume that what needs us must be somehow lacking, and what evades us must necessarily possess something we lack.
Or perhaps it’s derived from our ancient instinct to chase whatever runs and run from whatever chases. Such is the plight of an intelligent omnivore.
Such is the plight of an intelligent omnivore.
But to fully conscious, self-aware creatures, are millions of years of evolutionary selection really any excuse for cruelty?
As usual, the real question is not in how the problem arises, but rather in how the problem is solved.
By default, we solve this problem in one of two ways:
By treating everyone like an undesirable, or by acting as though everyone has something to offer us.
The latter, though morally appealing, is not a sustainable strategy. Many people you encounter will threaten you and through various means and for countless reasons attempt to make your life worse.
The solution is in a reciprocal morality; by offering others the exact amount of respect and compassion that they offer us, we can avoid being taken advantage of whilst also helping those who are deserving of help.
But for those people who are truly evil, how do we avoid stooping to their level?
I suppose that is the most basic question in regards to a pragmatic morality.
How low are you willing to follow the people around you?
If you encounter someone who betrays, does that give you license to act in kind?
That lower limit is incredibly difficult to determine, and it becomes more difficult the eviler the enemy.
World War II essentially drove all the opposing world powers to act as though there was no lower limit, that all acts of evil were made acceptable by the actions of the opposing side.
What is your lowest limit of acceptable conduct?
Where does self-defense begin and end?
Is it better to behave as though everyone around you was evil, whilst assuming they’re inherently good, or behave as though they’re good whilst assuming they’re inherently evil?
And perhaps the most important question of all:
From whom and by what process have you determined the answers to these questions?
Few possess clear and conscious answers to these questions, but to act in the world we obviously must have some pragmatic morality.
Watch your behavior, and the unconscious system will reveal itself.
I’ve never met a person whose system wasn’t in need of some reform.