About our human nature

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By Ahmet Abidin Ozbek:

Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are – Jose Ortega y Gasset

Part 1 (of 2)

Among the most influential subjects in human society are religion, nationalism and our ideological differences. Unfortunately, these subjects are also reasons (you can say like poison) for humans to kill or destroy each other in the name of civilization.

It is of course hard to imagine how ordinary people can turn into killing machines while believing their actions to be right. You can look at someone who is peaceful in his everyday life, but suddenly that man can turn to evil in the name of his culture or beliefs. Personally, I believe that those people are already evil, but they are hiding behind masks. It is matter of time – eventually you will see the devil-face of ordinary man.

One of the most influential thinkers in modern time was Jose Ortega y Gasset. In his critical works, he distinguished ‘genuine’ man from ‘ordinary’, obsessed man. Gasset strongly believed that, because we follow our animal nature, sooner or later we become violent, vandals or evil beings. He said: “When the environment leaves him in peace and without otherness, the animal is nothing, he ceases to be and goes to sleep, that is he does away with his own being as an animate thing. When he exists, he exists on permanent otherness and in state of constant dread and outrage”.

Gasset has also strongly believed that we as individuals destroy our own values when we seek to follow other people. He said: “We have abandoned ourselves to other people and we live in a state of otherness. We are afraid of our own life, which is synonymous with solitute, and we flee from it, from genunine reality, from the effort it demands; we hide our own selves behind the selves of other people, we disguise ourselves behind society”.

I definitely agree with Gasset’s opinion about society. Obviously, neither society nor individuals have been formed by humanistic values. Indeed, the society and the individuals have been corrupted when they lose their own identities.

But what circumstances or forces have turned individuals towards evil? How have these individuals has lost their own values and become a part of killing machines for the past thousands of years? Most individuals have been connected to groups who are willing to die or kill other human beings. Let’s ask it this way: how can innocent people can become assassins?

E.M. Cioran believed that the evils of our society derived from old men. He proposed the liquidation of every citizen over the age forty, with the onset of sclerosis and mummification. Cioran looked in close detail at our human nature and explained how we became violent, ignorant creatures.

He added that: “To live in any true sense of word is to reject others; to accept them, one must be able to renounce, to do oneself violence, to act against  one’s own nature, to weaken oneself; we conceive freedom only for ourselves – we extend it to our neighbours only at the cost of exhausting efforts; whence the precarioussness of liberalism, a defiance of our instincts, a brief and miraculous success, a state of exception, at the antipodes of our deepest imperatives. By our nature we are unsuited to it: only the debilitation of our forces makes us accessible to it: tragedy of race which must debase itself on one hand to be ennobled on the other, and of which no member, unless by a precocious decrepitude, sacrifices to – humane – principles. Tolerance, the function of an extinguished ardor, of a disequilibrium resulting not from an access to but from a dearth of energy – tolerance cannot seduce the young”.

Khrisnamurti strongly believed that we are all in conflict and corrupted because of many causes, but there is essentially one cause: each one of us is egocentric. He added that: “No god, no extraordinary outside agency has created this society in which we live. We have made it with all the confusion, the injustice, the brutality, the violence, the bestiality; each one of us has brought it about”.

So we clearly understand that our human nature has no presentable values – peace, respect, understanding – but in contrary we are full of hatred, revenge and evil forces at all times.

In the past, religion and belief-systems have produced more disappointment than benefits. This is because religions served societies forged on the basis basis of our ignorance, violence and selfishness.

Let’s look closer at beliefs called “religion”. If we look closer at “religious” societies, the “believers” often comprise “lost individuals”. Sam Harris observed that:  “When their beliefs are extremely common we call them – religious – otherwise they are likely to be called mad, psychotic, or delusional”.

Those individuals cannot be productive or creative because of what they are forced to follow. It is hard to find free-thinking individuals coming from religious societies. Mostly these people cannot bring peace to society because of the internal corruption, hierarchy, isolation and institutional structure of their religions. So the individual man called “religious” has destroyed his own values by his uncreative thought.

Here again Krishnamurti explained the situation very clearly: “Thought is the root of conflict. Thought has brought about disorder in the world by dividing people into nationalities, into religions. Thought has divided the world, and thought has clothed itself in its psyche. Thought has created the most marvelous cathedrals, most marvelous temples, mosques, great architecture and great means of destruction, the atom bomb. Thought has also put all the the things in the cathedrals, in the temples, in the mosques, in the places of so-called worship. Thought has invented all that. Without thought you could not exist. Thought, having created the image, then worships the image”.

So we became victims of our own ideas, belief or opinions. Most  people believed that, without religion, society would be corrupted and we could not be different from animals. This is possibly true for a small percentage of people who are “religious”, “believers”, etc. But if we look today at the map of human nature, we can see that more people kill each other or destroy other groups in the name of religion than anything else. As a matter of fact, the people who are “non-believers”, “atheists”, “agnostic” and “secular” are more peaceful, creative, and democratic than the others.

It has been proven statistically that people who live in Europe today are more peaceable – arguably because there is less involvement of religion in their lives.

Appleman has clearly defined “nonreligious” man in his article. He said that: “Nonreligious  people have no easy out. Their moral accountability is not to some whimsical sprit in the sky, famous for easy absolutions such as three Hail Marys and ten seconds of contrition. They must account to themselves and live with their own conduct; they cannot shift their shortcoming onto God’s shoulders. Therefore, they have to be more careful about making mistakes, and this leads naturally to an acute sensitivity to the plight of their fellow human beings. Another way to account for morality of unbelievers is that they are less perverted by the antisocial tendencies of religious thinking, including the seductions of fanaticism”.

In part two I will discuss the role of religion in society today, looking closely at the Middle East, Anatolia, Kurdistan, Africa and Asia.


Appleman, Philip. The Labyrinth. God, Darwin, and the meaining of life. Article. Free Inquiry. Page 16-26. February/ March 2011.

 Harris, Sam. The end of Faith. The religion, terror and the future of reason.W.W.Norton. New York. ISBN 0-393-03515-8. 2004

 Krishnamurti, J. Where Can peace be found. Shambhala. London & Boston. ISBN 978-I-59030-878-3. 2011.

 Ortega y Gasset, Jose. Man and Crisis.The Norton Library. W.W.Norton. New York. 1958.

 Cioran, E.M. History and Utopia. Seaver Books. New York. ISBN 0-8050-0391-6. 1960, 1987.

Copyright © 2012 Kurdistantribune.com

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