Poor human nature. It gets blamed for everything bad. When people can't immediately explain or understand some aspect of human behavior who gets the blame? Human nature.
Human nature gets blamed for wars. It does not get credit for the self-sacrificing soldier or civilian who saves others, though, nor for the group-think that enables soldiers on the battlefield to protect one another.
Human nature gets blamed for greed. It does not get credit for creating and inventing the stuff that greed seizes, though.
Human nature gets blamed for lust and laziness, especially if Protestant-capitalists from the 18th and 19th centuries are hanging around. It does not get credit for good sex and creative relaxation, however.
Wars, greed, lust, laziness and more--all that naughty and bad stuff--gets blamed on human nature. With a shrug of our shoulders we say, "Well, it's human nature!" and we go on about our corrupted business of being human. The project of more enlightened human beings than us becomes suppressing human nature and all of the bad stuff that it is made up of. Human nature, you see, is what's put away in Pandora's Box and if you open it...well..there you go again with your degenerate socialist fantasies...Really, you should be ashamed of yourself!
You can't have socialism because of human nature. That's right: all that greed, conflict, lust and laziness which is at the very core of being human wars against working together for shared goals and sharing the wealth and decision-making. Socialism and human nature? Forget it--they're opposites and opposites don't attract for long! Sure, it's human nature to go through all of the trouble of tearing down a working system like capitalism, but it's not human nature to then replace it with something better. Mel Gibson or Ayn Rand or my third grade teacher told me so.
Eliza Gray wanted to correct the record a bit and got an op-ed piece in the September 11 The Wall Street Journal. Human nature may have driven a few fanatics to make 9/11 what we know it as today, but it did not stop Eliza Gray from praising capitalism and human nature in one long exhaled breath.
Gray champions the idea that human beings are essentially "desirous, ambitious and perpetually dissatisfied" with what we have--and she says that "socialists, environmentalists and other sundry moralists" lament this. This is "human nature" pulled from the past and dressed in the clothes of the stronger-than-the-rest-of-the-pack 21st century stockbroker---a wolf in sheep's Armanis.
I've never been called a "sundry moralist" before. I don't think she means it in a descriptive or complimentary sense.
I dunno. I don't lament desire, ambition and dissatisfaction. I'd be worried if that were all there is to human beings, but I know there's so much more. Gray thinks that only the market and capitalism satisfy these basic human striving. And she seems to hate "the desolation of feudal land, untouched by commercial exuberance" and "the utter hopelessness in a country" where money is unknown. She's riffing on Samuel Johnson and apparently channels his spirit.
I like a good "empty" landscape now and then and I think there are more, and more basic, desires than she admits and that capitalism and the market kill them all through competition and crisis.
She forgets about desires for love and solidarity, for family in whatever form we find fulfilling, knowledge, curiosity, the often-seen desire to problem-solve, the desire to act and pretend, the ability to mechanically or artistically trace some problem or event through sequences in order to better understand it, the constant interactions between quality and quantity in daily life which give it meaning, evolution. Or does she believe that we are the same as, or lesser than, Samuel Johnson in the 18th century?
The people who jump to the refrain of human nature rarely accord human nature with these qualities either. Gray goes another step towards the abyss and throws much of this talk of human nature away in favor of the calculated risk of the capitalist. "Human nature?" her capitalist cries in the marketplace. "How much for human nature?"
"Human nature" doesn't exist and here are the proofs: you can't find ten people who can agree on its definition or components; a constantly evolving thing cannot be defined forever by its occasional or temporary qualities; no definition of "human nature" can capture the history or majesty of human evolution and experience; "human nature" and psychology often describe the same phenomenon, and do so to the loss of psychology; and you might point to what you think the effects of "human nature" are but you cannot describe its parameters (after millions of years of physical existence) because a behavioral or moral phenomenon is being confused with a physical thing.
Communists may differ on this. People who take Kropotkin's "Mutual Aid" up will probably say that human nature exists and is for the good.
Sundry moralist that I am, I wonder why the qualities of human nature could not be put to work solving the quantifiable crisis of capitalism. Ambitious and dissatisfied workers could go to town (re)inventing a social system that meets human desires and fulfills even Gray's "insatiable desires."
Communists want a society in which each human being produces freely for other human beings, one in which each person produces and consumes as they wish so that all are satisfied and able to find and develop their full potentials, in a condition of freely associated labor and society. With an end to alienation, all human activity becomes its own end and finds its resolution in the fully human thoughts and actions of others. This, it seems to me, is the only guarantee that desire, ambition and dissatisfaction can be liberated from their fetters and be put to work.