The Pandemic Has Made Me Realistic About Human Nature

The two lockdowns I have experienced this year have been good to me and my wife. Forced to stay at home, we have worked diligently on the business we work in together creating new projects, updating blogs and websites and generally concentrating on doing the job. It has somewhat played into my workaholic tendencies and I have enjoyed working closely with my best friend, wife and marketing director, all in one! In short, I cannot complain but why do I feel so cynical and hopeful in equal measures, about the way things have gone? I think its because that nothing surprises me anymore about the extent of human nature. A client said to me recently that the first lockdown was almost enjoyable as there was a community spirit and everyone felt in it together. The British, especially, thrive in such a situation. However, the second, for her, is slightly different in that there seems to be more resentment and resistance. A comment article today in the Sunday Times lamented that during lockdown, people have become more distant with each other.

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I wrote recently about the rise of narcissism in the western world and how this might be linked to a movement that started in the 17th century, that of individualism. The main concept of this movement looked at less of a community focus and more on the self as people (men mostly) forged a solitary path in life. While this can be positive if directed in the right way, it was consolidated in the twentieth century as a move away from so-called character (values, principles, duty, service) towards personality (how we portray and project ourselves onto the outside world). Much of the pop- psychology literature written in the latter part of the the century was aimed at this. This has probably helped in the trend of people becoming more self-centered as competition to rise to the top and share in the spoils has been intensified by the internet and especially social media. We are our own brand and we have a means to push that onto the world, however, strange or outlandish that might be. It would be easy to believe that the world we live in is centered so much towards individualism, that there is no hope for those who see the world differently. One can believe that narcissists are in positions of power all over the world and it is hard to see governments as any more than personal playthings for the power mad egos of the individual.

During lockdown, I have observed some of the worst of human behaviour. One only has to look across the pond to see the Covid deniers fueled by a narcissist president and refusing to take basic precautions like wearing a mask or social distancing that would protect others more than themselves. Walk through any town (including the one I live in) and you will see smokers walking around with their mask under their chin spewing their fumes onto anyone walking past. Vaping is even worse. Read the serious media and you will hear stories of mass fraud of government programs to save businesses and during the procurement of PPE and masks. Individuals who became wealthier overnight by abusing a system set up to help others. It’s all very depressing if you center on that and while much of this has come to the fore during the pandemic, these types have always been around.

There have also been many victims, who have lost their jobs, businesses, families and mental health. There has been an increase in domestic violence towards women and children and a sharp increase in alcohol consumption. In the US, society is divided along racial, political and reaction to Covid lines and even with the election of a seemingly more sympathetic President, it might take a long healing process to turn things around, if he is allowed.

When we look at everything described above, it would be easy to believe that the whole world is about to implode on itself. However, I am always hopeful that good will prevail. You can find, if you look long enough, amongst the sad stories that the media likes to peddle, some outstanding feats of generosity and compassion for others, mostly by normal people, who would normally not get a mention in life. People who are dedicated to helping others and helping themselves in a positive way.

Covid will have touched all of our lives by the time we, as a global community, find a way to eradicate it. Then we can all get on with our lives with some normality. It is just a question of what normal means by then.

5 Thoughts

  1. Thank you as always for your expertise and reflections. It is a difficult time, and it can be easy to let fear overtake thinking and observing. I very much appreciate the gentle reminder of the many who are doing good works. Those just showing up as fellow humans. This is as true as the many unsettling things we witness.

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