Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Human nature

A friend currently doing her medical internship recently wrote in her blog about her fear of losing her empathy after a few months into her job. Demands from patients, senior doctors, nurses and herself plus the lack of patience has lead to a 'mean' streak from her. Even though I don't know what she is going through, I can imagine nearly every intern goes through this experience. However she is far better off than most as she has acknowledge the fact and has a willingness to change.

I think I wrote about this before but I'll mention it again. Human beings are not designed to be nice or kind or generous. The role of a living being is to survive, reproduce and ensure our genes are passed on. (On a side note, I don't think it necessary to evolve. The role of evolution aids our survival but it is just a circumstance of our interaction with the environment.)

Being nice does not fit into the equation. There is no benefit from being nice. We are nice to our family members because they roughly have the same genetic make-up as you and we want to ensure their DNA is passed on. This is probably why we are nice to our children but shitty to our parents once we get to the breeding stage. I don't why we are nicer to our friends than to our colleagues or strangers as it makes no behavioural sense but I have postulated a theory. We like our friends as they possess characteristics we like. Most of these traits probably are genetic and we want to ensure those characteristics are passed on.

Being nice to strangers or people we don't like is just natural. It is the same in the animal kingdom and it is the same in the human world. In essence animals are psychopaths. We are only nice if it serves our purposes, mostly because you don't want to be ridiculed for being nasty. I'll give you the example of charities. In my opinion charity work should be its own reward and you shouldn't derive any other benefit from it, not even compensation of the time, money or effort you've put into it. When people and especially celebrities start to publicize charities, especially their own, you start to wonder if there are ulterior motives.

I have no problems with people or celebrities highlighting charities to raise funds or awareness. I accept people are more likely to donate to a charity if a celebrity is linked to it but its not a particularly good way to get money. You want people to genuinely care about the charity concerned. You start to wonder if the celebrity involved gets more benefit out of the deal, since he/she probably has set up the charity despite there being hundreds of charities doing the same job plus adding his/her name on it.

There are people who I think do charity work to massage their own egos. They feel good in an unusual way when doing volunteer work. I remember talking to one honorary professor who was supposed to help me deal with repeating a year. Yet all I got out of him was the charity work he does in his spare time, which really had no relevance to me at all. I think that also applied to one of my friends Kevin when he started to publicize his charity work. I think it was partially massage his ego and make him feel good in the weird sort of sense. He really didn't need to publicize but he did and I really question it.

Being nice is probably the next evolutionary step for humans. We should break free from our genetic bond and start to dictate our own future & purpose. Otherwise just surviving and reproducing doesn't seem like a lofty goal I want to aim for.

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