Op/Ed By J. Strauss


“People don’t change” is a popular lament of the twenty-first century and there is no good reason or set of dependable study conclusions to give it any credence. It’s usually spoken or written after some person has committed a heinous crime or performed some socially unacceptable act. But people do change. They change all the time. They get older, for one thing. And if you don’t think aging alone changes you then you are very young indeed. The physical effects of change are not usually the ones referred to or denied in the use of the common expression. It is the mental, moral foundation of our thought process that many feel never changes.

Arguments about nurture vs. nature go all the way back to mankind’s earliest philosophers. Are we, as intelligent members of the human species, born into this world the way we are or are we the product of the experiences we accumulate as we age through life? At first it might seem that such a discussion, much less argument, might seem a moot point. Of course all humans are the product of life experience. But then there is this foundational belief system all humans possess, and in so many cases its very formation seems to defy logic, based upon experience. How is it that (statistically) abused children are much more likely to abuse their own children if they have them? How is it that twins separated at birth and then reunited many years later marry women with the same first names, cheer for the same geographically distant sports teams and follow the same religions? Using sports teams as an example, why is it that many people continue to support a baseball team like the Cubs that never wins?

Are we born across America to be republican or democratic? Conservative or liberal? Do humans change from established belief patterns, whether those patterns are genetically instilled or brought on by life experience? Cloning humans might answer some of the questions that arise in considering nature versus nurture but do we as a species really want those questions answered? Cloning humans is outlawed by every country, not just the USA. Why is that? How do societies that base their entire cultural existence and continuance upon responsibility and accountability for one’s actions survive if it is discovered that all humans are basically born the way they are going to be all of their lives?

Humans live in a veritable sea of change. Everything is changing all the time. The planet earth seethes with instant-by-instant changes. The weather is changing. The air pressure and temperature are changing all the time. Things are moving constantly from one place to another. Animals and plants abound and change everything around them. How can the physical changes occurring around human beings not affect everything about human beings, especially when it come  s to belief systems? How can getting older alone not affect human belief systems? We are all affected by change. It is how we are allowed to choose about being affected that becomes the central and definitive question. The old scorpion joke about a stinging insect pleading with another animal to be floated across a body of water and when it’s pleas are met stinging the accommodating animal to death because it is simply the scorpion’s nature don’t apply when it comes to considering human behavior. Human behavior is a direct result of actions founded upon human beliefs. Quite possibly, with the invention of pervasive communications technology and mass media, decisions about human actions may be more guided by what humans do not know than what they really know. What human’s think they know becomes more important for decision-making than what may have previously been thought to be real.

Are there really more conservatives in America than there are liberals? Quite possibly not, especially if the poll numbers are viewed state by state, but mass media is almost entirely owned by conservatives so what can be believed? Most humans do have a preponderance of going along with the majority (and no, it is not totally established whether that tendency is a product of nature or nurture) so if a majority opinion is advertised to be fact most humans will go along with that supposed fact. Where are we as living surviving individuals in all of this? We’re caught right back in those aged discussions and potential conclusions our preceding philosophers were caught in. We don’t know. What we can know is that we can act upon what we perceive to be facts. We can base our actions upon those physical, not electronically produced, images and experiences we ourselves have. In this hugely vast seething sea of change we all fight to survive in we are given a brain able to perceive the difference between myth and reality, between what’s fake and what’s real.

It is this ability to not be swayed in our new modern existence of being “informed” about what is really going on that will allow all of us to ignore the statement “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” and actually accomplish things that merit and support what we ourselves believe, no matter how those beliefs came to be instilled.

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