Answers to Commonly Asked Questions on Facebook Comment Threads Lamenting Awful Things Happening in the World

“Why are humans so cruel to each other?”
Because evolution long ago rewarded the best hunters and warriors a greater likelihood of survival. These aggressive instincts are so ingrained in our genes and  in human society overall that violence and war have only recently been questioned as perfectly valid forms of conflict resolution. In fact, the notion that hitting your children may be considered abuse rather than discipline is only two generations old — and really only prevalent among Western upper middle class elites.

“Why can’t we just get along?”
Because the exercise of power has always been about the division of available resources, and except in isolated tribal groupings (and then not always) invariably a minority of individuals will accumulate more than their technically fair share. The general human drive is to hang on to what you’ve got and add to it, and eventually this tends to involve the exploitation of cheap labor by those at the top of the heap.That is why slavery is as old as humanity. And once you’ve got brute physical control of some human beings by others, it’s not hard to understand how this has engendered endlessly cascading consequences.

“When are people going to learn we have to be kinder to each other?”
Never. People are about as kind as they’re going to be, which is actually the overwhelming majority of the time, if you factor in motherhood alone. But even a small amount of  misery (relative to the whole) tends to draw our attention.  If it bleeds, it leads. (Except when it doesn’t.  In the modern world, if it’s not on camera, it is basically consigned to oblivion.)
Perhaps this is all painfully obvious. Perhaps my explaining it is pedantic, even condescending. But I just can’t take all the earnestness. It’s as if suggesting that humans behave less meanly to each other is some kind of constructive action plan. (Oh thanks, if only we’d thought of that! ) Denouncing bad things is not going out on a limb.  You are not a brave iconoclast, for example, when you “hate cancer.” BECAUSE EVERYONE HATES CANCER.

Suggesting that we should all be nicer to each is fine as far as it goes, but  it does not constitute a blinding epiphany that has occurred to no one else. It has, in fact, occurred to everybody. We all agree that a perfect world would be one in which no one lays a hand on anybody else, in which no one starves to death.  GOT IT. So can we concentrate on the million reasons we have so much trouble getting to a world in which people don’t suffer so much?  (SPOILER ALERT: It may require taking controversial opinions, arguing with loved ones, and occasional outbursts of indignation.  Sorry, life is not a Hallmark card. Making change is a bitch.)