General Question

shockvalue's avatar

People are no damn good. (No, yes) ?

Asked by shockvalue (5800points) December 2nd, 2008

Call me a cynic, (read: realist) but I’m with Samuel Clemens on the whole ”(hu)mankind is inherently evil” train of thought.

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71 Answers

augustlan's avatar

I’d be more inclined to say “humankind is inherently selfish” or even “stupid” before evil.

queenzboulevard's avatar

Double true! People care about one thing: themselves. Even if we think we’re being nice, we have selfish motivations. That’s what makes us all bad.

shadling21's avatar

Well, if you look at the world that way, at least you won’t be disappointed when people fail to be kind and generous.

@queenz, you make a good point- often, even our good intentions are driven by some selfish desire. It’s because we can’t get outside of ourselves. We’re all self-centred, even if we don’t seem to be.

Spargett's avatar

People are what they choose to be. “Good” and “bad” are merely human inventions, every action lies within it’s own moral context.

But instinctual its to do whatever we need to do to “survive” (get what we want – this part gets grey in modern life). The ace in the sleeve is the fact that we’re evolved to live in reliance of tight social groups with inherent social ramifications for certain behavior.

So to summarize, nature says “Cheat, but don’t get caught”. Society says “Don’t cheat, even though I know you’re going to anyway”.

shockvalue's avatar

You’ll find, as you go through life:
No one ever really listens to you. They’re all just waiting for their turn to speak.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

Are you pissed off about tonight?

And I know that quote from somewhere… Fight Club maybies?

Spargett's avatar


Not unless they think you’re dying ; )

shockvalue's avatar

@Spargett: You just made it into my do not kill list! ;)

shockvalue's avatar

@Tits: Nah, I’m just overworked and under-rested. Also, I’m currently writing a paper about Haliburton and War Profiteering.

Trustinglife's avatar

That’ll do it. But seriously, I believe we get what we look for. Our reticular activator system will find evidence for WHATEVER we believe.

If you believe people are evil, you’ll find massive evidence. If you believe people are innocent, good, generous, doing the best they can (unless they’ve been hurt and haven’t yet healed), again, you’ll find massive evidence.

If it isn’t already clear, I believe the latter. Does that put me on your “to kill” list?

shockvalue's avatar

Haha, no. You’re not on my proverbial “to kill” list. However, you did remind me of this: Definition of irony. I rest my case.

cdwccrn's avatar

There is pretty of goodness around. We just don’t notice it unless we look for it.

autumn43's avatar

Only one is on my list. My supervisor. She happens to be a very nice person. She just has no idea how to manage people and hence, she’s no damn good at her job! Which directly affects me because she doesn’t know how to motivate without draping herself in accolades (her own) and then just hoping the rest of us can all measure up. Puke city.

cookieman's avatar

@shockvalue: I always say about most people: There’s talking, and waiting to talk.

pathfinder's avatar

The people are good among them selfs but not good with treating of things.This is covered with blindness.

beccalynnx's avatar

i don’t really beleive in evil, at least not in humans or nature. i beleive there’s some sort of evil out there, trying to get in. sure maybe it succeeds once in a while, but bottom line is that i beleive people are inherently good. but are influenced by evil.

dynamicduo's avatar

Keep in mind this very important point: we are massively intelligent creatures in a primitive body. Why is it that there is a sudden uprising in overweight and obese people? Because our bodies are trained to be this way – to eat and store food as much as we could, because it was never available at a corner restaurant 10,000 years ago. Of course it doesn’t help that restaurants like McDonalds and other fast foods generally sell low nutrition/high fat foods for low prices. But it does explain why many people find it very hard to lose weight, it’s not what we’re encoded to do. We weren’t supposed to live past forty years if lucky. But thanks to science, technology, and knowledge, we do. I strongly believe that many people simply revert to their default encoding at times, instead of using the willpower and strength to fight against our primitive bodies.

How does this relate to people being good or bad? Well I tend to see “good” people as ones who constantly fight and win against the monkey bodies and minds we have, who take life’s challenges head on and with gusto, who never use the excuse of “well it’s easier to not do X”, who are willing to help others even though they gain nothing in return, who constantly strive to improve themselves and their knowledge. These traits are totally contrary to the path of least resistance – doing nothing and thinking only about oneself, not learning new things or having a closed mind, being stuck in bad habits and not changing, willing to sit back and let the river of life take them down the course. Sadly it seems the latter category of people outnumber the former by a wide margin. Is this evil? I don’t think so. But I do agree that it’s no damn good.

gailcalled's avatar

Read THREE CUPS OF TEA for the story of one man. There are thousands like him out there.

augustlan's avatar

Dynamicduo makes a good point. As evolved human beings, we are able to rise above our basest instincts. Not everyone does, but many, many do.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

@gailcalled: oh god, the dude who wrote Three Cups of Tea came and spoke at my school. the book made him seem way more legit than he came off as in person.

TheKitchenSink's avatar

Oh yes. Just look at the AOL search logs revealed like two years ago. Or Yahoo! Answers. Or when someone disagrees with someone else on the internet.


They compiled a list of some of the good ones. Just think, that’s a tiny portion of the population there. Those using AOL search in the year of 2006. And yet the amount of this stuff is overwhelming. There are 24 pages of that, with about 6 on each page. We’re all bastards, whether in secret or openly. I choose to be open about it.

gailcalled's avatar

@Tits; Was it Greg Mortenson, the climber and do-gooder, who came or the journalist, David Oliver Relin? Relin did the actual writing; I can’t believe that Mortenson didn’t come off as genuine.

Knotmyday's avatar

I like my barber. He seems nice. Plus, I trust him to wield sharp instruments very close to my neck.

kruger_d's avatar

I teach K-12 and have a theory that all sixth graders are inheriently evil.

gailcalled's avatar

@Knot; I hope he is not related to anyone south of the border?

Trustinglife's avatar

@Kruger, I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not. Are you?

gailcalled's avatar

Trusting; If you have ever taught fifth grade, you would know that kruger is teasing.

shockvalue's avatar

@gail: Why? ‘Cause we all know that it’s really the fifth graders who are inherently evil?

gailcalled's avatar

Good point. I can still edit, but I won’t. Whenever the girls get breasts, bras, periods and growth spurts and the boys are still 4’ 11” and telling poop jokes, you’ve got some interesting classes.

shockvalue's avatar

♫ ♪ ♫ Those were the days! ♪ ♫ ♪

TitsMcGhee's avatar

@gailcalled: Yeah, it was Greg Mortenson. It may have had something to do with the fact that he was speaking to 13 grades (jnr kindergarten up to 12) and had to try to make a speech interesting across the board… It was just pretty cheesy.

gailcalled's avatar

That is a pity; he has done such wonderful and inspiring stuff in both Afghanistan and Pakistan for the children. Having an asseby for preK-12 is bad planning on the part of the administration or whoever arranged that. Did he at least show slides?

wundayatta's avatar

People are not good or bad, they’re just trying to survive.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I agree with you, shock, in two ways. People are evil (in my own sense of the word) and people may say I’m cynical… But no, I’m a realist.

@daloon: It goes beyond survival in certain cases. No one needs to molest a child to survive. No one needs to randomly and senselessly kill someone because they thought it would be fun. I could go on, but I won’t.

wundayatta's avatar

Sure, individuals might be evil, or really good, but this is only from the perspective of other humans. If you step back, out of self interest, people are the same as rocks. They are there. Let’s watch.

Sure from any individual perspective, you can decide all the good folks and all the bad folks.

If you ask my opinion, I find most people to be good. There are very few rotten apples. Unfortunately, our current President seems to be one.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

People are the same as rocks, for the most part, I definitely agree. I just happen to think most of them are pretty evil rocks… ;)

wundayatta's avatar

@dd, I’m actually very sorry about that. I believe that people don’t come to that conclusion without a lot of bad experiences with other people, especially those in their own family.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@daloon: Yes, you’re absolutely right. If family can’t even treat you right, who the hell will? Not to say that I didn’t give people outside of family a chance, because I wasn’t so ignorant to believe that everyone would treat me badly just because family did. But… Most of the chances I gave weren’t worth it. That and just from pure, analytical observation, I simply don’t like what I see in most people.

TheKitchenSink's avatar

I believe people are on a sliding scale of “lawful stupid” to “amoral self-interest.” Both are equally bad, in conventional wisdom. I’m generally by the latter, but I don’t find amoral to be bad so much as just plain amoral, so I roll with it.

laureth's avatar

“Lawful stupid.” LOL!

breedmitch's avatar

Buck up little jellyfish!
Shockvalue, you’re in the greatest place to prove yourself wrong. Spend all day tomorrow smiling at every stranger in the city whose eyes you meet. I just did it today and was refreshed by the kindness of humanity. You’ll be surprised at the number of strangers who will suddenly talk with you.
Most people are good when you’re good to them. Let your inner jelly shine!
(more red wine)

shockvalue's avatar

haha, I might get a lot of “uh-oh, creeper” looks! But I’ll try it.

Also, I just watched MILK. If any of you get a chance, go see it, it’s an amazing movie and really lifted my spirits. (for the most part)

TitsMcGhee's avatar

I saw it with shockvalue.

He cried.

No seriously.

i did too…

Trustinglife's avatar

Oh, you two know each other. I missed that.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

Well not quite. I’m just stalking him.

jk, yeah we do :)

shockvalue's avatar

Yeah, I kinda forced her into a getting a fluther account.

Arguably the best decision of her life.

Trustinglife's avatar


TitsMcGhee's avatar

Haha, yeah… arguably the best procrastination tool of my life.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

Oh, and I really didn’t have any choice. He literally took my laptop from me by force.

shockvalue's avatar


TitsMcGhee's avatar

… well you did take my laptop from me by force.

I was being literal.

Therefore, literally.

shockvalue's avatar

Oh please! A choke-hold / half-nelson is hardly “by force”

Besides, when I gave you a little air, I distinctly remember you wheezing, “Please, just take it.”

TitsMcGhee's avatar

But who is to say I was talking about my laptop, dearest?

wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!

tyrantxseries's avatar

there is no such thing as good and evil/ good vs bad
only my perception of you and my perception of my self,(actions,believes)
religion and media invented good vs evil/ good vs bad
and in the end if there wasn’t someone perceved as bad/good then there wouldn’t be any good/bad.
if that makes sence.

shrubbery's avatar

haha tits, yay for monty python!

TitsMcGhee's avatar

@shrubbery: I also answered a question “What’s the funniest joke ever?” with a link to the monty python funniest joke sketch, but no one appreciated it. sigh.

shrubbery's avatar

aww. I would have!

TitsMcGhee's avatar

That warms my heart :)

shrubbery's avatar

And guess what. I watched Anchorman for the first time today, now I finally get it :P

TitsMcGhee's avatar

It was a choice based loosely on anchorman… and the fact that it was my nickname at the pizzeria I worked at, haha.

shrubbery's avatar

Haha sweet :P

TitsMcGhee's avatar

It has come to my attention that I never really answered the question fully…

Yes, people are no damn good, even when they claim to be.

People tonight were certainly no damn good.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i have such a love/hate relationship with the human race. i’m the most cynical person in the world at times, but sometimes i get these 5 minute things (hallucinations?) that humankind can be so beautiful sometimes.

Siren's avatar

I think people are evil if they want to be, and good if they want to be. Free will.

ratboy's avatar

I believe that other people are inherently evil.

fathippo's avatar

it seems like on this earth, people are living completely empty and hollow existances, entertaining ourselves with all these pathetic things we fill our time with, but we are so small and weak and vulnerable we dont know what’s going to happen.
its like we are a colony of ants, forming societies etc but i dont know, it’s like what is above watching us like we see ants?
If you just think about all the people who are indimidating, labeling and crushing you, and how we can practically worship people too, yet in the scale of the universe, we are less than specks of dust, it is all worthless…
sorry man i really need to stop being so negative and strange… =) maybe one day, didn’t answer this at all either… sorry =D

shockvalue's avatar

@fathippo Not at all man, I definitely see where this is all coming from, I’ve often pondered the same follies of man ( I guess that’s why I asked the question). Anyhow, Thanks so much for your response, I hope to hear more from you soon.

Welcome to the collective!

dpworkin's avatar

Many, many years ago, the poet Terentius said Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto, meaning I am human, so nothing human is strange to me. We are capable of soaring greatness, and we are capable of being very disappointing creatures.

gailcalled's avatar

@pdworkin: O, welcome, welcome, (ave). Please stay.

Zen's avatar

I agree with @augustlan in her first post, and I’m surprised more people didn’t give her a “great answer.”

Humankind is primarily stupid and selfish, but not evil. That’s why there are still 2–1 Lawyers to every criminal.

johnnybananas's avatar

At 9 years of age, I asked God for understanding. For 40 years, I sought understanding from a somewhat Pollyanna perspective.
(Didn’t realize it was Pollyanna at the time. And that’s OK. Positive Mental Attitude is a truly awesome thing.)
For a 1–2 years, I contemplated, that endeavor. For 5–6 years I wrote about that quest. So, I’ve gone from believing everyone and everything is a perfect creation of manifest evolution. (still do) to allowing the idea… People are no damn good… to be considered, if nothing else, just for the sake of consideration.
A lot of people worked hard doing a lot of things, to bring that about.
Have I acquired a bit of cynicism or realism? Not necessarily… Only a fool knows it all.

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