The Purge, or How I Stopped Murdering and Loved Civilization [Warning: Caps Lock Abuse Ahead]

Hi folks, it’s been a while. Let’s watch this trailer together:

[I’ll give you a moment to let that soak in, think about it, take a bathroom break…]

Back? All settled in with your tea/soda/lager/drink-of-choice? Good. Let’s begin.

JESUS W. CHRIST. IF I HEAR ANOTHER WORD ABOUT HOW TERRIBLE HUMANITY IS, I’M GOING TO- I’M GOING TO- sit at my computer and tell the handful of you who read this blog how wrong it is.

Truly though, it is annoying seeing depictions and hearing accounts of how ugly and evil human nature is. AND DON’T YOU DARE TELL ME IT’S TRUE. (Not until after I’ve stated my case, of course. Feel free to tell me what you think in the comments all you like.) The mere concept of “evil” is ridiculous. It’s man-made. There is no such thing as “good” and “evil.” These are concepts people long, long, long, long ago came up with to try to make sense of things that happen, to try to justify further actions. And at the most general, these concepts do help. However, it’s like trying to reinvent the wheel – in this case, the wheel is natural selection.

Natural selection, most simply, is this: whatever works continues.

If people had a natural instinct to just kill each other off, we never would have survived this far. If people had a natural instinct to avoid other people at all costs, to never share food, to go on a murderous rampage everyday, homo sapiens would have become extinct eons ago. We wouldn’t have stood a chance against natural selection.

Which is why portrayals of humanity as bloodthirsty, solely selfish, xenophobic morons grind my rustily churning cogs and gears. And this pessimistic view has existed for a long time. You can look back to Hobbes and the overused “nasty, brutish, and short” idea of our ancestors and even Rousseau, who got it less wrong than Hobbes, but still fell for the view of original man as a loner. WE ARE NOT LONERS. WE ARE SUPER SOCIAL ANIMALS. Everyday is a party for homo sapiens. Even introverts like me need people. We might not want to be around people 24/7, but we need community and a healthy support system just like everyone else.

But it’s the quiet ones you gotta look out for. Do you know why the “quiet ones” crack and do terrible things such as shoot up schools and theaters? Because they are ALONE. In our individualistic, capitalist society, we are all alone. They don’t blow places and people up because it’s in their inner nature to do so; they do it because that is what our society molded them to be. If you have fallen under the impression that humanity is shit because of the existence of suicide bombers, school shooters, and terrorists, it is because you do not realize that THESE ARE THE EXCEPTIONS, NOT THE NORM. The reason why violence is so sensational is because it ISN’T NORMAL. For every person who bombs a marathon, hundreds of people rush in to aid the victims.

Why? Is it because we’re monsters, who would happily kill others if given the chance? HELLS TO THE NO.

It’s because we are social, compassionate animals, who – like all other generally successful animals – want to keep our species alive, even if we are not conscious of it. Sometimes this is hard to see. Sometimes it is hard to sift through the bullshit that the media and the powers-that-be play before our eyes and shove down our throats. They want you to think that without corporations and stricter government, we’d all be evil animals that would turn on one another in a heart beat. [The only thing preventing people from killing and stealing are laws, of course!] They want you to forget that it’s because they control the food supply, the security, and the wealth that we sometimes resort to acts of desperation to be released from our suffocation. It is hard to see what humans are like in nature because we have fought so hard to be distinct from nature. The narrative we are fed is the one where humans are not at the top of the food chain, but that we are transcendent of it (or some such nonsense). This is where the conflict and dissonance arise from.

We are animals. We are not murderous. We are not evil. We are simply animals. And all we want is to continue living, satisfied and fulfilled.

In summation, at the time of my writing this, the movie The Purge hasn’t been released, so I haven’t seen it. Maybe the message of the movie really is that humanity isn’t so bad. Who knows? I don’t know, but if you see the movie I’d actually like to hear what you think of it. The trailer just triggered that whole response up there, but we all know that trailers can be terribly misleading. Thank you for reading this far and I promise I will return to the lighter stressful college stuff soon.

Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear what you think, even if you disagree – especially if you disagree – because I really want to explore this issue in depth. 

In related thingymajigs:

27 thoughts on “The Purge, or How I Stopped Murdering and Loved Civilization [Warning: Caps Lock Abuse Ahead]

  1. BAM! Hit the nail on the head!

    The actual movie aside (I haven’t seen it), the trailer encapsulates what the government has indoctrinated into us, where peace can only be obtained through total government, while total anarchy is nothing but bloodshed and ruin.

    In reality, we live anarchy everyday. Anarchy simply means ‘no rulers’, not, as we’ve been brain-washed into thinking, ‘no laws’. Our rulers don’t want us knowing about this anarchy thing because it would mean true and real freedom for us all, once and for all, and also the total demise of the power structure itself.

    Have a star, and a reblog, courtesy of me. Now I feel like blogging about anarchy on my own blog…

    • Anarchy, unfortunately, has received such a bad rap that merely mentioning it will turn many minds off automatically. It needs a rebranding. Tribalism is the term I prefer, but even that is distasteful to many – connotes cartoonish cavemen and little people with spears and blood in their hearts.

      In the words of the King, “Can’t we all get along?”

    • Anarchy, unfortunately, has received such a bad rap that merely mentioning it will turn many minds off automatically. It needs a rebranding. Tribalism is the term I prefer, but even that is distasteful to many – connotes cartoonish cavemen and little people with spears and blood in their hearts.

      In the words of the King, “Can’t we all get along?”

      • (looks like your comment got posted three times…)

        I personally prefer such awkward acronym-forming terms as ‘Go My Own Way’, ‘Going Your Own Way’, etc, depending on the subject and/or object in question. The basic concept of it is that you live your life as you see fit, and you let everyone else do the same. Currently it also means not feeding the bloated corrupt ‘system’.
        …or something like that.

    • Anarchy, unfortunately, has received such a bad rap that merely mentioning it will turn many minds off automatically. It needs a rebranding. Tribalism is the term I prefer, but even that is distasteful to many – connotes cartoonish cavemen and little people with spears and blood in their hearts.

      In the words of the King, “Can’t we all get along?”

  2. Absolutely agreed. We are no vicious race of maniacs. Your point that we wouldn’t survive otherwise is extremely important and so is your idea of what would happen if we were to decent to anarchy.

    I think most of our assessment of human nature fails because we are not being holistic. We see a part of the problem while totally ignoring or selectively considering the other. But the problem of human nature is guided by so varied a set of factors that it is not possible to analyse it holistically. For example how could you equate the evolutionary and the modern social aspects of the human problem? Its not possible. Its a perfect catch-22 really. You can’t answer the human problem without being holistic and it is not possible to answer it holistically. Now what does that mean? I think there is no one possible answer of how a human being is as that a human being can be one of many things at a time thus his decisions are essentially random depending upon which aspect of him (the social, the evolutionary etc.) dictates that one decision. But in all that messy fuzzy set of randomness is a set of common traits that isn’t mathematically describable. A set of traits that is statistically close to all human beings and I am fairly sure that your understanding is pretty close to that. Now please don’t ask how I know it otherwise I would have to think how you came to know it and an already messed up answer will become unintelligibly messed up.

    “It’s because we are social, compassionate animals, who – like all other generally successful animals – want to keep our species alive, even if we are not conscious of it.” – you amaze me, you know that?

    [Aside. On an unrelated topic I often wonder if all or at least some animals know how to talk and actually do talk in an un-understood language, wouldn’t blue whales then be the greatest philosophers? Given that they are on the top of their food chain and have long lives and not much to do other than eating and wondering with no distractions like this dumb box, could they have figured out the meaning of life? I think blue whales are like the elves. (all right. I am officially crazy! Please keep away it might be contagious :P)]

    Are are you an anarchist by design or unknowingly so or not an anarchist but came out as one? (Not that I mean anything bad by it. Anarchism has a lot of merits to its philosophy.) Because for a certain part it what you wrote you did seem to believe in it.

    Anyways ciao.

    • “I think most of our assessment of human nature fails because we are not being holistic.” Yes, this is it! Have you heard of systems thinking? It is basically what you describe, a holistic way of looking at things. You are very right; people (me included) only look at part of the problem and think “Ah ha! That’s the root of it! Done, end of story, moving on.” I disagree that it is impossible to answer the question holistically – it may be extremely difficult to piece together the system, but not impossible.

      And your question about other animal languages is fascinating! I am no linguist, so I don’t know what a “language” is officially defined as. However, there is no denying that we aren’t the only animals who know how to communicate with one another! Perhaps us humans, in all our “advanced,” technological glory, are the most ignorant animals of all. “The more you know, the more you don’t know…”

      To be honest, I don’t know what I am. I’ve never identified myself as an anarchist – largely because the term is mostly associated with the radical anarchists, those willing to blow up state houses and parliament and such. I don’t know what is the best way to run a mass group of people, but I do know that our current government is not serving in our best interests. I have no solution in mind, only an awareness of a problem – and still a rudimentary one at that.

      Grazi for the thought exercise 🙂

  3. I have learned the older I get, the less I understand how things on this mud ball work. Especially the things, called ‘Human Beings’. So after reading your post, I just decided to go have some ice cream.

  4. I agree with most of what you said (awesome post btw) but regardless of how compassionate humanity may be as a whole, there is something to be said of how people tend to react when bad things happen. yes, there are people that take appropriate action (which is normally referred to as heroic or brave because its not actually very common) but there are people that lose their minds. Also, people kill all the time, we kill to satisfy hunger. Yeah it’s different from murdering people but a life is a life in the end. And why do we do this? because we’re animals. That’s just the way things work. It’s not just lonely people, it’s greedy people too. There are people willing to go to extremes, from lying to killing to protect and satisfy themselves.
    Etc, Etc.
    Anyway, this kinda makes me want to write out something i’ve put off for ages so thanks for that.

    • Ah! Thanks for pointing out that fallacy I made about the heroism thing. Sadly ironic, considering I tried using the heroism argument to say that terrible acts are the “exception,” not the “norm”… The bystander effect does appear to be much more the norm than the hero effect.

      And thank you for pointing out the distinction between killing to satisfy hunger and murdering people. A life is a life in the end, in the whole grand scheme of things. But the two acts are different from each other. One is from need; the other is… well, it could be many things – illness, attention, lack of love. It’s definitely something worth looking into more.

      Something I asked in a comment somewhere below: how much of the greediness do we see around us come from our natural desires and how much is a product of our current environment? It’s pretty dog-eat-dog, in a way that’s arguably more stressful than what a hunter-gatherer had to face. Not everyone can be wealthy and have their emotional and social and material needs met. Resources are even more limited than Nature.

      When you do write what you’ve been wanting to write, I look forward to reading it! Thanks for responding!

  5. I honestly don’t even know where to start xD

    Maybe I start with this: animal behavior (especially human behavior) is complicated and as such elude all attempts of generalizations. Both pessimistic and optimistic about human nature and (fanfares) those who states that human nature is based solely on natural selection 😉 Of course somewhere there is a truthful statement about human nature but it is not general, probably would take “a few” pages and a lot ifs and woulds.

    Second issue I have – why do you mix in there capitalism, basically a billing system, to make the point that we are all alone? I won’t boast about individualism because there are many individualistic views ranging in conclusions greatly.

    And now I can tell you that basically I do agree with you, but I want to show that fundamental way of thinking that is shown in this post is as vulnerable to intuitive traps as those of people who have opposite view – heuristics of availability, representativeness, affect heuristic, anecdotal evidence, argument of ignorance and many more. There is no particular point in this, I’m just thinking “aloud” 😀

    It is true that cooperation is (again) “generally” a strategy that creates the most value for everyone. It is also true that golden rule predates todays religions and is universal around the globe (where it was figured out independently). It is also true that people did and do horrible things to each other and it may be true that some kind of force monopoly to ensure respecting the golden and silver rules will always be needed.

    And now I will shut up, because my comments are always long and without any general point… xD

    Take care and thank you for making me think 😀 xoxo

    • Never feel sorry for leaving long, thoughtful comments – they’re always fascinating to read. A conversation on human behavior could take a few, several, or dozens of pages!

      About capitalism – I brought it up (apologies for the lack of explanation in my post) because capitalism is powered by profit. Money. Not human interest. Money. This creates a dog-eat-dog environment where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, creating a vast divide. While there are those billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who donate more than half their wealth to charity, they are rather exceptional.

      And you’re definitely right – my rant contains quite a few logical fallacies, especially confirmation and the availability heuristic. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as well-read and informed about current events and issues as I should or would like be.

      Thank you for your thoughts and thank YOU for making me think 😀

      • Ok I see now that I shouldn’t boast about capitalism either cause as individualism we have two very different systems in minds.

        Also today any conversation about capitalism is charged with very broad choice of fallacies. First of all that we today in fact have free market economy (often interchangeably named as capitalism), or one that money are capital, or that the cumulation of wealth in hands of one person happens at the expense of others, or that poor are getting poorer in free market conditions.

        There is also an issue of civilization way of thinking (I don’t know how to translate it precisely how I want to, sorry) and there are quite a few of them. For instance solely in Poland where I live, there are at least 3 types of those thinking methods – Latin one, Turanian one and Byzantine one, every each has its own characteristic approach to such issues as morality, freedom or individualism. Every time you watch us talking we would seem like we understand meanings of those words but have very different opinions on them – it would be that because we simply understand them differently, hence the changes in our logic.

        Where it comes to grand social or political science issues there are no people well-read enough xD And it wasn’t my intention to prove it to you, or to make you feel bad. What I want to prove, I guess, is that opinions made in such topics, especially those verbalized in high emotional states lead to defensive (as in hold the ground at all cost) reactions 🙂 And after those discussions everyone comes back to their lives more ensured about opinions they began with xD It is how dogmatic mind are born in nutshell xD

        • No worries, I didn’t take any of your feedback negatively 🙂 They’re great – makes me think!

          Subjects like these do create a lot of dogma and they can be very difficult to discuss with certain people. While I spout loose opinions on my blog, they are by no means concrete. Readers like you really help me explore different perspectives that I may not have been able to see on my own.

          Again, thank you for your thoughts!

  6. Reblogged this on The Big Blog of All the Shit I Know and commented:
    “The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the founder of society. From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not anyone have saved mankind by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows, ‘Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.'” – Jean Jacques Rousseau

    Humans in their natural state, without federal laws or government, are just a bunch of suppressed, murderous psychopaths. Obviously.

  7. This is SO up my alley, so I’ll throw out some feedback…no charge even. 😀

    Yea, saw the short commercial trailer for this and rolled my eyes. Seems like a play on Primal Therapy that was so popular for a short period of time, most notably with John Lennon (Wikipedia has an entry on it). All we need is to get the “bad” feelings out is a night of binge-violence, and then we can all feel better. Freddy Krueger meets college frat boy. *gag*

    But back to your post. Do I agree? Disagree? Well…yes, and no. Let me start with where I agree. If by “evil” you mean Dr. Evil, then I agree with you. Nobody running around with pinkie fingers touching the corner of his/her mouth, plotting the ruination of civilization or even his/her neighbor (although I’ve met a few that would happily egg their neighbor’s house).

    But do I go so far as to a relativistic interpretation of evil and morals in general. No, I don’t. I haven’t met a Dr. Evil in this life. But I have met a whole lot of mini-Me’s.

    I agree that we are social creatures, and some root-causes for violence and other evil behavior is simply a pain-soaked cry for love and attention from some horribly hurt individuals. But this doesn’t explain all of it. There are many explanations, some pathological and some not. All explanations seem to have one root in common:

    “Me” over “You”.

    That “me” over “you” can range from pathological motives (an inability to even see you as an individual worthy of basic human rights and feelings) to extreme narcissistic violence (“I want your money, so I’ll club you for it”) all the way down to simple selfishness (“this is my favorite sandwich, and I’ve been waiting all day to eat it so, no, you can’t have a bite, and I don’t care how hungry you are!”).

    The problem with the perception of evil in our modern age is that it is always made synonymous with the worst examples: murder, rape, and so on. These examples, though, are not evil: they are merely some of the worst examples of said evil. The symptoms are not the disease. The disease of “evil” is selfishness.

    The cure for evil? Love.

    Trying to treat “evil” in such a way as this movie suggests is like suppressing a sneeze with antihistamines, and then claiming you cured the cold. Instead, the cure is to love one another, as your post suggests. How do you stop the loner from committing some atrocious act? Reach out to him. How do you stop the thief? Give him what he needs before he robs you, while teaching him what his “needs” truly are. That may be your favorite sandwich, but you can always share it and go buy another one if you really need to (or simply learn to be content with what you have!).

    Long comment, but I know you appreciate it. Btw, I still recommend reading Peck. SO up your alley. Just saying… 😉

    • Just saying, this post is greatly interesting. Investigating the root causes of evil in humanity is something that people should all at least throw a passing thought to every now and then.

      I agree with your basic premise, that humans aren’t AS EVIL as perhaps we view humanity today. The amount of “OH MY GOSH WE ARE ALL DOOOMMMMED” is way to much to be reasonable. However, I think that to a much smaller extent, we do have those tendencies.

      The main point I have to pick is your separation of “society” or “community” with what you call “government”. From what I could understand, you imply that we are pressured into government, while if we only had society, we would be in a better place. However, the two concepts are the same! To take a line from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (as clearly we do not have enough of that in our lives), “Society is produced by our wants, government by our wickedness… the first is a patron, the last is a punisher.” It is clear that Paine intends to mark government as nothing more than a “necessary evil”, but that still makes it so that it is just as part of humanity as society is!

      Being social creatures means that we are allowing ourselves to be bound by social rules and by the expectations of others. However, following the law has the same effect! The difference is that by being social, we feel satisfaction in of ourselves, while the law deters some from doing the worst possible.

      Human nature is a remarkably difficult thing to judge, and I don’t think we should make snap judgments about if we are intrinsically kind or altruistic, or not.

      Great post!

      • As I am in a less frazzled state of mind now, having vented through this post, I can level-headedly say that I agree that snap judgments about our intrinsic attributes is a bit foolhardy. But it’s so incredibly fascinate to explore.

        Apologies for the general, unclear use of “government” in my post. What I have in mind when I write “government” is the modern U.S. government. And my thoughts on community and government are that they are separate. A community may create a government, but a government is not a community. A powerful government is only a good idea when the government has the interests of its people at the forefront of its mind. The safety and health of its people should be its primary motivators. However, our current government is motivated by profit. Follow the money. Daddy Warbucks benefits far more than Joe the Plumber.

        And you are right, that since we are social creatures we are bound by social laws. That’s a really great point.

        Every culture has its rules, but not all rules have to be restrictive and prohibitive, which is what our laws are. Our laws are like the way some parents discipline their children: “Don’t do this… Don’t do that…” And what does taboo create? It creates interest. It creates a rebellious reaction. Not all the time, of course, but doesn’t something sound more exciting when you are ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN from doing it? How about instead of telling children to never use drugs or never have sex, we educate them (and not this flimsy D.A.R.E. and high school health class crap). We educate them not with fear as the primary motivator, but with the intent to encourage children to mature at their own pace and in their own space – with a community to help guide them. Tell them where they can go, not always where they can’t go.

        Thank you very much for your response! Really gets my brain exercisin’.

    • I love long comments – whoot! *rubs hands together*

      Ah I see what you mean about murder, rape, etc being the symptoms with selfishness being the underlying condition. Re-reading what I wrote, it’s clear that I oversimplify and generalize quite a bit – was definitely in ranting mode. Lack of love and crying out in pain really isn’t the whole story of why people do terrible things to other people, which is why I love that you brought up selfishness.

      How selfish are people by nature and how much has it been created in our system of consumerism? The system needs people to remain in a constant state of NEED so that they go out and buy more goods and services in an attempt to fill that need. Does this make us desperate? Is this where our extreme selfishness comes from? (I know this is oversimplifying again). And how much of this selfishness is just inherent in our coding?

      Love, love, love your last big paragraph. People in our society are not loved nearly enough – going way back to infancy. We’re born, get swaddled for a bit, and then get put in cribs to stare at random colors and lights. Hardly any of us were even held enough as babies and given enough security and warmth. This lack of nurture just builds up as we grow older. Yes, as cheesy as it is, “All you need is love.”

      Awesome thought-provoking reply. And that book is definitely on my “To Read” list 😀 Cheers!

  8. When you refer to “Hobbes” are you referring to “Calvin and Hobbes”? Because he was a stuffed tiger, and if you are using a stuffed tiger that came alive while alone with a 6 year old little boy, then….not only will I consider you the RADDEST of bloggers, but also? BEST FUCKING HOBBES REFERENCE EVAH!!!!!!!!

    • Hobbes refers to Thomas Hobbes, the political philosopher. Fun factoid, though: the name Hobbes of “Calvin and Hobbes” is taken from the very same Thomas Hobbes (and Calvin is named after John Calvin, founder of the Calvinists).

      I have had a pathetic amount of exposure to Calvin and Hobbes, sadly, but it from what I’ve seen, the comic strip does get pretty philosophical. That’s awesome.

  9. This post made me think of a show called Revolution, in which there has been a complete, and permanent power-outage on Earth. The result? Murder is everywhere. There are no emergency services to call for help, no governments to keep control. But this is not the REASON for the murders; the reason is, as you quite rightly pointed out, survival (mass food shortages led to people killing each other for food), and not the fact that there were no enforcible laws to prevent people from doing so. Referring to the trade-off between acts of ‘evil’ and survival (i.e. what about a situation that necessitates killing and murder in order to survive?) was not related to this post though, so I’m sorry for going off topic.You’re talking about humans’ natural instincts, and not the behaviour brought about by exceptional external circumstances.
    To actually answer though, I do agree with you; I don’t believe humans are innately evil, nor that laws are what prevent people from killing and stealing. (…which reminds me of how religion is often erroneously believed to have the same function as the laws do, in this case, namely, preventing people from doing ‘evil’, but that’s even more off-topic…)
    Great post! 😀

    • All the points and examples you bring up are great – there are so many related topics to branch off and talk about! While I haven’t seen Revolution, I’ve heard of it and I actually enjoy well-made shows about post-apocalyptic eras. The closest I’ve seen recently would have to be The Walking Dead, which is a show I watch not for the zombie killings (well, at least not JUST for the zombie killings), but for the exploration of human dynamics in such stressful, scarce times.

      Killing as an act for survival is totally related and it is a good point to bring up. I make a mistake of oversimplifying and glossing over points like that in my post by misrepresenting natural humans as solely non-killing. It’s, of course, not true. There really is a distinction, though, between killing to survive and killing for the hell of it (or even out of mental illness).

      Thanks so much for read and thanks for the reply!

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