Sunday, July 30, 2006

Human Nature

What a misnomer. Human nature. Do those words really belong together in a phrase? Somehow I don't think so. Over the course of this weekend, I've been subjected to some strange examples of human nature. Somehow, most of them don't seem either human or natural.

Example #1: In the small, southeastern Ohio town where I live, a man was arrested for running a puppy mill. In a tiny two bedroom house, that he no longer occupied, the Animal Protection officers and police confiscated 51 puppies, 12 breeding dogs, 21 cats and a skunk. I will not describe the condition of the house; suffice it to say that the house is now condemned. As are the animals freed from that hellhole. They are too unwell and malnourished to be saved. Human? Not hardly. Natural? Anything but.

Example # 2: Last night a group of young adults (yes, I backspaced over the word 'kids') came into the bar. They were with a University Habitat for Humanity group and were in the area building a home for a family displaced by fire. That cheered me up --- until....they began to discuss, in loud, condescending tones the shortcomings of the people they were helping -- how fat, ugly, smelly, et cetera the family was. Okay, so they weren't perfect little sorority and fraternity members like the kids who helped them, but what kind of help was it? Turns out, the HFH group is having a contest between the frats to see who can provide the most assistance over the course of the year. They weren't helping from any developed social conscience, but so that their fraternity would win.

Example # 3: Late in the evening, a wedding party showed up: bride, groom, groomsmen and bridesmaids all still in their wedding finery. I must admit; that took me aback for a minute. What newlyweds would want to be in a bar at 2 a.m. on their wedding night? At any rate, since they pulled up in a limo I had no qualms about serving them. Somehow, in the course of 30 minutes, the newly-married couple got into an argument. It ended at 2:36 in front of the now-locked bar, with the bride riding away sobbing in the limo and the groom screaming obscenities after the car as it went down the street. I have high hopes for that wedding, gotta tell you.

Today is one of the slow, painful days. Everything hurts physically; my kindness to my employer has gotten the better of me. I've worked too much this weekend, working shifts that I originally said I would not do. it's one of those days when I lie around the house and think about things. Today, however, that physical reaction to a hard week was superseded by an intellectual one. I got a phone call from a friend this morning who was in the bar last night, and he dismissed the HFH incident and the bridal party incident as "human nature." What in the hell is so human about that? Doesn't that dismissal, in and of itself, indicate that we, as humans, believe that "human nature" allows us to be cruel? Permits us to be insensitive? Encourages us to satisfy our own impulses without thought for the consequence that has upon others?

Look at all the atrocities in our world today. Think about the lives lost, the futures wrecked, the suffering caused by the concept of "human nature." I suppose, if you want to get technical about it, humans are carnivorous beings. We are predators, designed to be hugely successful at it because of a posable thumb and the capacity to problem solve. Perhaps cruelty is human nature if you think about it that way.

It's very easy to judge, isn't it?

Of the 85 animals rescued from that miserable, unair-conditioned hovel, only 9 will be alive tomorrow. I'm going to the animal shelter to put my bid in to take one of them home. That's my response to "human nature." I'm not even going to be picky about what animal I take. I'll end up with the one least likely to be adopted, the smallest, the sickest, the most dejected, the ugliest. I'll bring it home and introduce it to my pets, take it to the vet, give it food and water in a currently messy but inherently clean house and teach the poor thing that not all humans are like the one who tortured it. Some humans don't have "human nature" as a crutch.

And in the end, that might just be a good thing.