We Have No Idea How Good We Can Get

We Have No Idea How Good We Can Get by Paul Rosenberg for International Man

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I can still remember the first time someone told me that they believed in the Calvinist doctrine of “the depravity of man.” It shocked me. To complain about human behavior I very well understood; there’s plenty of bad behavior in the world. But to flatly call the human species depraved… hopelessly unredeemable… that was, and remains, obscene to me.

The sad truth, however, is that the modern West swims in a sea of Calvinism. The corporate bullhorns feed everyone they can a steady diet of the bad, ugly, and if possible the bloody. Under their influence, we would believe that all is darkness, that truth is illusion, that the human path is ever-downward, and that all professions of goodness are scams.

In other words, the minds of millions of people (billions, probably), are continually pushed to imagine that human depravity is a fact. That strategy is terribly effective – there’s no better tool for manipulating humans than fear – but it is no less than obscene and evil.

And it’s false. Humans are amazing creatures, and very often kind, gracious and loving creatures.

The Real Revolutionaries

I’ve used this passage from G.K. Chesterton’s The Defendant before, but it’s so important that I could use it once a month and feel fine about it:

Every one of the great revolutionists, from Isaiah to Shelly, have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence, but about the slowness of men in realizing its goodness.

The popular image of a revolutionary is of someone railing against the rulers of their place and leading a mob against them to bring in a new political regime. Notwithstanding the ridiculous notion of politics saving us from politics, this has always been a fantasy. It’s very dramatic of course, which is why it remains, but in real life it simply doesn’t happen.

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