And, as The Shadow radio program used to remind us, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"
Well, psychiatrists do. We have the task of dealing with the dark side of human nature regularly--whether it manifests because of drug use; because of a biological or physiological or genetic abnormality; or whether it is due to the essence of being human, and therefore flawed and susceptible to evil.
Recent science investigations suggest that one very special human evil, envy , is hardwired into our brains:
A new study on covetous adults explains why other people’s possessions always seem better.
Seeds of this desire are sown in the mirror neuron system, a part of the brain that is activated in a similar pattern whether a person is performing an action or merely watching someone else do it.
“Mimetic desire” was first articulated by the French philosopher René Girard in the 1980s. Envy can spread among people like a disease, a force that explains much of human behavior, Girard proposed. Now, French neuroscientists have verified the phenomenon and even attempted to explain how it happens.
“They really take a philosophical theory and make it an experiment,” says neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni of UCLA.
Copying other people’s desires is a good way to learn about the environment, says study coauthor Mathias Pessiglione of INSERM in Paris. Eating the food that other people eat, for example, is a simple way to avoid food poisoning. But this adaptive feature can break down when desired objects are in short supply.
Pessiglione and his team showed adults one of two videos: a piece of candy sitting on a surface, or a person’s hand reaching toward a different-colored piece of candy. Participants then rated the desirability of each candy they saw. As the mimetic desire theory predicts, people rated the about-to-get-grabbed candy as more desirable. The same effect held for clothes, tools and even toys, the team reports in the May 23 Journal of Neuroscience.
A key point about envy is that it is never directed toward that which is bad; rather, it is a hateful attack on the good.
People who specialize in ENVY usually don't really want the good things the other person has as much as they want to insure that the other person doesn't have them or that they don't get to keep them.
If they do desire someone else's possessions, that desire comes in a distant second to the desire to destroy the good that others have.
ENVY is the underlying emotion behind the Marxist trope, "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need". The "enlightened" and morally bankrupt among us have always believed that economic self-interest means simply voting yourself a share of the money earned by others.
Such individuals wouldn't know how to create wealth if their lives depended on it; that's why they seek power over others--they see it as the only way they can survive in the real world. Since they cannot admit that painful truth to themselves, they will seize other people's wealth with one hand, while signing the political bills that make it impossible to create the wealth on which they themselves depend.
The truth is that they deeply hate those who create the wealth they want to steal, and seek to destroy them--even though at some level, they understand they cannot survive without them.
They count on the fact that this reality is never spoken of in polite society.
In today's America, envy is celebrated (watch some of the Occupy Wall Street people in action--or, for that matter, listen to many congressmen and senators opine on the subject of making sure that everyone pays their "fair share" ). It is always a malignant and consuming pastime because it is one of the more destructive aspects of human nature.
RESENTMENT is closely allied with ENVY. Professor Sowell has written about the politics of resentment, too, and the creation, back in the 1960s, of a whole government-supported industry of race hustling:
Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” — a war that we have lost, by the way — bankrolled all kinds of local “leaders” and organizations with the taxpayers’ money, in the name of community “participation” in shaping the policies of government.
These “leaders” and community activists have had every reason to hype racial resentments and to make issues “us” against “them.”
One of the largely untold stories of our time has been the story of how ACORN, Jesse Jackson, and other community activists have been able to transfer billions of dollars from banks to their own organizations’ causes, with the aid of the federal government, exemplified by the Community Reinvestment Act and its sequels.
Racial anger and racial resentments are the fuel that keeps this lucrative racket going.
The modern Democratic party is almost entirely based on hyping both envy and resentment, and appealing to the worse of human nature. By doing so, they have created destructive and wealth-destroying armies of entitlement whose goal, whether they admit it or not, is actually to destroy wealth and the source of wealth.
Without envy, there would be no Democratic Party today.
And when Sowell says that, "Whole totalitarian governments have risen to dictatorial power on the wings of envy and resentment ideologies", it is clear to even the least observant that this is the destructive path which is being foisted on this country by many of its current leaders.
ENVY and RESENTMENT are the bane (or should I say "Bain"?) of civilized society. In fact, these negative human emotions are essentially de-civilizing for those individuals who freociously cling to them and to their own sense of entitled victimhood.
Societies that are based on the emotions of envy and resentment are doomed to descend into "tragedies written in the blood of millions", as each individual and special interest group fights all the others for their "share" of an ever shrinking amount of wealth. Eventually, they run out of other people's wealth to steal .
For proof of this, all you have to do is look at human history.
Human nature with its envy, greed etc., is a simple fact of reality that cannot be avoided.
Interestingly, the Democrats very existence currently depends on pretending that they are "better" people than the rest of us, and not prone to ordinary human failings-- unlike those evil, racist, homophobic, money-grubbing, subhuman Republicans.
Democrats like to define themselves as the party of poor and middle-income Americans, but a new study says they now represent the majority of the nation's wealthiest congressional districts.
In a state-by-state, district-by-district comparison of wealth concentrations based on Internal Revenue Service income data, Michael Franc, vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation, found that the majority of the nation's wealthiest congressional jurisdictions were represented by Democrats.
He also found that more than half of the wealthiest households were concentrated in the 18 states where Democrats hold both Senate seats....
Mr. Franc's study also showed that contrary to the Democrats' tendency to define Republicans as the party of the rich, "the vast majority of unabashed conservative House members hail from profoundly middle-income districts."
All these rich 'cultural Marxists' identify themselves as Democrats because it is just so cool and hip--and virtuous--to champion the 'poor and oppressed.' How unfortunate for them that this virtuousness requires them to nurture and maintain a never-ending supply of the 'poor and oppressed'; and to encourage and support victimhood and entitlement.
The last thing that the today's Democrats; or their leftist, Marxist base really want is for the poor to become independent of their virtuous and compassionate largesse. So they must stoke the fires of ENVY and RESENTMENT. They promote class-warfare and try to appeal to the worse aspects of human nature.
They cannot appreciate that capitalism and the free market -when conducted under the rule of law in a free society; and without special privileges granted from corrupt governments-- offer a healthy channel for the redirection of negative emotions like envy and resentment and greed into something positive for both the individual and the larger society.
Something, I might add, that Marxism, socialism and all its variants completely fail to do.
You cannot escape the reality of the dark side of human nature. You can either channel that dark side and use it constructively to benefit yourself and incidentally the society you lives in; or you can encourage and facilitate it in all its destructive power, and by doing so create the hell on earth we've come to associate with communist and marxist societies.
When it comes to understanding human nature and encouraging the development of healthy psychological and behavioral strategies for positively channeling destructive human emotions, capitalism has nothing to fear from collectivism of any stripe.
As Jonah Goldberg observed:, "It is an eternal trope of leftism to assign to its enemies problems that are generic to humanity itself."
I have pointed out repeatedly that this tendency is actually a psychological projection--a way of disowning this unpleasant aspect of human nature in themselves--leaving them free to pursue their Marxist/Utopian delusions.
As usual spot-on and I linked your blog post to a small article I just posted which is a review of an interview with Julian Assange. Talk about envy and hatred, without any constructive plans except destruction. Scary people getting more and more power in the public imagination....Is it an accident that Russian Television showed this interview? Americans as SO blind to truth right now I do not know what will make most of them understand what is really happening on the European stage, as well as in the States. Keep up the good work on this blog, please....
Perspective, it has a place here, does it not? Social order, in the aggregate, serves a purpose, does it not?
Then there is that classic argument of the individual versus the crowd. Group dynamics plays an important role in many disciplines, right?
Male versus female dynamics do exist, don't they?
I want what others have, some of those others may also want what I have. I am both liberal and conservative.
Socrates suggested the hardest goal might be to "know thyself" did he not?
I wonder why, I wonder why...
Dr. Schoeck published a book on the subject of envy. He points out that altruism is a manifestation of envy. Here is a link.
Envy. A Theory of Social Behavior.
Great article. There's an old Slavic fable about envy.
God tells the peasant Ivan that he can have anything he wants, but only on the condition that his neighbor Boris will get twice as much.
Ivan thinks for a while and then says to God, "Please God, give me the gift of having just one of my eyes plucked out."
Nietzsche pointed out that when you have a society based solely on merit, rather than royal birth or other traditional hierarchies, some people will not be able to accept their failures as based on their own lack of merit. Such people will invent new excuses to consider themselves victims. That is precisely what is happening in America today. The Democrats invent the excuses for those people, rather than helping them to figure out how to remediate their deficiencies.
The fable is in Deidre McCloskey, "Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World," U of Chicago, 2010.
Envy, in and of itself, isn't the problem. The problem is the expectation that society will satisfy your envy by either giving you what you desire or destroying what you cannot have.
Envy is the only sin to get listed twice in the Ten Commandments, both the ninth and the tenth. The reason, no doubt, it that it is the most destructive of all of the “thou shall not’s" in its repercussions to a community or society.
I’ve often wondered why envy gets two mentions in the Ten Commandments. My guess is that it is because there are two different manifestations of envy. First is the envy of the possessions of others and second is the envy of the talents, abilities and opportunities of others.
I do not think humans have a dark side, nor a light side for that matter. Instead, the unusual strategy of this particular species is to make choices based on a process they like to call reason. In humans, these sorts of feelings (e.g. envy) are NOT hardwired but rather based on their value system. If they were hardwired, the constant tension between their free will and their hardwiring would have wiped them out of the Darwinian pool long ago. Those silly scientists saw a correlation between A and B and assumed that A causes B, when with a little logic they would have seen that B causing A would make a whole lot better sense as a hypothesis.
‘These two systems are linked, so that the mirror neuron system kicks on and tells the brain’s valuation system to rank the object highly, the team’s analyses of the brain scans revealed.’
‘These two systems are linked, so that the brain’s valuation system kicks on, ranks the object highly, and tells the mirror neuron system to turn on, the team’s analyses of the brain scans revealed.’
Do these people have the slightest idea of the number of genes that would have to be involved to hardwire something like envy – many times more than the entire human genome, without doubt.
(It reminds me of those so-called ‘scientific studies’ which purport to show that homosexuality is hardwired when it can easily be shown that even the ability to distinguish between male and female is not.)
And, to rate something that someone else wants more highly; well, that’s just simple logical for a social animal like humans. You don’t need any complex theory to explain it. I wish I was a psychologist and could get published that easily, rather than a biochemist which means I have to do real work (note the envy/irony in that previous statement) Sigh.
Any given person can change from admiration and envy and then back again in a heartbeat, depending on whether you take stock of their feelings before OR after they’ve had their morning coffee.
"I am quite happy," the visitor commented to the sage.
The sage replied, "Are you happy because you have what you want, or are you happy because you don't want what you do not have?"
The sage was Nisargadatta Maharaj [see the book of interviews, 'I Am That']. The visitor is each one of us. How we answer the sage is a measure of our maturity and sanity.
Wasn't original sin motivated by envy? Adam and Eve were OK with leaving the forbidden fruit alone until tempted through envy. Envy existed before our fall from grace.
Evil is what the other guy is and does.
Dr. Sanity have no idea how much I appreciate your insightful post... I've learned more then a a whole semester intro psychology class. Please, don't stop I'll continue reading you...
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