July 22, 1994

People, Good and/or Bad

"I'm my own worst enemy."

"Not while I'm alive!"

Author unknown

People's attitude about others vary from believing that everyone is basically good and is likely to treat you fairly, to one that supposes that everyone is out to get you. A person who believes that all people are good, as do most children, is due for a few disappointments in life. The paranoid who believes that others are out to get him, if he tends to physically violent behavior, is dangerous to almost all with whom he comes in contact. Paranoids who are not physically violent can be a pain in the butt to others, indulging in verbal attacks on everyone who happens to disagree with them. They may see the whole world in terms of conspiracies. In other words, each person's attitude reflects, not the world's attitude toward him, but his attitude toward the world.

I have tried to be a realist; to see the world as it is rather than as I want it to be. I have found it to be populated with a few people who are goodness and trust personified, and a few others who are meanness personified. Most of us are mixtures of both, in various proportions at different times. A Mafia don may be a corrupt murderer who is very good to his family. The model of virtue may torture his wife and children.

There are people who I would trust with my money, but not my life -or wife. Others can be trusted with my life or wife, but not my money. I'm sometimes hard put to decide which is which.

I expect everyone to behave in his own self interest. I am surprised when someone seems to behave against his own self interest. Surprisingly, some people do, but it is unusual. I suspect that such behavior may be based on a fictitious view of the world. The American Indian culture, where one is measured by his fellows by how much he gives away, may be misapplied to members of European cultures.

Some paranoids may attack people who might otherwise be their friends, or at least not their enemies. Ignoring the verbal attacks of such people might lead to some form of friendship -but is it worth the trouble?

Much has been written about altruistic behavior; people sacrificing their own self interest, and even their life, for the good of the community. I suspect that such behavior is rooted in an attitude that considers a person's family, friends and sometimes his community as an extension or part of himself. Most people consider their families as extensions of themselves, rather than as representing the outside world. Some people extend that to include their country and a few extend themselves to encompass the world. I am always a bit suspicious of such people, since I have found that egregious altruists often neglect the people closest to them in favor of the world at large. The image that I have of such a person is that he feeds the world while his own children go hungry.

In the process of writing this article, I realized that I enjoy ringing the chimes of fanatics and verbal paranoids. This is a potentially dangerous habit, and I may stop doing it after I leave this article at The Observer.

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