Author Topic: Are people basically corrupt?  (Read 2828 times)

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Offline GabrieltheCelt

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Are people basically corrupt?
« on: June 07, 2008, 10:06:09 PM »
I wasn't sure where to put this, so mods- move if need be.

Just some basic observations over time, but it seems that people are inherently corrupt.  Given the choice, it seems that most people (especially if they perceive that no one will find out or is watching them) will behave selfishly, childishly, greedily, and sometimes with a touch of malice.  I remember reading an Orthodox perspective (can't remember where) that basically said the opposite; people are basically good at heart.  My experience has been the opposite.  I don't come from an abusive family, so I'm not dealing with any issues here- just observations over time.  I'm willing to concede that perhaps I have it wrong, and I'm speaking specifically about Americans (speaking as an American), but it seems that people are inherently selfish.  Is it just the American- the bastion of individualism- that makes us this way?  Or does it seem to be a fairly recent phenomena?  One thing I have noticed is that people seem to be very impatient these days- almost as if there's a pervasive sense of entitlement.  The commercials on TV tell us that we deserve the best, why wait, you deserve it your way, why settle,...  Given my assertion that people are basically corrupt to begin with, it seems as if our culture is just making it worse. 

Am I way off base here?  Am I being too pessimistic?
"The Scots-Irish; Brewed in Scotland, bottled in Ireland, uncorked in America."  ~Scots-Irish saying

Offline EofK

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2008, 10:11:45 PM »
  Is it just the American- the bastion of individualism- that makes us this way? 

In my experience, yes.  I have yet to meet a rude person from outside of the States.  I know they're out there, but still, it seems Americans are the rudest.  I've been to Canada and China and both places I met people who would gladly do anything, at their own expense, to make sure I and my friends were comfortable.  I've had several friends from Romania, Italy, Germany, Austria, Australia, and now knowing friends at church from the Ukraine and they've all been very warm and friendly.  It seems that Americans, especially when they know they won't see that person ever again, are as rude as possible.  We have a disturbing disconnect in our society so that we don't care about anyone if we don't know them and we don't care to get to know anyone.  I also think it's a Springfield, MO thing.  It amazes me how rude and selfish people can be here.  It's like they look right through you unless you have something to personally benefit them. 

I don't think you're totally off base, but I do think it is a national phenomenon and not a world-wide one.   Sure, there are rude and selfish people everywhere but not like home.   ;)
« Last Edit: June 07, 2008, 10:23:33 PM by EofK »
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. -- Douglas Adams

Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2008, 10:17:27 PM »
In my experience, yes.  I have yet to meet a rude person from outside of the States.  I know they're out there, but still, it seems Americans are the rudest.
Meaning you've only met non-Americans here, and not elsewhere?
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Offline Rosehip

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2008, 10:21:40 PM »
Trust me Gabriel, as one who has lived in, and experienced many cultures, and who must live with myself as well: the problem is NOT confined to Americans. We ALL-no matter where we were born, have the tendancy to sin and corruption.
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Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2008, 10:21:57 PM »
In my experience, no. People are basically good. Love, Compassion, Empathy are natural human traits.
In The Republic, Plato discusses what you are saying about people only acting morally if they are seen using the mythical "Ring of Gyges" which has the power to make the wearer invisible. He sets up a dialogue between Glaucon and Socrates. The former argues that the ring of Gyges proves that morality is a social construct since no wearer could resist the temptation to abuse it and steal. Socrates however argues that justice is not simply defined by social constructs since the person who abused the power of the Ring of Gyges would suffer moral bankruptcy and pangs of conscience while the one who chose not to abuse it would be at peace with himself.
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Offline EofK

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2008, 10:24:28 PM »
Meaning you've only met non-Americans here, and not elsewhere?

Nah, I realized how unclear that was and edited my post.  It's my bedtime and Mr. Y has given me gin.   :P  :D
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. -- Douglas Adams

Offline jlerms

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2008, 10:30:22 PM »
 Gabriel,  In my opinion pessimism leads to bitterness and hatred.  Many people do little acts of kindness and compassion everyday (ex: giving one's seat for an elderly or injured person, stopping to help someone with car trouble, giving money to a charity, etc...)  Of course there will always be selfishness, impatience and even malice in some people's actions; but should I always expect the worst of others.  It is very easy to get disgusted with people's bad behavior (I am guilty of it) but I think it is not a good way to live.  Life will always have trials and tribulations...but it will also have moments of hope and celebration.  As Christians we should strive to love others even though it is sooo difficult.  Pessimism about humanity will only make it all the harder.  Hope this helps.

the worst of sinners,   Juliana

Offline ialmisry

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2008, 10:31:06 PM »
In Church this evening I was watching one of the toddler boys go over to one of the babies lying on a blanket.  He repeatedly got the baby's pacifier and put in back in his mouth (the baby's) every time he lost it.  He was oblivious to me watching him, and his parents were off, so he wasn't trying to impress anyone.  I've also seen nastier interactions.

People are corrupt by history, not nature.  The Fall did not alter man's essence, but it did obscure it.  Are people basically corrupt? No, but some prefer to wallow rather than get back up, with dire consequences.
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Offline Riddikulus

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2008, 03:12:17 AM »
I don't accept that people are basically corrupt. I received the quote below from an emailing list I'm on. It seems pertinent to this topic. 

God has bestowed on every creature the gift of mutual love; every living creature naturally feels love and sympathy for its own kind.  God has bestowed this gift most abundantly on human beings, whose capacity for mutual love is unfathomably deep.  Indeed the love which Jesus expressed through His words and actions reveals the depth of love of which all people are capable. Thus, our nature predisposes us to virtue.  It follows, then, that vice is contrary to our very nature.  When we are violent toward another person, we are violating our own nature.  When we rob or exploit another perosn, we are robbing and exploiting ourselves.  Vice turns nature itself into a battlefield.  It sets the body against the soul.  The body wants to do wrong in order to satisfy its lusts, whereas the soul wants to do right.  Small wonder, then, that vice creates misery; a battlefield within a person's own nature can only destroy that person.  The sign that you are being true to your nature is that the desires of your body are in harmony with the inclinations of your soul.  And when your nature is at peace with itself, you shall be filled with joy.

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Offline Justin Kissel

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2008, 05:50:34 AM »
I think St. Gregory Palamas put it well: "We know of nothing that is essentially evil; nor is there any other origin of evil than the perversion of rational men, who abuse the free will given them by God." I think people are basically good, but are led astray at times because they live in a fallen world. The image is tarnished, but it's still the image of God in people.
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Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2008, 08:53:52 AM »
TWISI, to say that people are basically corrupt and in the same breath that we are created in the image of God requires one of two beliefs: (1) that God's nature is also basically corrupt or (2) that humanity has power to change our own nature. Either is heretical, and nonsensical to boot.
"It is remarkable that what we call the world...in what professes to be true...will allow in one man no blemishes, and in another no virtue."--Charles Dickens

Offline Quinault

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2008, 02:48:11 PM »
In Church this evening I was watching one of the toddler boys go over to one of the babies lying on a blanket.  He repeatedly got the baby's pacifier and put in back in his mouth (the baby's) every time he lost it.  He was oblivious to me watching him, and his parents were off, so he wasn't trying to impress anyone.  I've also seen nastier interactions.

People are corrupt by history, not nature.  The Fall did not alter man's essence, but it did obscure it.  Are people basically corrupt? No, but some prefer to wallow rather than get back up, with dire consequences.

I completely agree.

I don't see us as basically courrupt. I think that the tendancy to sin is strong. But we choose to do so rather than anything else. That example above is a quite good one. There are plenty of toddlers that would have just handed the binky back nicely, even from the same parents-same parenting.

The instinct to sin is inherant, but sin is not inherant.

Being indian I have a preclivity to have bad eyes/teeth and diabetes. I can't do too much about the eyesight-(although keeping diabetes away will help). But I do have control over the bad teeth and diabetes. I don't have diabetes and bad teeth from birth, so taking care of myself can prevent me from having all my teeth fall out, having my feet cut off and needing insulin injections. Does this mean that I will never have a cavity? No, I still fail at times in oral hygiene. Does this mean that I always eat as I should? No, I do on ocassion forget to eat and get low blood sugar (excessive hypoglycemia in your 20-30's can lead to hyperglycemia in your 50-60's). But I do my best. I fall and I get up again...over and over.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2008, 03:00:29 PM by Quinault »

Offline Elisha

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2008, 01:00:53 AM »
...using the mythical "Ring of Gyges" which has the power to make the wearer invisible.

Is that similar to the Ring of Gygax?

Offline nyc_xenia

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2008, 03:23:45 AM »
Just some basic observations over time, but it seems that people are inherently corrupt.  Given the choice, it seems that most people (especially if they perceive that no one will find out or is watching them) will behave selfishly, childishly, greedily, and sometimes with a touch of malice.  I remember reading an Orthodox perspective (can't remember where) that basically said the opposite; people are basically good at heart.  My experience has been the opposite.

I believe that this is like the Great Canon of Repentance by Andrew of Crete:

"Alas, wretched soul!  Why are you like the first Eve?  For you have wickedly looked and been bitterly wounded, and you have touched the tree and rashly tasted the forbidden food."

  And again it's been written that:"This is very symptomatic of our times because it presents even to unbelieving people an image of Christ so that when Antichrist comes they will say, "Aha, I saw on the stage something like that.  Yes, that must be it."

Quote
One thing I have noticed is that people seem to be very impatient these days- almost as if there's a pervasive sense of entitlement.  The commercials on TV tell us that we deserve the best, why wait, you deserve it your way, why settle,...  Given my assertion that people are basically corrupt to begin with, it seems as if our culture is just making it worse.

Ah, what a truly glorious observation!  For scripture tells us in Matthew 24:13:

"But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved."

Yet, now we see impatient souls, craving and desiring to the point which the Holy Fathers warned us would come in the "end". And again we read in Hebrews 6:10-12;
 
"For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shewn in his name, you who have ministered, and do minister to the saints. 11 And we desire that every one of you shew forth the same carefulness to the accomplishing of hope unto the end: 12 That you become not slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience shall inherit the promises."
 

Quote
Am I way off base here?  Am I being too pessimistic?

No, according to scripture, not even a little.

May God continue to bless the "eyes" that see.

For we live in a generation of "deep sleep". One of which the Holy Fathers wrote about, nevertheless, few will find their way in the end.

Because it was written that in "the end", trials and tribulations would "encompass" us, so that we like the woman written of in Revelation, the evil one would hope and strive, that we be encompassed, yet (by the grace of God) we should escape.

Rev 12:17:" the dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

It is sad that these days differ from the rest of Orthodox history; by the splits, schisms & accusations that exist, yet, we each have Our Common Hope, Our Lord and Our God, Jesus Christ, who will guide us through all tribulations.

In the words of St. Joseph the Hesychast on Patience:

"Postscript: I don't have time to write to you about the miracle that the Lord showed me to correct a mistake I was making out of ignorance, as you know. So, do you see the great goodness of our Lord? Do you see that He even works miracles when His divine providence deems it suitable? Many times a person is deluded out of ignorance or because others mislead him. But when he has an upright soul and good intentions, the Lord does not abandon him, but will bring him enlightenment in various ways. This makes me feel like dirt, ash, and a worm of the earth.

Most truly, great is the mercy of the Lord. The Psalmist is right in saying, "Not according to our sins hath He dealt with us, nor according to our iniquities hath He rewarded us."

So then, why shouldn't you thank God? Why should you grumble? If I were to write to you the temptations I undergo, you would not be able to bear it. Nevertheless, the grace of Christ and our Panagia dispels them all. Have patience, for the Theotokos, the Queen and Lady of all, does not abandon us. She prays for us."

Let us rest our care on Him, Who is alone, Our only Hope.

 

Offline GiC

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2008, 04:00:30 AM »
Is it just the American- the bastion of individualism- that makes us this way?  Or does it seem to be a fairly recent phenomena?  One thing I have noticed is that people seem to be very impatient these days- almost as if there's a pervasive sense of entitlement.  The commercials on TV tell us that we deserve the best, why wait, you deserve it your way, why settle,...  Given my assertion that people are basically corrupt to begin with, it seems as if our culture is just making it worse. 

And, yet, we are the most powerful country on the face of the earth. Perhaps it's time to recognize that greed and selfishness are virtues, not vices...they are why we are superior to other peoples. One can criticize our values and customs as much as they like, but in the end our values have made us their superiors. Whatever their values are, we can objectively say that ours are better.
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Offline prodromas

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2008, 04:06:08 AM »
And, yet, we are the most powerful country on the face of the earth. Perhaps it's time to recognize that greed and selfishness are virtues, not vices...they are why we are superior to other peoples. One can criticize our values and customs as much as they like, but in the end our values have made us their superiors. Whatever their values are, we can objectively say that ours are better.

We should come up with a word to describe the time between the point were GIC is officially warned and he stays away from polemical posts and the point where he comes up with something to rattle the nerves of the various posters. :D keep up the good work GIC
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Offline Riddikulus

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2008, 04:57:15 AM »
We should come up with a word to describe the time between the point were GIC is officially warned and he stays away from polemical posts and the point where he comes up with something to rattle the nerves of the various posters. :D keep up the good work GIC

 :laugh: Powerful nations come and go; each believing they are superior to all others. Maybe they are until the rot sets in and the infrastructure goes to hell...... ;D
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Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2008, 05:24:30 PM »
And, yet, we are the most powerful country on the face of the earth. Perhaps it's time to recognize that greed and selfishness are virtues, not vices...they are why we are superior to other peoples. One can criticize our values and customs as much as they like, but in the end our values have made us their superiors. Whatever their values are, we can objectively say that ours are better.
Thank you, Ayn Rand.
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Offline GiC

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2008, 09:43:18 PM »
:laugh: Powerful nations come and go; each believing they are superior to all others. Maybe they are until the rot sets in and the infrastructure goes to hell...... ;D

Well, I'm sure you know a thing or two about the decline of once great nations. Taking the UK for example, the Empire was not lost in battle, nor was it lost because of an increase in greed and selfishness...infact, it was basically given away because people became less greedy and more concerned about those who they had conquered. Greed and selfishness brought greatness, the absence of these virtues brought about destruction and decline.
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Offline Riddikulus

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #19 on: June 15, 2008, 10:27:08 PM »
Well, I'm sure you know a thing or two about the decline of once great nations. Taking the UK for example, the Empire was not lost in battle, nor was it lost because of an increase in greed and selfishness...infact, it was basically given away because people became less greedy and more concerned about those who they had conquered. Greed and selfishness brought greatness, the absence of these virtues brought about destruction and decline.

 :laugh: You know, I'm almost inclined to agree! And look at the mess our British selflessness and lack of greed has got us into! Rule Britannia!
« Last Edit: June 15, 2008, 10:34:46 PM by Riddikulus »
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Offline Pravoslavbob

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #20 on: June 16, 2008, 10:41:41 AM »
Religion is a disease, and Orthodoxy is its cure.

Offline Heorhij

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Re: Are people basically corrupt?
« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2008, 01:33:45 PM »
I am not sure that Americans are "the rudest" people in the world. It's a generalization. My compatriots, Ukrainians, have a very ancient, rich, elaborate culture of hospitality, and they indeed are very, very polite and kind with their guests; but the same Ukrainian who just went out of his/her way to help his/her guests, visitors (especially foreigners), will the very next minute be extremely loud and pushy and rude to his/her fellow Ukrainians in a store of in public transportation.

In a more general sense, I agree with those who said that people are basically good. As far as I understand my Church, we are taught that we are "corruptible," i.e. damaged, wounded by sin; it does not mean that we are "bad" though, or "depraved" - we are, rather, prone to errors, "passions," etc. We aren't ideally balanced. When we are, our body works ideally under the control of our mind, and our mind - under the control of our "spirit" (conscience, desire to serve God and do good), and our "spirit" - under the control of God. And that's what we will be in God's Kingdom.
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