People are basically good.

The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months | Books | The Guardian:

I first read Lord of the Flies as a teenager. I remember feeling disillusioned afterwards, but not for a second did I think to doubt Golding’s view of human nature. That didn’t happen until years later when I began delving into the author’s life. I learned what an unhappy individual he had been: an alcoholic, prone to depression; a man who beat his kids. “I have always understood the Nazis,” Golding confessed, “because I am of that sort by nature.” And it was “partly out of that sad self-knowledge” that he wrote Lord of the Flies.

I began to wonder: had anyone ever studied what real children would do if they found themselves alone on a deserted island? I wrote an article on the subject, in which I compared Lord of the Flies to modern scientific insights and concluded that, in all probability, kids would act very differently. Readers responded sceptically. All my examples concerned kids at home, at school, or at summer camp. Thus began my quest for a real-life Lord of the Flies. After trawling the web for a while, I came across an obscure blog that told an arresting story: “One day, in 1977, six boys set out from Tonga on a fishing trip … Caught in a huge storm, the boys were shipwrecked on a deserted island. What do they do, this little tribe? They made a pact never to quarrel.”

I think it is important to remember that it is much easier for an author to write a bleak story where everything ends badly than to write one where things turn out okay, or in which the characters learn and grow as humans. As a result, we end up with many more of the former type of stories than of the ladder.

But those stories are all made up. We can write our own stories.

5 thoughts on “People are basically good.

  1. @petebrown Counterpoint: It took two months to bring charges against the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery and only then because a video became public.

    People are basically good towards other people who they see as human.

  2. @Bruce My headline certainly overstates the case, and there is certainly no shortage of examples of people being horrible to one another. I’m not trying to be pollyanna-ish about it, but I’d still suggest that at least “People are basically good to other people who they see as human” at least leaves open possibilities that are closed off by the Lord Of the Flies view that people are basically terrible.

  3. @petebrown Oh, I definitely meant it that way for both the good and the bad implications. And I think we all struggle with the problem—I know my eyes slid pass homeless folk when I used to be out and about in NYC.

    And a silver lining is that we have to be taught which people don’t count as human. Not that it’s easy to change the culture which teaches, but it is a goal to work towards.

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