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April 17, 2009

While Evils are Sufferable

"...all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

Since I really became a student of the founding of the United States, these words, from the Declaration of Independence, always reflected a immutable truth about human nature that transcended political institutions:

Human beings are resilient, but we're also creatures of habit. We can adapt. We can endure. We can overcome.

Indeed, you can look to any 25-50 year span of time for which we have records, and you will find some major crisis that has tested the fabric of society.

Not every decision we've made in those times of hardship has made us better, but every experience we had should have given us the belief that we can persevere whenever we are faced with something we initially don't quite know how to handle.

But there's plenty of evidence (including this story about 1,500 suicides in India) to suggest that there are enough elements within mankind that may be more disposed to overreact when they suffer -- in a way that causes further suffering in others. They may be more inclined to confuse hardship with evil, and to hurl invectives at those who disagree with them -- or to disregard valid criticisms of their ideas or behavior.

Assuming a reasonably educated society, in order to overcome any crisis, two things are necessary.

  1. An honest approach to the facts.
  2. A belief that victory is possible.

If we neglect either, then we'll certainly be more disposed to overreact than either suffer or take prudent steps to solve the problems we face. - Cam Beck


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