I do believe people can be good just as they have potential for bad. It is all in how we raise our children, in what examples we set, and in what hope we give people. I don’t believe people are egotistic by nature, as is often claimed today, and even it it were true, you could also argue that violence is natural and thus shouldn’t be unlawful. Society is not built around what is in “human nature”, but often in opposition to it, especially against what is in the nature of a small minority. We together set rules and boundaries for what we want as a society. Some will always break and exploit them, but that is true for any system, and society can’t be built around their behaviour. It must provide all its people with hope and faith in it, or it will always crumble.
The systems themselves aren’t really the problem. Cities and large congregations of people are, as has been argued ever since antiquity, and this was greatly magnified with industrialization and international trade, as the cities and consumption culture grew exponentially and very quick, with population growing 10 or 20-fold in just decades, and a few people knowing to exploit this, like small packs of wolves around large flocks of unaware sheep. George Washington Sears expressed the same sentiment in 1884.
“For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men are whithered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.
And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd — But he shuns the shadow of the oak and pine”
Today is no different, and while extremes of dictatorship, full monarchy, socialism, liberalism, libertarianism and capitalism always lead to extreme problems in various ways, more moderate examples can all work in smaller scale, as cohesion, connection and adaptation to realities will always be more direct. All those are lost, or intentionally obscured or broken, in large cities and in nations and empires.
Unfortunately, this is also why the future is looking rather bleak and grim, since the cities are always growing, and consumption culture, for financial reasons, has grown radically especially since the 70’s, with intentionally shortened life span of products and conscious breeding of a culture of quick changing fashion forcing people to buy new more often than they actually need. Most societies today are built around the concept of egocentrism, sometimes with a thin layer of commune on top of it.
And people argue over politics instead or realizing the far deeper issues and changes required. We need to change, all of us, at a very profound level, and return to a simpler way of life that focuses less on the material and more on the social and spiritual. We need something truly and perpetually sustainable for everyone.
And there is hope too, in our children, and in the fact that everyone has a potential for good. Almost all religious systems and most political systems tell us that we, to varying degrees, need to look out for one another, and help even strangers. It is a pretty universal thought that most humans believe in. So I don’t think it is too late to turn things around, but as we march fast forward in then opposite direction, time is running out. But change is indeed possible, just as when we turned into this direction in the 19th century, we can also turn in the other direction.
Many of the problems that come just from crowding people together in cities are mistakenly blamed on political systems when they have rather little to do with them. Many of these problems are inevitable, although they can be managed better or worse and especially the causes for them.
But the actual system is not necessarily so important when it comes to happiness and satisfaction for people, and many and quite opposed systems can work, if they adapt to changes and work for a satisfactory benefit of all. I know, for example, how there are examples of working communism in China, on a small, local level, in villages, but as a nation or even in regions or larger cities it just doesn’t work.
Small communities too can of course also have their issues and get corrupted, but less easily as they do not have the same disconnect and disenfranchisement that larger cities inevitably have. It’s a difference in scale of things.
Nature in itself is brutal and uncaring. I am just saying we need to find a more sustainable way of life. As it is, our way of life relies completely on a lot of people being worse off, and on us pretending that we don’t realize that we are messing up the Earth, and any change in that, without turning towards sustainability will just break things even faster.
People have been looking towards this several times in history, in Antiquity, in the 18th cent with Rousseau and early 19th cent with Thoreau and Swedish Almqvist, and with the 19th cent outdoors people like Sears, Kephart, Seton and Powell mentioned above, and we even have a similar trend today, which both hipsters, HEMA, bushcrafters and preppers all being part of the same driving need. I even see a lot of people taking part of several of these communities, moving to the countryside and getting chicken and goats for their little farmsteads, storing beans and foods when not swinging swords.