Sunday, June 12, 2016


I haven't posted in a long while it seems.  I came across this quote attributed to Henry Kissinger that recently struck me, and I found insightful.

"The most fundamental problem of politics is not the control of wickedness but the limitation of righteousness."

There's so much said in a compact statement, and it succinctly notes that the certainty of moral superiority is a danger to society.  Here's a link to further context from The Atlantic with historical context.

The quote is at the core of much of what I've been thinking about recently, how it's so difficult for humans to just let people live their life without trying to tell them how to live and control how they live.

By nature, I think we are programmed to be tribal.  We have tightest bonds to our families, and secondarily tight bonds to our community.  But we also have programming that causes us to naturally be suspicious, distrustful, and closed to those who are different from us.  This tendency plays out as an "us" vs. "them" reality in so many areas in human life.  We don't have to try to be this way, we come built this way.  In our gut reactions, we're pre-wired to be this way, likely because it was more evolutionarily beneficial historically when we tended to live in much smaller groups prior to modern civilization.

And it is effortful - this is key - it is effortful to counter how we easily fall into this dynamic without really understanding why we respond the way we do.  And it disappoints me currently that growing cultural forces are reinforcing that tribal gut reaction, which I think is not helpful or good.  In essence, it's becoming easier to become overly certain of our moral superiority without understanding what is driving it, and this can lead to the righteousness that Kissinger talks about.  It is effortful to counter that natural reaction, to inject a bit of humility into our certainty of righteousness, but it's becoming increasingly easy to do away with the humility.

...ah,  anyway that's my thought for the day.

And to conclude, I'll link to my favorite quote from Abraham Lincoln that also comes to mind in this context:

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."