No, that's not human nature

When you point out that many socio-cultural ideas are a toxic influence on the mind, you are often met with the refrain that it is not religion or culture that are at fault - it is human nature. People say that the problem you are talking about is obviously bad, but it is a result of something more fundamental than socio-cultural practices - human nature.

Here is why that argument is ridiculous.

Human nature is such a wide-ranging and all-encompassing label that it is completely useless as an explanation or a solution. It can be applied to literally anything.

  1. Why do people steal? Human nature.

  2. Why do people rape? Human nature.

  3. Why do people climb mountains? Human nature.

  4. We do people fight each other? Human nature.

  5. Why do people eat chocolate? Human nature.

See my point? You can literally use the "human nature" response to react to anything that human beings do.

Try to raise caste-based discrimination as an issue and someone is likely to say "other societies also do it - it's just human nature". Bring up wealth divides and someone will probably say, "It exists everywhere, not just here. It's human nature." In order to avoid talking about specific social issues, people generalise the fuck out of it and make it about humanity itself. It's used as a justification for giving up on change. To imply that there is no point doing anything because all battles are already lost.

Solutions to social problems can't be that generic. They have to be narrower and more specific. Using a label like "human nature" to explain anything is just lazy. And in this instance, it feels deliberately disingenuous. As if it is being used to shield culture and religion from the scrutiny that it is owed.

Think about it. Would we use "human nature" as an explanation for corruption or disease or robbery or murder? Would we shrug and say, "Oh it's just human nature" in any of these cases? No, right? Then why do cultural practices like misogyny, discrimination, and religious fanaticism get a free pass? Why are we so eager to put some practices on a pedestal and why do we insist that they not be questioned because it is "human nature" that is the real problem?

Not only is "human nature" a non-explanation, it is also a non-solution. Human beings cannot stop having "human nature" any more than birds can stop having wings and still be birds. We are human. Pointing it out as a way to explain away harmful behaviour is neither here nor there. You might as well say someone stole a chicken because he had hands.

Religion and culture however, are ideas. And many of these ideas have been bad ideas for a really long time. Once we start acknowledging this fact, we can then go about discarding or reforming the practices we have come to consider essential and beyond reproach. But in order for that process to start, we have to first accept that there is a problem. If we keep responding to these issues with "human nature", we will never get out of any of the messes that plague us.

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