So I finally watched the film, Blood Diamond. Outstanding performances by Djimon Hounsou and Leo Decaprio. While watching this film, I heard a variation on an idea that I’ve debated and struggled with for years. It came during a brief dialogue between Decaprio’s character and a doctor. Decaprio plays a retired mercenary turned diamond smuggler. The doctor is the leader of a hidden camp, where he is attempting to salvage and possibly reprogram (for the lack of a better word) children displaced by the conflict.
The doctor asks Decaprio if people are generally good or bad. Decaprio replies neither, instead people are simply people. Their actions actually define who they are. I’ve never heard this, at least not exactly in those terms. I believe psychology avoids the concept of good and bad. Rather, psychology sees people as beings capable of various actions, that we may deem good or bad. However, in reality hearing the words ‘holocaust’ or ‘genocide’ should evoke negative emotions.
In my discussions, there’s been the school of “people are generally flawed”. I see this as the pessimistic and moralist view. Usually, Christians who accept the concept of original sin normally subscribe to this. I’ve met atheists that hold this view. I have also met a few evangelicals that hold to original sin, and that people are generally good. I’ve never fully understood that.
The counter-view has been that “people are generally good”. I see this as the optimistic and relativist view. 90% of the people I’ve had this discussion with subscribe to this. The Buddhists I’ve spoken to agree with this. Following Freud’s structural theory, some individuals have stronger ‘ids’, while others have stronger ‘super-egos’. This should be obvious in your daily life — look at yourself and those around you.
Mother Teresa and M. Gandhi, by all accounts were righteous and selfless people, even till death. A. Hitler, a mass murder. However, in all three cases, these were simply people, who through a mixture of nature and nurture became what they became. In the end, I’ve abandoned my previous view that “people are generally rubbish”. I accept that people simply temporal beings, capable of both good and bad. Generally speaking, they themselves are neither good nor bad.
By the way, remember the doctor saving kids. Well, later on while driving Decaprio and his two others to an airfield, they are stopped by a boy soldier. The doctor tries to reason with the boy, and convince him to let them pass. The boy shoots the doctor in the chest. Mmm, taste the irony.