“People can change for the better”–Daily Metta

September 20:

gandhi-21“My faith in human nature is irrepressible and even under the circumstances of a most adverse character.”

–Gandhi (Young India, January 1, 1920)

Faith in human nature sounds naive and foolish. But why should it be? For those who long for a nonviolent alternative to our educational, political, and even criminal justice systems, Gandhi’s words should sink in deeply. We need, like him, “an irrepressible” faith in human nature. This is logical: the view that we have of human nature helps us decide how to be with one another in society, how to treat one another when we’ve transgressed social contracts. (True, not all prisons in the world function as do those currently in the United States, where punishment is primary and rehabilitation and reintegration are afterthoughts, if that.) We need to begin our institution-building from a strong foundation: Human beings can transform themselves and their behaviors in positive directions. Even those who have chosen violence. And Gandhi’s not talking about just people who’ve insulted us personally or who have made bad personal choices. He wants us to think broadly–this is the purpose of so-called faith: even politicians and dictators. That’s a tough one. It really is. Not that such people deserve to have the kind of power they once exercised, but we cannot deny them their basic, fundamental human worth if we want to create something else.

Approaching the world this way frees us from suspicion — that we might not even know we have — of one another; the distrust that’s a cultural by-product of the messages from the commercial mass media, telling us time and again that satisfaction comes from competition and peace from consuming.

Undoing our collective lack of faith in human nature will require us to unplug from such media, or at least, shine a new light on its real message.


Experiment in Nonviolence:

Examine today your faith in human nature. Can people change for the better?