The need for understanding human nature can go beyond a philosophical quest. Even though we need a philosophical understanding to frame the intricate relationships of humans. From the philological to the psychological this understanding of the human nature provides a reference that allow us to see how we can be better stewards of the environment.
This past weeks in our course Earthkeeping we had conversations around Harding's paper "The Tragedy of the Commons" trying to analyze why recently in our modern, western, capitalistic society properties that are based on communities appear to be neglected or that no one at the citizen level has the feeling of ownership. A case in point is the recent conflict in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Forest where some armed protesters took the land violently and claimed that the land should be "returned to the rightful owners". These occupiers were not at all informed about who the owners are and who the owners were, for sure the local residents now have never been private owners of that land. And, the officers working for the federal government are in a way representatives of the United States citizenry.
This morning news from a terrorist attack in Brussels Belgium make us think about the nature of humans that are willing to die terrorizing people who are just going through their daily lives. What is it in their humanity that incites them to act in this way? The apparent motive is, according to what they claim, a fight for the liberation of their religion. But in closer analysis we can understand that these actions have nothing to do with religion. There is something deeper here!
Humans have a need for a sense of belonging, a sense of being together with their own kind. This sense sometimes implies a definition of the other, a separation between oneself and others that are in some way different. This can be accomplished by looking at color of skin, country of origin, or any other cultural difference. The reality is that there are many sources of these differences that historically have been used to separate, and make enemies of "the other."
As the news are describing what happened in Brussels, political characters are taking the opportunity to advance their agenda. From the ones that support stronger military actions and occupations, to those (a minority) who are calling for more "intelligence" to deal with the threat of terrorism. There are few who are calling for an understanding of the nature of these humans who are acting in a way that disrupts the positive progress of our society.
A question one may ask is: Why are the terrorists acting in a counter-cultural way?
Apparently, there is a lack of understanding of what the commons means. When people see how some industries are polluting the environment without regards for the common good. When people see that our planet is one and we all live in the same place, making pollution to become global even though it might be produced locally. When we see how a terrorist attack thousand of miles away from where you live is "not that far away." The idea and sense of "the commons" today has to change, we now have a technological infrastructure that allows immediate communication that brings us all together in a single humanity.
After all, we are all humans!