Wishing You a Hopeful and Happy Thanksgiving

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Imagine an aeroplane makes an emergency landing and breaks into three parts. As the cabin fills with smoke, everybody inside realises: we’ve got to get out of here.

What happens?

On Planet A, the passengers turn to their neighbours to ask if they’re okay. Those needing assistance are helped out of the plane first. People are willing to give their lives, even for perfect strangers.

On Planet B, everyone’s left to fend for themselves. Panic breaks out. There’s lots of pushing and shoving. Children, the elderly and people with disabilities get trampled underfoot.

Now the question: which planet are we living on?

According to the book Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman, about 97% of people believe that we live on Planet B. This book systemically breaks down all of the various “evidence” supporting that assumption, and shows us that the historical evidence actually shows that we live on Planet A. The daily news machine loves to focus on the negative and outrageous. (I switched the letters initially, too sleepy from late-night Thanksgiving food prep!)

Let’s take Lord of the Flies. Most of us think we understand the story of those feral kids, but that’s a fictional book! Meanwhile, we have a real-world example of what happens when a group of young boys get marooned on a remote and uninhabited island. This excerpt from Humankind was republished in The Guardian: The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months.

I haven’t finished the book, but the basic idea is that the world could look very different if we assume that people are basically decent and naturally look to help others. Many things in life are self-fulfilling. Prisons are presented as an opportunity to implement. In the same way, perhaps we can change our own lives by assuming that others are basically decent. If someone cuts us off in traffic, perhaps they aren’t just a jerk but distracted and/or late for a job interview because their child is sick. (Besides, getting angry only hurts us and not them.) Assuming the good in people allows you to ask others for help, and makes you more likely to help others. This can lead to better job opportunities, better friends, who knows? A better life? You may get burned once in a while, but on the whole it is better to lean toward the positive, virtuous cycle. (Don’t be reckless, of course.)

I’m sure that many of you have had an extraordinarily difficult year, in ways that I can’t even imagine. Still, there are many reasons to be hopeful. Thank you for reading. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Comments

  1. B

  2. Do you have A and B mixed up?

  3. I think you flip-flopped A & B…

  4. This is a trick question.

    If the plane breaks into three parts, the cabin would never fill with smoke – it would dissipate into the outside air through the broken fuselage.

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