Instinct or Inclination?
I was watching Late Night With Jimmy Fallon the other night with guests Rachel Maddow and Colin Quinn, when I heard a quote that got me thinking. After a good deal of comedic banter, Jimmy asked Colin what he thought of the situation in Japan. His response was “I like that fact that after a few days of worrying about [Japan’s] nuclear fallout we’re like ‘hey, what about our nuclear reactors?’ It’s human nature, like when your friend goes ‘I lost my cell phone!’ and you’re like ‘hold on a sec…oh good I got mine—what were you saying about yours?’”
There is definitely a lot of truth to that statement. After a few days of coverage on the disaster in Japan, its back to wondering where we fit into the equation. Headlines about radiation poisoning our water supply, along with articles suggesting what would happen if our nuclear power plants experienced meltdowns have been extensive in the news. Stephen Colbert also satirized the situation with his report on Californians’ reaction to the crisis.
After all of this, I couldn’t help but think about Thomas Hobbes. Although I do not normally agree with his pessimistic idea about egoism, I think his theory can definitely be applied to the current situation in the United States. Both of Hobbes’ ideas—that human motivation is centered around one’s own self-interest, as well as how humans are constantly trying to avoid violent death—validate the reaction in America right now (Wootton).
According to Hobbes, it is in our nature to immediately worry about ourselves when something bad happens to someone else. Like he said, “the right of nature…is the liberty each man hath to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own nature; that is to say, of his own life” (Wootton). Although the example I am writing about is extreme, I think it’s safe to say that we can all relate to that ‘cell phone moment’ Colin Quinn described.
While I do not think that humans are purely self-centered, I do believe that Americans’ reaction to the disaster in Japan perfectly demonstrates Hobbes’ theory of egoism in human nature. It makes me wonder if it is a survival instinct or simply a selfish inclination?
Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche.
Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2008. Print.