Born Lazy

“What will you do with the lazy (or greedy, or selfish) people, who will want to take everything and give nothing?”

We often hear this objection to Socialism, from opponents who think that a social system in which wealth would be freely available to everybody must collapse, because it is somehow contrary to “human nature”. To these objectors, we are all, because of “human nature”, basically lazy (or greedy, or selfish).

In fact, the term “human nature”—the need for food, air, water and so on, and some biological peculiarities—can only apply to those characteristics which are unalterably human. Laziness, greediness and the like are only aspects of human behaviour. These are not unalterable—they are often fostered in us by the acquisitive and competitive nature of property society: some of them, indeed, are taught to us from our earliest days. There is a lot of evidence to show that, when the conditions are right, human beings do not behave in an anti-social manner.

For example, there has recently been published the translation of Jens Bjerre’s most interesting account of the latest Danish Kalahari Expedition, when he spent several months living with the Kung Bushmen at Samangeigei. This is what Mr. Bjerre says about the Bushmen’s way of life:

“During the time we lived with the Bushmen, we never once witnessed a quarrel among them, which is surprising considering how close they live to each other and that they have to share everything together. The very fact that they live so intimately appears to give them a feeling of mutual dependence and confidence. . . . This natural feeling of solidarity within the clan begins in their childhood. Children are a kind of common possession. Even though mothers for preference look after their own children, they are just as often to be seen looking after other children—even suckling them if the child is hungry and its own mother is not on the spot. The older children eat sometimes with one, sometimes with another family—according to where they happen to be when they are hungry and when food is ready. The whole settlement is their home. The children help to collect firewood and food for the older people who cannot travel far, and sometimes they even sleep alongside them to keep them warm at night.
From the example of their elders they learn the code of behaviour which is the foundation of the clan’s unity; to share food and to assist each other in every way.”

Mr. Bjerre concludes this paragraph by saying:

“We white people, surely, have now reached the stage—with our hydrogen bombs and rockets—when we also must choose between living at peace with each other or obliterating ourselyes.”

These Bushmen are primitive people—they are, in fact, probably the oldest surviving human race. But they know that, were they to adopt the very forms of behaviour which so many in our “civilised” society call unchangeable “human nature”, they would destroy themselves. Humanity, also, will not willingly commit social suicide. The people of the world will establish Socialism because they want to live cooperatively, in a free and abundant society. They will, in fact, practice the “virtues” which the Kung Bushmen have kept up for so long.

E. C.

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