Human Nature Isn’t Perfect

Human nature has a wild side that needs to be tamed.  The preferred method is through culture and family.

The Western family – which most historians concede was an Etruscan/Roman construct – was based on the marriage of one man and one woman to produce and raise good citizens.  More importantly, Italic women were social equals with the right of divorce.  This differed markedly from most ancient cultures, including the Greeks and Jews, who treated women as social inferiors.  Our family system came to be a pillar of Western civilization…until now.

Human nature is breaking free of its cultural constraints, not an altogether good thing. The very definitions of marriage, gender, and parenthood have gone fuzzy. Not surprisingly, Italians are among the most resistant to the new wave. In Italy, a number of social changes have been non-starters: gay marriage, surrogate motherhood, gay adoption, in vitro fertilization for unmarried couples, cloning, and gender neutrality in language.

Most Italian Americans are as conservative on these issues as Italians. But the world around us is intent on undoing what we consider our “better nature.”

The Swedes are on the cutting edge of denying gender differences. They have conjured up a pronoun for humans that is neither “he” nor “she.” They started an experimental school that encourages boys to scream and girls to protest and complain. Globally, the LGBT movement is determined to open all the doors to human sexuality. A person’s gender can now be changed by dress, by outlook (”identity”), by surgery, and now by revised birth certificates in some states.

Many schools are undertaking early-age programs to create more scientific women.  On paper, anyone can transition from left-brain social worker to right-brain rocket scientist.  Science has done some amazing work with gene tinkering but when did we cross into brain-switching? Not all men, nor all women, are innately “maths.” So, I’m skeptical that biology is going to be fooled by trading Barbie dolls for erector sets.

Definitions are falling by the wayside as human nature is being untethered. The three main human races, we are now told, are merely “social” constructs even if they have stark physical differences. The family, like gender, can be anything you want it to be. It can even be a dirty word.

In 1958, political scientist Edward Banfield published the book The Moral Basis of a Backward Society, in which he ascribed the poverty in a southern Italian village to “amoral familism.” In short, each family thought only of its own welfare, shunning community service and cooperative efforts. That term was maliciously applied to Italian Americans as well to explain the Cosa Nostra and our “insularity,” particularity during the Howard Beach and Bensonhurst racial incidents. Banfield’s study is getting new life by folks who want to take the shine off traditional families. But what’s the replacement?

I was shocked to learn that 90% of births among 20 to 24-year old Black women are out of wedlock. The figure for Hispanic women is 70%, for Whites 56%, and for Asians 40%. The percentage of these moms that are raising children without their fathers is not precisely known. But you can be sure, that many fathers opted out as soon as they got the “bad” news. Will society be better off as it reverts to a wild natural state?  Even “amoral familism” seems more viable.

Despite their poverty and petty jealousies, the Italians observed in Banfield’s study retained their financial independence, their family bonds, and work ethic. Aren’t these qualities better in the long run than uncontrolled human nature?    ̶ JLM

2 thoughts on “Human Nature Isn’t Perfect”

  1. The small village culture of Italy (both northern and southern) has been the subject of numerous books and movies. The book “Christ Stopped at Eboli” by Carlo Levi is a good example, based on the author’s exile prior and during WWII to a small southern Italian village, where he is first shocked by the strange lifestyle, but comes to empathize with the villagers. When we compare such places in the Italy of that era with Appalachia in the same era, there would certainly be much in common. Isolation, hoplessness, pessimism, poverty, and lack of education would be present to essentially the same degree in both populations. One can only speculate about how much of the small-village culture of our ancestors remains with us to the present day in the U.S.

  2. I take strong exception to Mr. Banfield’s assessments on a number of accounts, but for the sake of brevity I will start by stating he has a myopic view of Southern Italian history. Due to foreign domination and its concomitant corruptions, the Southern Italian family became a bulwark of survival. “Poverty” also ensued from these outside “overlords” who could be in my estimation targeted as “amoral” or more precisely “immoral”. There were not any vehicles for “community service” afforded them during the times of mass emigration.

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