For the young, inquisitive mind, there is no shortage of fundamental questions to contemplate to the point of madness. Of all these questions, though, one stands above even the chicken or egg dilemma and wondering how Paris Hilton was ever allowed to put out an album - are humans inherently good or evil?One enters into the debate at his or her own peril, for once it starts there is no simple ending to be had and the back and forth can go on for hours. It is a bit like putting a microphone in front of Don Cherry's face.
For every point made in the discussion, a counterpoint is readily available. People pull together to help strangers after disasters, one might say, but the rebutter can throw back "disaster capitalism" or the countless calamities caused by man throughout history that have ruined innocent lives.
Is the love exhibited by two people united or that of a mother toward her young a sign that humans are good as gold, or does the fact that the KFC Double Down is again being offered in Canada show that humanity is consumed by a desire to destroy first everything in its path and then our internal organs?
But let us get back to that later. Consider instead the most essential of all human traits.
Many arguments could be made for what this is. Disregarding physical abilities such as sight or the opposable thumb, central functions such as breathing or reasoning and assuming fear is a necessary trait common in all creatures and not just us; there is a plenitude of characteristics one could suggest are the most essential to survive and thrive.
Is the human capacity for love the most necessary? Could we not live without being capable of compassion? Perhaps our ancestors never would have survived without the ability to laugh and experience pleasure? I don't want to remind anyone of the Destiny's Child era, but 'no, no, no.'
I humbly submit the argument that the absolutely most necessary human characteristic is trust. It could also be called the most fickle and confounding - and Stephen Harper's least favourite word.
Shakespeare told us to trust few, Stalin said he trusted no one - not even himself - but one cannot live like that. One must trust hundreds of people to survive.
Things were different in Shakespeare's time, but he still had to trust, if unconsciously, that people around would not enter his security system-less home and kill him or set his thatched roof on fire. Assuming he did not make Georgian wine and Russian vodka himself, Stalin had to have trusted those who did make the drinks he commonly imbibed to bacchanalia.
Today, we are forced to extend trust even further. Most of our food comes down the supply chain into supermarkets and then our refrigerators, our vehicles come from other countries and the homes that keep us warm and dry could have been built decades ago by people who thought the only problem with asbestos is that it is sort of hard to spell.
Because we produce so few, if any, of the things that we as individuals depend on every day, we need to rely on complete strangers to keep us alive.
If we were void of feelings of trust, we simply could not function in this day and age. And if we could not trust other people, we would be doomed to live alone, and humanity would die off. While procreation does not necessarily, love does stem from trust.
There are different levels of trust, sure, but it is undeniable that we place an incredible amount of trust in governments, corporations and millions of poor Chinese workers we will never encounter and whose names we cannot pronounce.
What is particularly remarkable to consider is how trust remains despite how many times we have been burned by trusting in others. Governments have betrayed it, the capitalist system is fraught with reasons for why societies should not trust corporations and every day there is a story of a neighbour, family member, or priest betraying the trust of people close to them. Yet when governments blow our money we do not espouse a shift to anarchism, nor did we stop eating deli meat after the listeriosis outbreak in Maple Leaf products.
Obviously this is because going off the grid, so to speak, is barely possible. We maintain what might be called a begrudging trust because being completely self-sufficient would be too hard.
So we need to trust, and we need to trust widely. Bringing it all back home, maybe, just maybe, that fact gives us the answer to the good versus evil debate - we trust millions of people throughout our lives, many of whom owe us no particular kindness, and most of the time our trust is rewarded.
Sounds 'good' to me.
Myles Fish can be reached at 691-1263.