One Geek's Opinion:

The Strongest Motivation Known to Human Nature

James H. H. Lampert

Copyright © James H. H. Lampert, 2004. All Rights Reserved Worldwide

This essay has been sitting in my in-box, sent from myself to myself, for over seven years.

If one studies enough history, one comes to the conclusion that there is a motivating factor in Human Nature that far exceeds such petty biological imperatives as hunger, self-preservation, and the drive to reproduce. Indeed, it has driven people to make the most ridiculous sacrifices, and to take the most insane risks, and to perpetrate unspeakable horrors upon others.

This motivating factor is the the loss, either realized or anticipated, of rights and privileges that an individual or group has long taken for granted.

Consider the Revolutionary War in America, and in particular, the Second Continental Congress. What motivated John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Richard Henry Lee, and others to seek Independence? Was it not the fact that the rights they'd long enjoyed as British Subjects, rights still enjoyed by those in England, were being eroded away? And what of those like John Dickinson, who vocally and vigorously opposed Independence? Were they not motivated by the anticipated loss of the peaceful prosperity and favorable trade they still enjoyed? Did they not fear that this source of their livelyhood, which they'd long taken for granted, would be lost forever if the Colonies broke away from England? And what of the Southern delegates, who walked out of Congress in protest of a clause in the Declaration of Independence deploring slavery? Even then, the Southern economy and social order were based almost entirely on slavery, while in the North, slavery had long-since ceased to be economically viable. Were the Southern delegates not driven by the fear that if that clause remained, it would lead inevitably to the abolition of slavery, and destroy everything their society took for granted?

And was it not the fear of the abolition of slavery that drove the Southern states to secede, when it was announced that Abraham Lincoln, a vocal advocate of abolition, had been elected President? But what of Lincoln's motivation for pursuing the Civil War? Why would he not have simply bid the South, "good-bye, and good riddance"? Because he knew that the entire country stood to lose something that everybody had long taken for granted: independence. If States were allowed to secede over disagreements, the entire country would soon degenerate into the same collection of squabbling independent nation-states it had been under the Articles of Confederation, a ripe target for any European power out to expand its empire.

Consider, too, the aftermath of the Civil War. Black Codes, "Jim Crow" laws, and the Ku-Klux Klan. Were they not efforts by Southern Whites to protect the political, economic, and social power they'd long taken for granted before the Civil War? And what of today? What of the dismantling, at the hands of Reactionary Republicans, of every social, political, economic, and environmental reform made in the last fifty years? Are the architects of these actions not simply seeking to regain what had, however justly, been taken from them? And is it not the prospect of losing those reforms the principal motivation driving those who are attempting to protect them?

But that's just one geek's opinion.

James H. H. Lampert
July 19, 2004

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