Member Rara Avis
Marilyn, I'm not sure I can see any real comparison between self-destructive behavior on a personal level versus on a social level. Almost by definition, a person is self-destructive in spite of self interests. But what many consider self-destructive in society is usually the result of someone promoting their self interests, if at the costs of others. The results may seem similar, but the cause is much different.
I'm also not entirely certain I would agree with what is and isn't self-destructive in society. Every generation for the past 5,000 years has thought the world was turning to crap. We're still here. Imperfect, unfinished, but getting better all the time.
I'm not sure, Brad, where you got good versus bad, nor the need to define either. We were, indeed, talking about self-destructive behavior (or, at least, I was). I'm not sure whether bad, i.e., evil, applies to that kind of behavior, but it sure ain't good. Not for those plagued by it.
I don't think the animal behaviors you describe are analogous to the kind of behavior I call self-destructive, except perhaps in the strictest sense. The man who goes off to war or the woman who rushes into a fire to save a child are, in that strict sense, self-destructive, but certainly not in the sense being discussed. If I had to define self-destructive behavior is would be habitually doing something that hurts for seemingly no obvious gain. That's not the same as sacrifice, nor simply making mistakes.
I agree that latter influences in life exist and, in some instances, can be extremely powerful. I know, for me, that was certainly true. I'm not sure choice is as much a factor as chance, and maybe that was your point.
And, yea, I'm very well aware of the seeming paradox between assigning blame and take responsibility. I've personally never had any problem ascribing to both. I firmly believe that most of a person's personality is defined within the first two years of life. Unlike Kamla, I think there are things you can never unlearn (try forgetting your first language, for example). The best we can do is learn to understand them and try to lessen their influence in our lives. At the same time, however, I just as firmly believe that everything that happens in our lives is a direct result of our own choices. Those choices are not preordained unless we willingly relinquish control.
Put another way? For many of us, it's very hard to not be self-destructive. But no one ever said life was easy.