Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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A few too many times these past few weeks, I’ve opened the newspaper to find some general update about the situation in Ukraine. Every time it reads the same – Russian occupation of Crimea… Putin and Obama refusing to cooperate… entire European community in crisis. You might think it’s naive to think that the solution to a complex, international incident of such scope could be reduced to a single sentence (and you’d be right), but here goes: Why can’t we all just get along?

Before you immediately dismiss that thought as some hippie, pacifist ideal, just think about it for a second. If 4000 years of recorded history can tell us anything, it’s that people are never able to be completely conflict free. Everyone can agree that we would all be much better off if everyone just got along, so what really motivates the leaders of these nations to cause such disaster among others? Maybe if that question can be answered, the effects of their actions can be mitigated.

The obvious answer is self interest. The drive to put one’s country in the best position that it can be is extremely strong, since it stems from people’s innate tendency to find strength in numbers. Unfortunately, there are limited resources and the interests of groups will start to conflict. This mindset creates a king-of-the-hill type scenario, where one group helps itself by taking away from others. In other words – people aren’t getting along.

So if the cause for all this conflict is people’s natural self interest, how can we ever be expected to get around it and actually start cooperating? The very fact that we can recognize the roots of our problems allows us to rise above them. Perhaps this is the true purpose of various international organizations like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. With an international mindset, where people work for the good of the human race as a whole, instead of wantonly invading sovereign nations whenever it suits them, there might be some hope for people getting along in the future.

Its probably too idealistic to truly hope that people will completely set aside their differences and work towards their mutual betterment. But just as I recognize that fact, I also recognize that it is dangerous to write off unnecessary aggressive actions as “just human nature.” As humans, I’d like to think that we’re more than our basic impulse of unrestrained self interest. And if not, at least it gives us an ideal to strive for – since in the end, we all just want to get along.