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  1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Are we defined by what we were at our worst?

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Link the Writer, Oct 1, 2015.

    So once again the webcomic I've been reading has inspired me to make a new thread. This time it's not about escapism, but about the morals it's teaching.

    In short, by what I read in the comic and in the forums, who we are is summed up by what we were at our absolute lowest point. With all of 'society's masks' taken off. Us, just plain us at our most vulnerable moment. Examples in the forums were drawn up including a mother losing her temper and snapping at her children, then regretting it. The author said that while it's all fine and good to want to try and be better, it doesn't change the fact that at the core, the kind of person the mother really is, is someone who is bad-tempered and snaps at those she loves. Or if someone gets cut off in line, they fantasize doing something violent to that person. They're just the type of person who likes to fantasize doing bad things to people who they feel wrong them.

    I kind of disagree because people are much more complicated than that. The same mother who snapped at her children in one 'lowest point' would be the same one that would defend and protect them in another 'lowest point'. That same person who fantasized doing violent things to the person who cut them off in line might probably be the same person who would save the other person from drowning if the time ever came. It has to do with the context of what's going on, how the person is feeling at any given time, etc. Sometimes they explode and do things they later regret. Does it mean how they acted is what they really are with all of the 'masks' removed? That no matter what, no matter how they hide it, they're exactly what they were when they made the mistake?

    So what are your thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015
  2. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I always used to think so. But let's say you're a monster of a person. You are selfish, egotistical, and quick to anger. Deep down you KNOW you are the center of the universe. It's a built in knowledge you can't erase. But, when calm, you're a reasonable enough person to realize that those thoughts make no sense. The universe probably doesn't revolve around you, and society would probably run a lot better if people were not like how you really are. So you work hard at being the best person you can be. You get a job that you believe is beneficial to society, you always make a point to be considerate and respectful, you always try to make things easy for you so that you can do favors for other people, if needed. For example, you don't procrastinate, that way, you're never too busy to do a favor.

    The above of course all applies to when things are going well for you. When things are not going well, when you're near a deadline, or you're in traffic, or, in short, when there is a deviation from the master plan, you flip a shit. You get extremely upset, you wish everyone would die, and if asked to do a favor for someone, at this particular moment, you may very well decline. At this point, your main priority is to get things back to "well," so that you can be the decent, constructive human being you strive to be. Sort of like the wolf man who tries to chain himself before every full moon. So, should the person, who works hard at being a good person, but at his worst, is shit, be judged by who he is at his worst, his best, or both?
     
  3. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think anyone is capable of anything given the right circumstances. Many things keep us in check, but most importantly the evolved reciprocal relationships we rely on as a social animal (above society or law or religion or any other construct). Once those reciprocal relationships become an impediment to survival anyone becomes capable of anything, and the only thing that might overcome that basic need for survival might be the survival of our offspring. For people to break down to that level, basic survival would have to become the norm rather than an exception.

    SO in conclusion, if I was escaping a sinking ship, I would put children in the life rafts first. If I was escaping a sinking ship for the thousandth time I would put myself first (maybe). Does that knowledge make me bad? No, I just know I would be capable of bad acts in the most extreme of circumstances.
     
  4. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's so many shades, though.

    You have people who would go down with the ship, people who put their children first over other children and consider themselves good people anyway (ugh), and then you have people who would hog a whole life boat just for themselves, because extra people on the life boat are not worth the risk of it sinking.
     
  5. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Alas I am a very good swimmer so I would take my chances, so probably a bad example. Parachutes in a crashing plane... I wouldn't know until the situation arose. I like to think I would put them on the kids first. Would I in reality? I wouldn't know until the situation arose.
     
  6. jorel
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    jorel Member

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    Whenever I think about something like this, I tend to confuse myself. By now (after millions of years of humans creating different types of society and norms) it seems impossible to me to imagine a person without these masks. Even if we manage to think one up, who we see is still a product of our own influences, personality, knowledge, world views and expectations (etc. etc.) so that it's again something crafted.

    Anyway, to me, someone's reaction to their own actions is more telling than the actions themselves. There's an immense difference between the person who hurts and regrets and the one who couldn't care less. Same action, different reaction.
    And we have to remember, we are all (to a certain degree) victims of our emotions.

    In the end, how we interact socially (be it with children or in traffic) depends on our own emotional recourses. Snapping at someone happens easy, but often it says more about the situation (maybe they're in a hurry), their experience (maybe this situation happens all the time or it could trigger a painful memory), the setting (maybe it's embarrassing or inappropriate) and probably some other factors than it does about the person doing it.

    It comes down to coping mechanisms and those can be learned. So, is someone a bad person for as long as they don't have the tools to handle a situation non-aggressively? And then they become a good person once they do? And what about mentally ill people? Are they bad for not acting "acceptably"?

    I don't know if this theory would hold up in other instances. For example, voluntary manslaughter is an extreme reaction and very definitive and very much irreparable.

    Long story short: it's complicated.
     
  7. Moth
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    Moth Active Member

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    The lowest point in our life? No, we all change and all have the chance to become better people. Redemption 'n' all that.

    The lowest point we reach as the people we are today? No, I don't think so. I think we are who we choose to be. Sometimes we slip up and do something wrong, let out emotions or dark thoughts. But I don't think that defines us.

    There's the exception and there's the rule. Is you're sometimes an asshole, well that sucks but you can't help it - everyone slips up. It's the exception. If you're a constant asshole day-in, day-out, then that's the rule. Of course, if you've every played Monopoly with me, you'll know that rules can change if you want them to change badly enough.
     
  8. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's a fairly simplistic idea to entertain, just another attempt to define who we truly are. But say Mom has been in horrible chronic pain for the past two years. She's tired, irritable, and the kid flings poo at the wall 'cause she thinks it's funny how Mommy always has to clean shit up. Literally. So she snaps at her. But what about three years ago when she wasn't in pain? Would she have had more patience? It's perfectly possible.

    As for the other example, if anyone ever invents a machine that can show us who we truly are, in my case it would most likely show me that I really am that person who fantasizes about sinking an axe into some jerk's skull when s/he cuts off in line.
     
  9. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Character is tested by low points and high ones -- power is a drug without compare. We're all susceptible to bad moods, so snapping on your kids is not a very good indicator. If, however, this is chronic and disproportionate to the circumstance then one's personality might not allow one to behave as they wish they could or what is considered normal. Then there is the truly low points, like what choices someone will make when they have little money or similar dire situations, some will act in line with their constitution and others will make exception. This is a true test of character. People like Ghandi or MLK are considered great for their ability to remain peaceful in the face of violence, and while they are extreme examples, isn't much of our gossip and what makes villains villains in fiction based on our perception of how others act in their predicaments?
     
  10. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is no such thing as "who we really are". We are "defined" by our entire current state.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015
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