We are free to exercise restraint, and we ought to do just that

Man’s inclination to serve his own interest is testified in history and in all forms of story telling. It is apparent observing the young, and obvious when we look in the mirror. So much so that it can go without saying that this inclination must be born of our very human nature.

It is equally obvious that examples of insatiable greed or lust can be found amongst any people during any age. History offers virtually limitless examples and we are not surprised when we hear of such people today. He or she is just a type that humans produce over and over again, like cancer.

Jeffrey Epstein may join the ranks of Caligula and the Marquis de Sade as that type that is driven by the lust of the flesh. We have many captains of industry today that may join the ranks of John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and J. Paul Getty as those who appear to be driven by the desire to build a commercial empire at all costs. Alexander the Great, Caesar, and Napoleon were all driven to conquer and reorganise society.

But unbridled lust or ambition is not only the domain of the infamous or great or those that become so. The peasant may be as much a slave to his passions, the difference being in the scale and appearance. The poor man wallows in the mire of his depravity, while the rich man basks in the glory of his decadence. Both may destroy themselves and others, but the name of the poor man is merely cursed and his gravestone spit upon. The vices of the great man shake the foundations of society.

Another difference between the two is how each is dealt with. The poor man that burns with passion, greed, or ambition may be kept in check by fear of strong neighbours or the police. The powerful man by kings and armies.

Unbridled lust or ambition always ends badly, or at least in hindsight the observer or historian will be able to see the trail of wreckage.

My question is, can those that burn thus stop themselves from acting upon it? You would think so because presumably, there are those who do. There must be those that, realising the danger to themselves and others, keep their compulsion under control via self-discipline and good decisions.

Thus their never-done misdeeds are uncounted and unknown, like the unsung guard at the city’s gate who does nothing but his job, never taking bribes to turn a blind eye, much less betraying his city for a bag of gold. Though he may be tempted.

Free will is a perplexing topic, but I choose to believe that we have it, and that it ought to be exercised for the good of others, and the suppression of our all-too-human instinct to cause harm.

M.C. Atkins

1 thought on “We are free to exercise restraint, and we ought to do just that”

  1. Precisely. “It [free will] ought to be exercised for the good of others, and the suppression of our all-too-human instinct to cause harm.”

    Just today in the school library, I was reading about J.P. Morgan in a book on the Titanic. It noted that he bought the White Star Line (the owner of the RMS Titanic) and other shipping companies just so he could raise prices for trans-Atlantic transportation. Not nice.


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