I asked Bronnie’s dad today, while he was eating his Progresso split-pea soup—his foot throbbing because he’d fallen off his wheelie thing twenty minutes before—if he thought that people were basically good or basically bad. I asked this because he’s had dealings, business and personal, with a lot of people over the last seventy-seven years, including Kennedys and Bushes and Fondas and Plaths and Kissingers and so on, and a lot of the stories he tells involve fighting high-end, white-collar crime and righting high-end, white-collar immoral wrongs. He said that he thought that the vast majority of people were basically not very “decent,” but that a small minority were.
He said that what made that small minority decent was the fact that they had some awareness that they were capable of behaving in very self-centered, selfish, and basically hurtful ways, and that they made a conscious effort to try to overcome these impulses to do what was best for them at someone else’s expense, in order to be decent. The example he used was simple: How often, when you’re in a crowded movie theatre, does someone raise their hand and say, “There’s a free seat over here.” He said that he believed that most people didn’t even know that they had a habit of behaving selfishly—they were oblivious to the fact that there was a possibility to even consider doing otherwise.
Anyway, I think this guy is one of the good guys, and one of the few people very much on my mind lately who is not a complete hypocrite.