Much has been written and spoken about the nature of humans, but not much thought has been given to what the term truly implies. We ponder whether or not people are cooperative or competitive, whether they are good or evil and why they insist on eating themselves to death. There is no end to the speculation over which course we would take if we were uncorrupted and unspoiled by society.
Whether by gender binaries, racial stereotypes or cultural norms, our character is cultivated to make us behave in unpredictable and even obscene ways. But the topic we will discuss here is not about how humans behave in a society but, rather, the quintessence of the human creature. We do not study the nature of felines by watching domesticated cats, so why would we study domesticated humans? We want to know about human instinct, behavior and inclination, not why Teddy always plays with the green pipe cleaner. What is our natural state, if unimpeded by other humans?
To find the answer we shall turn to Romulus and Remus. No, we’re not talking about Star Trek: Nemesis (R.I.P., Data), we’re talking about feral children. There are many legends from ancient times about children who were raised by wild beasts, and from these cases we cannot draw many conclusions. But in recent decades there have been several documented cases of children who endured prolonged isolation and neglect. If there is a true human nature, a behavior which is unadulterated by pressures and perceptions, this is it.
So how does a feral child behave? Children rescued from extreme conditions show little or no ability to verbally communicate, undeveloped or absent social skills and impaired motor function. Having skipped the critical developmental period for language learning, they have an intensely difficult time learning to either communicate with or relate to other people. They often seem uninterested in interacting with other humans, instead preferring solitude. Learning to use cups, cutlery, or even the toilet is nearly impossible. Some even have trouble learning to stand and walk.
Robert H. Bork said, “Every new generation constitutes a wave of savages who must be civilized by their families, schools, and churches.” He was right. Every human born into this world enters as a feral child and it is only by the conventions of society, whatever they be, that the child is rescued from savagery.
What are we, then? Filthy, detached, silent and inept – this is human nature.