If the accumulated knowledge of Western civilization has anything of value to offer us at this point, it is an awareness of just how much is possible when it comes to human life. Our otherwise foolish scholars of history and sociology and anthropology can at least show us this one thing: that human beings have lived in a thousand different kinds of societies, with ten thousand different tables of values, ten thousand different relationships to each other and the world around them, ten thousand different conceptions of self. A little traveling can show you the same thing, if you get there before Coca-Cola has had too much of a head start.
That's why I can't help but scoff when someone refers to "human nature," invariably in the course of excusing himself for a miserable resignation to our supposed fate. Don't you realize we share a common ancestor with sea urchins? If differing environments can make these distant cousins of ours so very distant from us, how much more possible must small changes in ourselves and our interactions be! If there is anything lacking (and there sorely, sorely is, most will admit) in our lives, anything unnecessarily tragic or meaningless in them, any corner of happiness that we have not yet thoroughly explored, then all that is needed is for us to alter our environments accordingly. "If you want to change the world, you first must change yourself," the saying goes; we have learned that the opposite is true.
Continues at Deoxy.org