A couple years ago a friend and I started a long (and ongoing) debate about determinism vs. free will. She was (and is) completely in the determinism camp, believing that everything we do is simply the culmination of everything that has come before so that no action great or small is a decision, it is simply where all the little daily influences have been leading us all along.
And I understand that… but I don't see it as something detrimental or fatalistic. I guess a lot of people have a huge problem with the determinism idea because they can't let go of the notion that they are in control of everything they do. I don't think I've ever considered myself in control in the first place. I know that I like certain music because my parents liked it when I was growing up. I know that my political views have been influenced by people I've met. All my likes and dislikes have been due to people, culture, and random radio ads.
That's fine. Whatever. We're all brainwashed in one way or another.
Which is why I am actually seeing a real positive to determinism today. I realized that – without decisions – no one chooses to be evil (or stupid), they've simply grown into the only individuals their environments, genes, social positions could produce. So when people are being intolerant or cruel, there is not so much a malicious intent behind their actions, but rather a long ugly background. It's the intent I've imagined behind people's cruelty that has made their cruelty that much more painful. Looking at their actions as the end result of anything and everything they've ever been through, I can see them as human again. Humans with an unfortunate history. I don't think they're hopeless. I think they just need some different influences in their lives in order to go a different direction. Maybe you and I are – unknowingly – those different influences. Imagine that.