When a student of animals describes a beast's behavior, it is
natural and accepted that he would speak of instincts and drives.
Some modern schools which would accent man's ability to reason and
minimize the role of preprogrammed directives dislike attributing to
men preprogrammed behaviors. The (expletive deleted) with them.
I'm going to talk of lions, wolves and men as sharing some basic drives. I'll review a drive. I'll show how the presence of that drive in moderation is healthy for the possessor and his dependents. In most cases, it can be shown that the lack of such a drive is not healthy, nor is an excess of that drive. When done, we'll have a partial list of basic drives which might partially define 'human nature'. At any time we can review our list of Wild West antagonists, and see that they share in various degrees all these drives.
This section defines how men are alike. In the next section we will examine cultures, and how the various Wild West antagonists twist the common drives to adapt to varying conditions.
Let's start with an easy drive. All lions, wolves, and men get hungry. Appetites result in eating, which is a healthy behavior. One with a too powerful hunger might over eat, and get fat, which is not so healthy. One with a weak hunger drive might not eat enough, which is not healthy either. All our antagonists get hungry. On the surface, hunger has nothing to do with the Wild West conflict, but we shall see about that later. One who responds to his hunger drive by eating in moderation might be a 'Good' man. One who stuffs his face in excess, perhaps ignoring the needs of others, might be drifting towards 'Evil'.
After hunger, let's move on to sex. There is a strong tendency among lions, wolves, men and other beasts for males and females to get together and produce young. At the center of normal acceptable behavior, you get affection, protection, nurturing and growth out of family behavior. At the abnormal extremes one might see rape, domestic violence, and dysfunctional families. It's getting easier to apply words like Good and Evil now, isn't it? Again, at first look, the above Wild West scenario has nothing at all to do with sex and family drives, any more than the hunger drive. Let's take a second look. What happens if the families of the Indian chief, farmer, cattlemen, or most anyone else has their supply of food threatened? As we shall see, the adults will do as necessary to feed the young.
On to the peer bond. While men (unlike wolves or lions) might hunt alone, they do not act and stand alone. Men of the same gender and age groups tend to gang together. Each Wild West antagonist in our example is the leader of a group of men that shares a common life style. Each member of each group might want to be a leader someday. There is a competition for status among each group. There are various traditions and prizes which determine who will lead should a crisis arrive. In a well working group, this competition for leadership might result in a more effective response to any external threat. Such behavior might be Good. Of course, bickering or excessive desire for status or leadership could divide the group or weaken it. Again, we drift towards Evil. Finally, if a potential member of the group is not inclined follow the group, it is weakened. Thus, the peer bond can be too weak.
Finally, there is the territorial instinct. For wolf or lion, each pack or pride must have enough land with enough game to feed the family. If intruders come, they are sensed, rejected, and driven off. It is easy to see the conflict for our western valley as an echo of an animal skirmish for territory. For men though, just land is not always sufficient. In a complex society, there are many resources that might be necessary for the members of the peer bond and their families to continue it's lifestyle. Would the cavalry fight to protect an valued ore found in the hills? How much will the railroad push for the smoothest possible grade on their projected route?
How can a man defending the land and resources necessary to feed his family and continue his way of life not be seen as Good? How can the outsider coming in to seize the homeland's resources not be seen as Evil?
What then is the Good man? He loves and protects his family. He protects the resources necessary that his family might thrive. He is a member of a group which uses similar resources, and is willing to defend them as necessary. What is an Evil man? He is a Good man, only more so.