SUNDAY, JANUARY 18, 2009

I’m progressing through my prison journey. I’ve read a considerable amount of classical literature, most of which I’d already read in high school or college. During those stages in my life, I failed to grasp the subject. I suppose I read enough simply to pass the exam. It was not until I entered prison that I took the time to truly embrace many of the profound messages that have lasted for centuries.

Recently I finished reading the 17th Century thoughts of John Locke and Thomas Hobbs. Hobbs believed that the fear of consequences represented the primary force behind human motivations. Hobbs suggested that man was inherently an evil beast. He felt convinced that society could only exist through strict rules and laws. Locke, in his essay on human understanding, argued a contrary position. Locke insisted that man entered the world with a clean slate or tabula rasa. He said that no man was inherently evil or good, but that human behavior had its root in what we learned from our own experiences.

I agree more with Locke than Hobbs. As a child I was influenced by the good role models around me. Through sports I learned and lived by the virtues of good citizenship. After graduating from USC, however, I moved into a different crowd. By immersing myself in the world of finance, I became exposed to values of a lower order. The potential threat of laws did not stop my slide into behavior that violated the laws of both ethics and the criminal code. As Locke had written more than 300 years before, I learned bad behaviors from the environment in which I had immersed myself.

The good news is that through the lessons I’ve learned from prison, I’ve armed myself with new learnings that will help me and others going forward.

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