The Boomer Bible, by R.F. Laird, describes a way of life called Harrierism, named for its supposed proponent, Harry. The book presupposes that people have a natural tendency to be Harriers, and I agree.
The book contains many descriptions of the philosophy, including "the way of not thinking," and "the path of desire, certainty, and blame," but I shall characterize it thusly: Harriers do not do what is right; they do what is easiest at the moment. You can extrapolate a tremendous amount from this.
Imagine a hypothetical eight-year-old child who breaks a window while his father is home. The father decides to wait until the mother returns from work before deciding on an appropriate punishment. An hour later, the father steps out to the corner store, and while he is away, the mother arrives and asks her son about the broken window. The child makes up a story about a neighborhood kid throwing a rock through it. While the mother is enraged and on the phone with mother number two, who disclaims any involvement by her son, the father returns home. The child is now in a heap of trouble.
Why did the child lie? After all, he knew that his mother would find out the truth in a matter of minutes. Any amount of thinking would have caused him to realize that he would be better off telling the truth, or even refusing to answer. But no. The easiest thing to do, right then, was to lie about it and not think about the consequences. He is a Harrier, as are most children. He may grow out of it.
Imagine a pair of friends, whom we will call "him" and "her" or, alternately, "he" and "she". They care about each other, and enjoy lots of time together. Something about him makes her uncomfortable. Not as uncomfortable as telling him would be, though. So she doesn't say anything. They enjoy more time together, and he is blissfully unaware that anything is amiss. Finally, she finds that spending time with him is not worthwhile; he makes her too uncomfortable. But telling him would still be difficult. So she abandons him; it's a lot easier than trying to talk about something that she doesn't want to talk about. He is hurt, and wants to talk with her, to know why she is avoiding him. Well, now she certainly can't talk to him; his pain, and the knowledge that she had directly caused it, would discomfort her quite a bit. And she really doesn't want to face the fact that she is causing him pain. So she doesn't return his calls. Which hurts him more. And so on.
Had she thought about the consequences of avoiding him1, she would have realized that he would be much more hurt, and she much more uncomfortable, than if she had talked to him. Quite possibly she did realize it. But future considerations are no considerations at all; she did what was easiest for her to do at the moment, disregarding what she knew to be right. She is a Harrier. Harriers do not deal with their problems. They ignore them and hope that they'll go away, or they'll actively run away from them. This is not to say that Harriers are never motivated to strive for anything. In fact, their desire to avoid things that they don't like is frequently the driving force in their lives. The distinction between striving for and striving against was described by the rhetor Grant Gould, when he said:
If I am the king of my world, free, enlightened, with nothing to strive against, striving toward is an option -- I can take a break for an hour, take a bath, pick my toenails for awhile.
If I am, however, an oppressed peon, downtrodden, abused, resentful, and being chased by wolves, striving against is not an option. If I don't strive against, I am one hundred seventy pounds of Grade B People Steak, USDA Approved.
Hence, there tends to be more striving against than striving toward, and people do more striving when they're being chased by wolves than otherwise.
Striving toward takes resolve. Striving against takes about one-half generation of evolution...2
The phenomenon of running away from the bad but not toward the good can explain such odd behavior as follows: Boy and Girl meet, are attracted to each other, and become Boyfriend and Girlfriend. They grow to care deeply for each other, but somehow Boyfriend never goes out of his way for Girlfriend, and refuses to communicate about problems. The relationship gets strained, and despite Girlfriend's desperate efforts to understand him and fix the problems, he offers no help. Boyfriend becomes Ex-Boyfriend. He misses Ex-Girlfriend, but he would be uncomfortable calling her. So he doesn't call. After a couple of weeks, Ex-Boyfriend misses Ex-Girlfriend so much that the pain of being without her is worse than the discomfort of calling; he calls her. He tells her how much he loves and misses her. She is heartened. Ex-Boyfriend becomes Boyfriend. The cycle starts again.
He may genuinely love her, but this fact does not imply that he will put effort into treating her well. One of the hardest things for simple people to grok about Harriers is that they do not work toward that which they value. Their behavior is frequently contrary to their goals.
Harriers tend to cause problems for others not only through their remarkable irresponsibility, but also through their neuroses. Throughout their lives, they have to lie to themselves about the reasons for their actions. They adjust the facts to justify what they've done, but these justifications are fragile and cannot bear scrutiny. So they have to be very careful to dodge any glimpses into their own souls. They absolutely dread being analyzed, for fear of what might be found, or found lacking. Any well-meaning person who reaches out and tries to understand a Harrier is in for a rough time when they meet the stone wall.
Harriers cannot understand good people, either. Being unable to identify with it, they cannot understand that someone might be driven by a simple, righteous motive. They will frequently assume that all claims thereto are lies or self-deception. A person who remains a romantic and idealist even after getting burned will mystify a Harrier. This alone wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that Harriers will treat all people as though they too are Harriers, regardless of evidence to the contrary. They will act on the assumption that everybody is complicated. And when they harm someone who then tells them, "No, really, we'll both be better off if you tell me the truth," they do not believe it. This is not willful; they simply cannot make use of this information, as it is alien to them.
Lack of understanding also works hand-in-hand with lack of motivation. Harriers lack honor because they do not see how it makes sense to have honor, even had they the strength to uphold it.
It is easy to be deceived about the nature of Harriers, for some of them can be great people to associate with, if they like their companions, or if they at least tolerate their companions and like what they are doing together. Yet, a Harrier can wrong their supposed "friend," then feel bad that something bad had happened to them, but feel no remorse for what they had done. They can appreciate efforts on their behalf, but have no inclination to return favors if it would cost them some effort. They can commit an immoral act, have the obvious lesson explicitly pointed out, claim to have learned from it, then do the exact same thing a month later. They place completely irrational expectations on people, based solely on their own desires, with no considerations of the others' situations.
Harriers, even when they are not being deliberately cruel, are capable of deliberately committing acts known to be cruel, and not thinking about that bit. Actions that clearly imply malicious intent against a supposedly loved one can actually be the result of supreme, even deliberate inconsideration. They are not trying to cause pain; they are just doing what they want to do, and not allowing the knowledge of the pain they will cause to interfere with what they want to do. Thoughtless? Yes. Heartless? Yes. Vicious? No more so than a falling rock. On the other hand, a reason for ill-treatment is by no means an excuse for it.3
I tell you this not in an effort to be disparaging of the majority of humanity, but to reveal the nature of their motivation. People of simplicity will have tremendous difficulty thinking within the paradigm of Harriers, and can easily get hurt by them. I hope that this explanation can aid at least some such unfortunate souls in understanding the motives of their malefactors.
2. In this quotation, Mr. Gould is explaining why achievement on a societal level requires adversity; he is not addressing the issue of Harrierism itself.
3. Answers: Free Will or Determinism: Footnote 4