Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A Darwinian View of (British) Society

 According to David Mitchell in last Sunday's Observer,
 "[public companies are] incapable of caring – they're merely trying to make money for their shareholders and believe that [the] affectation of human feelings will help them to do so. Conversely, Ryanair has attracted customers canny enough to know that a public company can only have mercenary motives but who are happy to do business with it anyway." (LINK to article)
These observations are valid and support my arguments relating to the  Darwinian nature of capitalism and society in general.

Public companies' "mercenary motives" are a consequence of them regarding not just the natural environment, with its natural resources, but also "society", with its human resources and markets (consumers), primarily as an environment to be exploited for profit, i.e. money. Money being the most versatile form of POWER, the pursuit and exercise of which man's primordial struggle for survival and reproductive success, misplaced and perverted in this artificial environment, has largely been reduced to.

This perverted Darwinian pursuit of POWER is the driving force behind the "rat race" we so often lament, but are resigned to, because that's "the way the system works", which is true enough, being so deeply rooted in our perverted Darwinian nature. And even those who do manage to escape the rat race, whether permanently or just temporarily, are still dependent on the products and services it provides.

Yet it is the rat race, this misplaced and perverted pursuit of POWER (especially in the form of MONEY) which is the primary cause of the non-sustainable human behaviour and activity now threatening us, and countless other species, with extinction. We are behaving like rats, because we are still dominated by our primitive animal nature, which has given rise to the pressures and power structures of state and economy that determine our collective behaviour.

Achieving sustainability, which our survival depends on, means putting an end to the rat race. This is the central challenge, once recognised, we must face up to.

The existing economic order is inherently unjust, inhumane and unsustainable, because it treats human society itself as an exploitable environment; and if anything, "socialist economics" of the now defunct Soviet empire, were even worse, so it cannot be just free-market capitalism which is to blame. It goes deeper than that.

Which is where a human-evolutionary perspective is necessary to reveal that it is not just the economy (whether "socialist" or capitalist), but the state too which is a product of our perverted Darwinian nature, with the task of maintaining and organizing society (under the pretence of serving it) for the purpose of facilitating its self-exploitation, to the advantage of some (generally those in wealth, power and privilege) over others, whereby nowadays things are so complicated and the self-deception so pervasive that the line between exploiter and exploited runs through every individual, though rarely down the middle (some profit more, some far more, than others from society's self-exploitation).

That state and economy, i.e. the entire political and socio-economic order, on which we ALL completely depend are products of our perverted Darwinian nature, and thus the root cause of virtually all our problems, including our inability to achieve sustainability, is very difficult to continence and recognise, because our brains, which evolved to serve us in an entirely different (non-conflated or confounded) environment, are naturally inclined to rationalise everything, so that it can continue its misplaced and perverted struggle for advantage and "success" within its artificial human environment.

And even if we do recognize it, what can we possibly do about it . . ? We cannot simply dismantle the system we all depend on (not just materially, but also emotionally, most people still identifying with the state as their tribe or nation), at least, not before we have created an alternative.

It is this alternative we must set about creating, replacing  the existing socio-economic order in the same way that a busy, vital but ageing railway bridge is replaced, by building in and around the existing bridge, in such a way that the new one can gradually take its place, without disruptive interruption.

But before we begin, even after recognising the situation and the need to replace the existing socioeconomic order, we have to develop a clear understanding of it and of the alternative we want to replace it with, an understanding that, if it is to be realistic and of practical use, must be based on an understanding of man's Darwinian nature and of how it has been perverted to create the artificial environment of human civilization.

Recognising the Darwinian nature of free-market capitalism isn't difficult, as many, who see no perversion or inherent non-sustainability in it, will tacitly or expressly admit, but recognising the perverted Darwinian nature of the state is a different matter, because of long established myths and assumptions (based on rationalizations and self-deception) that its primary purpose is to SERVE society (think of Rousseau's "social contract"), the state having effectively taken the place of the individual's original tribe and NATION, especially in respect to our dependency on it (both material and emotional), demanding thereby for itself the loyalty and commitment we evolved to feel towards our original tribe or nation.

The state, however, is is not our tribe or nation, but merely poses as such, like an abusive step-parent, which did away with our natural parents (original tribe and nation) long before we have any memory of them, and brought us up to belief that it is our natural, loving parent (i.e. nation), thereby winning our affection and loyalty, when its true purpose is to facilitate our (self)-exploitation as a human resource and environment, e.g. market.

It is all very confusing, because the two environments in which Homo sapiens evolved and was behaviourally adapted to, long before the advent of civilisation - one within his own tribe, which he strongly identified with, the other comprising the natural environment external to it and including other, rival, groups of humans, which was feared and to be exploited - are now conflated and confounded within the state, which deceives us into believing that it represents the familiar, internal environment is our tribe, while at the same time facilitating our self-exploitation as an external environment.

The vast majority of people still believe the state to be their nation, and thus identify with it. Particularly those on the political left do so, demanding that the "nation state" (as the natural heir to our original tribe) embrace its proper role of ensuring the fair distribution of opportunity and "national wealth", while making sure that the sick, needy and disadvantaged are taken care of, and in so doing, laying claim to the "moral high ground" for themselves, and the advantages (e.g. social status, jobs, power and privileges) that go with it.

Notwithstanding that we are all inclined to believe in the state, because of our material and emotional dependency on it (in the mistaken belief that it represents our nation), the political right especially believes in the state, because it defines and enforces property rights, which they are the biggest beneficiaries of, while the political left especially believes in the state because it provides them with plum jobs in politics, local government, academia and the media.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Work and the "meaning of life"

Joe Moran writes in Sunday's Guardian/Observer (Cif), The ants march on, but we'd be happier as grasshoppers: the idea that work is the meaning of existence has little basis in biology:
". . . nature writers like Mabey have pointed out that seeing work as the meaning of life is a human, metaphysical invention; it has little basis in biology."
Actually, the work ethic which governs and is wrecking our lives (as well as the planet) DOES have its roots in biology: in the misplaced and perverted expression of our Darwinian nature, which, in the artificial environment of human civilisation, has latched onto the pursuit and exercise of POWER as the most useful route to individual survival and reproductive success.

Work (of the kind we are talking about) translates into economic growth and MONEY, which is POWER in its most versatile form.

Just as humans domesticated certain animals, not for the fun of it, i.e as pets, but in order to exploit them in their struggle for survival, advantage and "success", so too society's ruling elites domesticated their own kind, and themselves into the bargain, in order to exploit them. We are trained and conditioned (just like a dog, by a regime of rewards and punishments, or promises/threats of them) to work long and hard, in order to produce the material wealth which, originally society's elites, and now everyone, wants and feels entitled to.

Work is a source of POWER (though not just, or even primarily, for those actually doing it), the possession of which has the potential to greatly enhance an individual's chances of survival and (especially male) reproductive success, which, from a purely biological perspective, IS the "meaning of life".