Selfishness and Human Dependence, Part 4: Can Culture Come to the Rescue?

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by Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB

The three preceding parts of the essay discussed: the fact that we are a species like any other animal, the basic selfishness of the human (seen in extreme form in sociopaths), our evolved traits for kin altruism and reciprocal altruism, the formation of values, our need to look up to leaders (the Uppies) for guidance, and the difficulty of trusting strangers.

To repeat, the problem to be ‘solved’ here is: What should we do about our rather new situation, in which we are dependent on many persons including some whose names we do not know?

I’m trying to stay away from the topic of “the cabal” (about which I often write.) The fact that a few individuals have got the whole species under their control does need to be dealt with head-on, but not in this essay. Here we’re studying a different factor — our ways of dealing with our conspecifics.

Who Puts the Water in the Tap?

Our remote ancestors had to live near a lake or river in order to obtain the necessary daily supply of water. They did not even have bottles or pans in which to capture water! I suppose it’s ‘nice’ that we overcame the need to live near water, so that we could populate any part of the land.

But think how dependent we are on a public water supply now. In order for each human to obtain the needed intake of two liters of water per day, there has to be water available somewhere. That itself is worth worrying about! Fracking and other exploitations of the environment may make water scarce.

But even when water is abundant, you wouldn’t be able to fetch it if you lived far from it. Ah, unless there was an established routine whereby the water gets transported to you. In ‘developed’ societies this is the case. Water appears almost magically in the kitchen tap of everyone’s house or apartment, via a pipeline.

You may feel you are entitled to the water. At least you’re used to being able to pour it effortlessly. But just wait till someone turns off the supply. You will then suddenly realize that you have been dependent on quite a few other human beings, whom you have never met, for this wonderful thing: H2O.

I have no idea where the water in my tap comes from. I get a bill and I pay it. The government used to be involved, but a decade ago water was privatized. Granted, I had the good sense to protest that privatization, but I didn’t really know how to do more than blab about it. It was “beyond my power.”

See how dependent I am on others? My energy for drawing water from a well and carrying it to my family may have counted in the olden days. But now what matters is my ability to negotiate with a whole slew of people, to assure that the supply route is not cut. I don’t even know who those individuals are!

What should I do? I don’t want to just hunker down and hope for the goodwill of the persons who “own” the water. For all I know, they may be happy for me to die of thirst. Let’s see what culture has to offer.

Cultural Productions

Anything other than the raw human body can be considered cultural. Look at a flock of birds; they do not have anything beyond their bodies. They have no cultural artifacts.

They don’t have ideational culture either. There’s nothing they can toss around for consideration. For example, they can’t discuss “Which way shall we fly today? Is the river route looking good?”

(Note: it has been found that some flocks pass down their knowledge of “preferred itineraries” to later generations. That could be called ‘culture.’ The young copy the flight path from those who are already using it, who, in turn, copied it from their parents.)

Humans have whole libraries of cultural ideas. Where the aforementioned birds require an uninterrupted inheriting, humans could let a practice skip a few generations and then pick it up again from book-learning. That is not to say it’s likely – we rarely retrieve a lost practice – but it’s possible.

In any case, humans have access to many cultures. The continent of Australia is a patchwork of many Aboriginal tribes with different languages. I was surprised to read, in a textbook, that some tribes have invented a material technology, such as woven baskets, and yet close neighboring groups do not imitate it. I think that must be incorrect. When we see something work well we incorporate it. Mimicry is innate.

Choices

Modern people act is if they invented all their modern stuff, but of course they would be helpless without all the myriad inventions and improvements, and reasoning, that went before.

The point I am coming to, in regard to our rather new level of dependence, is that we luckily have access to just about every theoretical possibility of how to live and how to correct our immediate problems. Culture is externalized. It’s there for us.

Yay!

We can make choices, within two big limits. First, we should do whatever we must do to assure the habitat’s survival, as without it we are dead ducks. Second, we should not opt for something that isn’t compatible with human nature – it probably wouldn’t work. (Recall my saying, in Part 2, that international ideals – “world unions” — are no-hopers.)

Habitat

Oops. To deal with the habitat, which means the whole planet, since one thing affects another, we would the need permission of many nations. This is hard to get.

Many scholars worked for years at the Law of the Seas conference, to set up some legal limits on fishing, or on ocean pollution. The United States stymied everyone’s efforts, by not signing on. Ah, but we are talking about cultural CHOICES here — there are many ways to skin a cat.

Let’s analyze that behavior by the US.  What was really going on? The sovereign state has a right to say No to any international treaty. Some people may have thought that was the principle that was being followed. Others thought it was not really the US that was holding back, but a narrow group of business corporations with governmental clout.

Well, regardless of which factor was at work,  it does not make sense to say that a nation, such as the US, has a right to pollute the ocean. The people of that nation should oppose ocean pollution, even the pollution done by themselves, as a polluted ocean is no good to them.

Still, there is another issue. I promised not to get into the story of the cabal, but here let me mention that the Law of the Seas may have been wrecked by a cabal that actually DOES WANT a pollution of the ocean! (Jesse Ventura believes the BP oil spill of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico was deliberate.)

We never knew about such motives until recently. Indeed, today most people can’t believe it’s possible for anyone to want the habitat to get wrecked. It is simply ‘bonkers.”

Bonkers Is As Bonkers Does

I’m attempting, in this 4-part article on Selfishness and Human Dependence, to put things in the context of our normal, natural behaviors. Still, if there looms on the landscape a completely bonkers human being or two who are likely to suicide the whole planet, I guess it bears acknowledgement!

So, I’ll slightly rephrase the question to “How can we proceed when we are controlled by ‘forces’ that render us very dependent?” We still have to deal with the structural issue: we are used to sending our requests for help upwards.

I recommend that we try sending our requests to officials, but with a clear announcement that we know some nutters are habitat-killers. Don’t be afraid to sound like a Cassandra or a paranoid. Go ahead, sound paranoid loud and clear.

I have often wondered how strong the brainwashing of our leaders is. I view almost all our Uppies as having been coaxed – by whatever means – to join the wrong team. Being well acquainted with the MK-Ultra program, I am inclined to think that once someone has been got at, all is lost.

Back to the Importance of Selfishness

Yet my pessimism may be misplaced. The silence of academics may be from fear of losing a job, rather than a full brainwash attack. So if we speak loudly about the nutters, academics with children might realize that even a job loss is acceptable, in preference to habitat loss, for the children’s sake. Enlightened self-interest has a strong track record.

Part 1 of this essay included a report on sociopathy, according to a woman, ME Thomas, who has that ‘condition.’ I argued that selfishness is the basic condition of every mammal, and that Thomas has probably got what we all have, a drive for individual success. The difference is that, in the normal person, selfishness is counteracted, to a significant degree, by innate altruism.

I think the healthiest approach would be to eschew the bad-mouthing of selfishness. If it is our basic condition we need to be very aware of that. It doesn’t pay to make out that humans are goody-goody. Such a philosophy leaves us unarmed against opponents. Sin abounds – deal with it.

Can Culture Come to the Rescue?

I note that Dr Richard Day introduced his 1969 revelations by saying “I can speak, as everything is in place and nobody can stop us now.” Hmm. I’ve hardly been unable to find any flaws in his stuff, so I worry that he is right on that promise, too. But it could be that his bosses have passed on to him a lie – “Everything is in place” — to persuade him that he’s safe.

Or they may be lying to themselves about their rosy future – as we all tend to do. Logically you would not expect a small cabal to have a guaranteed ability to control everyone. Seven billion people is no joke, as a management problem! Probably Dr Day was wrong on that one, and our fate is by no means sealed.

I am personally ashamed of myself, and my peers, for our long delay in perceiving what is going on around us. Especially, we have failed to note that we have become as dependent as slaves or babies. Truly it is embarrassing.  The truth is, we are by nature less independent than we were cracked up to be.

We had better put out some serious effort, and pronto. What are our resources? All of biology – that is, all of our brains – and all of culture, as developed by any and all societies over the millennia. So, it shouldn’t be too impossible a task to come up with something attractive!

Is There a Role for Love?

I think ME Thomas’s book, “Confessions of a Sociopath,” performs a real service. She states the case for selfishness quite affirmatively. Yet she comes across as rather sad — she doesn’t experience the nice emotions connected with love and caring.

Thomas helps me to see that one of the ingredients we should strive for in our social arrangements is LOVE. Love doesn’t exist as an independent ‘phenomenon’ with its own dynamic. Rather, it comes about, in human beings, when the situation is ripe – and we can culturally design that ripeness.  We can create the venues in which love is likely to thrive.

I believe love is mainly a task for women. I’m not saying a male can’t provide love and caring – many do. But the mammal female (as long as she is not a sociopath!) has an astonishing ability to pump out love when those around her need it.

Women today should take a high-profile role in helping the species find its way by means of  — OK, I’ll say it – goodness.

Not the goodness we ‘discover’ in people, but the kind we must cultivate and protect. It has often been done. It can be done again.

Sure would beat being dependent on persons who value killing, torture, loneliness, and insecurity!

— Mary W Maxwell writes for the Melbourne-based GumshoeNews.com. Her latest book is “Fraud Upon the Court,” and her earliest book was “Human Evolution.” Do you notice a pattern here? She is also the author, under the pseudonym Fortunata Fifi, of “Teen Etiquette with Feelings.”

 

 

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Comments

  1. Trouble in the Maldives! Trouble in the Maldives!

    This totally surreal announcement is from the US’s Department of State website:

    “The United States is deeply concerned with recent events in Maldives, including announcement of a state of emergency that curtails vital civil liberties and human rights, including the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of movement, and safeguards against arbitrary detention and arbitrary and unlawful interference with one’s privacy. [!!!!!]
    The United States calls on the Government of Maldives to restore immediately full constitutional freedoms to its citizens by terminating the state of emergency, and reiterates its call for an end to politically motivated prosecutions and detentions….”

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