Sunday, January 2, 2011

Law of the Jungle

This is the best thing I've seen from ginandtacos, and one of the best things I've read all year.

To quote the crux of the piece:
Social Darwinism and the "life is like the jungle" attitude that are so pervasive in our society have a single purpose: to convince you that you are an antelope. The only thing you can do is run away. You'll be OK so long as there are other people around who are even more vulnerable. You could try to stop them, but why? Every time they eat the poor, the geezers, and the kids who are defenseless, you live another day. Don't try holding your ground against the big, strong predator. Don't stick together or they'll eat all of you.

Just imagine how much different our politics and society would be if we were less eager to say "As long as they're eating someone else, I don't care" and more apt to get in a big group and ask the lion if it feels lucky.

It's a very deep, very complex idea, put very simply. What struck me most was how... very nearly unthinkable the idea was. It seemed so obvious and profoundly revelatory, which only underlined how wrong our current system is.

It's the dark side of American individualism (subject of another great ginandtacos post); each of us is free to achieve on our own, but we're also on our own. I've always admired the ability of certain parts of our society to get citizens to vote against their own self-interest. The Unions are designed to protect workers' rights, but collective bargaining is Communist and un-American; what's a working stiff to do?

In other words, the lions no longer need to work to isolate members of the herd; we isolate ourselves, making it easier on them.

It's an interesting psychological trick; in a nation that believes in the power of the masses, we worship the individual. We love team sports but make it all about the All Stars; baseball is about the pitcher, football about the quarterback, and basketball advertises "Kobe and the Lakers".

It's such a fundamental paradigm shift, but I believe it's a crucial one. Our ability to face and overcome the political, social, and environmental issues that confront us depends on making it.

The advancements in human history that have brought us here have improved knowledge and quality of life immensely, but too often, sadly, at the cost of our sense of community and cooperation. Not that our ancestors were saints; cooperation was just the only tool they had.

But it's a powerful tool.

Religion is supposed to build this mindset. It teaches us to act as a community, to protect our weakest members and improve the whole community, even if that's not what's best for us as individuals.

No comments:

Post a Comment