PROGRESS AND EVOLUTION
By Roland Watson
The premise of the Dictator Watch family of websites is that we must confront the deepest causes of the problems that we create if such problems are ever to disappear.
Via an analytical process of regression (problem X is due to cause X, but cause X is really just a symptom of a deeper problem, which in turn is a symptom of a still deeper problem, etc.), we have reached the conclusion that the only real solution is that our species must evolve. Said another way, as long as we are human, we will have human problems. We therefore must become more than human.
Our core objective, no matter how quixotic this may appear, is to motivate human evolution.
Fortunately, Homo sapiens is evolving right now, to a successor species, and the single most significant event to-date in this process has been the development of written language. Written language enabled widespread education, which in turn revealed that our social goal should be equality, and also that this can be best achieved through the political system of democracy. Further, democracy, when implemented in a pure, direct form, will yield not only true equality but also everlasting peace.
Education is encouraging behavioral changes, which in turn lead to neurological changes. As our behavior changes, our brain the structure of our neurons and synapses changes as well. Brain changes in turn lead to additional modifications of behavior. (There is a feedback cycle between the two. Also, education itself is a distinct behavior, with its own marked effect on brain structure and performance.)
The question we are faced with is where do we want our behavior to go. One way to evaluate this is to consider the principles or values on which such behavior is based. This in turn leads us into the world of philosophy. (Please dont be afraid of the word, philosophy. Its not that difficult.)
Dictator Watch, and by extension Activism 101, are different from other activist groups because we have a philosophy. Other organizations have goals or causes. For example, Amnesty Internationals goal is to free political prisoners; Human Rights Watchs goal is to protect human rights.
We have a philosophy because our current efforts are insufficient. We activists and right thinking people are losing; things are getting worse. We therefore need a new approach, based on a new understanding, and which must start from the ground-up: it must have a solid foundation.
Barriers to evolution,
and our response
It would seem, then, that we are ready to go. In the last decade formal education has been extended to everyone; it has been made available to virtually all the children around the world. We are poised, finally, to accomplish our evolution. However, there is another barrier that we must also overcome.
If you are playing a game, and the rules are stacked against you, you cannot win. Your only options are to refuse to play, to opt out of the game, or to redefine it in some way such that you have a fair chance.
For most species evolution is a matter of moving forward, of leaving the past behind (via migration, genetic mutations, etc.). For humans, though, there is another factor that must be addressed. The dictatorial institutions that control society like us as we are presently designed. They are premeditatively doing everything in their power to hold us back, to ensure that we do not evolve. As part of this they have actually been encouraging our de-evolution, as evidenced by the widespread dumbing down of society.
In the United States today, indeed, all around the globe, many, many people have been brainwashed. They have been brainwashed by society; specifically, by the institutions of society, including governments and militaries, schools, religious organizations, corporations, labor unions, and the media.
They have been brainwashed to believe that they should act in a manner that best suits the purposes meets the needs of these institutions. And this is a subtle but profound shift from the traditional role of human behavior, and the social institutions that then supported it, which was to satisfy human needs. Now it is the institutions' needs that have become paramount, and we must support them; and we have been shaped, conditioned, so that we will do this willingly.
- Declaration, Freedom From Form
To evolve we need to both find the way forward and fight the influences that are holding us back. The philosophy is a map for the first. Activism 101 provides instruction and guidance for the second.
In general, though, we want to focus on the first. We of course need to confront the institutions when they are at their most repressive, when lives are at stake, but in the long-term this is a losers game. They will continue to create more problems, and put more lives in jeopardy.
To move forward we should reject the institutions and their game. There are many steps that can be taken, including:
- At a minimum, postpone until your late twenties having children. (Ideally, dont have any children at all. Human evolution does not require, and it will not be furthered by, an excessive population.)
- Consume as little as possible. (Everything that you buy involves the destruction of nature.)
- Actively boycott the products of unethical companies, and even in a few cases the goods of entire economies and nations. For example, dont buy anything Made in China.
- Reject all for-profit advertisements, and also all mass media.
- Redesign your life away from its being centered on your career (and the TV). Make your job support your life, not the other way around.
- De-institutionalize yourself to the greatest extent possible disassociate yourself from large organizations.
People have been institutionalized. It is as if we have spent our entire lives in prison or a mental hospital: we fear freedom.
More generally, though, we will need to completely redefine the way we live. We will need to examine the deepest aspects of our existence (which examination with the benefits of education we are now, finally, able to conduct), and then adjust our behavior accordingly.
The Dictator Watch philosophy has seven basic elements, which anyone can understand. Further, it can be applied to anything: to guide your behavior, including so that it is no longer destructive of the natural environment; to illuminate and then correct flaws in government policy; to redesign our overall social architecture; and to help Homo sapiens, through you, personally, to evolve.
1. Free will
The most important thing in life, and notwithstanding the foregoing, is that we are born free. We have free will (which includes the freedom not to do something).
We can exert our will in many, many ways, from doing simple things, like controlling our movements, through to surmounting difficult challenges. For example, you can establish a plan for your life: you can set and then achieve personal goals.
We can also use our will to work together to achieve social goals, which is an idea known as collective will.
Through will we can choose. And through taking care in our choices, we can change things for the better. We have this power.
The alternative to free will is determinism. Under this idea everything is in some way programmed. We do not have a choice. What happens is a matter of fate.
This is a common social message, presented innumerable ways, including that we should accept our place; that nothing, at least nothing of any importance, can ever be changed; and that its just the way things are.
Democracy is predicated on free will, on an electorate that makes informed choices. Dictatorship is a determined system. We are told by the dictators what to think and do.
2. Actions have consequences
The basic rule of life is that actions have consequences. This is more simply known as cause and effect (or even just time). It is also recognized around the world in many other ways, including through the ideas of karma, that you reap what you sow, etc.
There are many different types of consequences, including both intended and unintended. In addition, any single action may have innumerable consequences, even categories or levels of consequences, and of both types.
There are also consequences that are not only unintended; they are unseen. We do not even recognize that they have occurred. An increasingly common, and horrifying, example of this type of consequence is extinction: the death of the last individual of a species of life.
Another example, which illustrates the potential scale and complexity of consequences, was the failure of U.S. democracy in the 2000 presidential election. The world has been remade through this failure.
We were told to fear the arrival of the new millennium. We thought this applied to December 31, 1999. We didnt realize that it applied, accurately, to the election later in the year.
Of course, some would say that the greater event was the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, which also remade the world. Further, both events worked in tandem to create additional consequences: President Bushs response to 9/11, particularly the invasion of Iraq, was likely very different from the actions that a President Gore would have taken.
It is arguable, though, that the first event was the more significant. The Supreme Court halted the accurate counting of the vote. It is rarely commented on, it is considered so obvious, but representative democracy assumes that you accurately register and tally the vote. In 2000, in Florida, this did not take place. The consequences of this extended from the acts of the Bush presidency, which many people consider to be the worst in U.S. history, to the fact that the political system that we are trying to implement around the world failed in its leading proponent, and for all to see.
As the above examples suggest, consequences can also be either positive or negative (or in complex cases, both). One class of negative consequences includes the effects that result from corporate support for political dictatorship, e.g., in such countries as Burma and China. For the latter, we are told to ignore the repression in the country, and that freedom is not important, that it will come some day. Just keep buying cheap Chinese goods.
Among the most profound and widespread consequences are the effects of technology. Something as simple as electric light had the consequence that the stars have been extinguished, and through this (and many other effects of technology) we have lost our respect for nature. This has been compounded by our population boom, which resulted from better nutrition and medical care (both products of technology). The power of our species relative to all others has been magnified, which together with the lack of respect has led us to exponentially increase our environmental destruction, and with impunity.
3. Personal responsibility
Since actions have consequences, and we are free to choose, this implies that we must choose well. We are personally responsible for all of our consequences, both as individuals and through the groups to which we belong.
This further implies that we must have ethics; we need rules or principles to guide our behavior.
Probably the most important ethic of all is the following: Just because we have the power, does not mean that we have the right. Power does not imply or infer right!
We do not have the right to:
- Rape and destroy nature, including through the genetic modification of other species.
- Rape, kill or otherwise injure other people.
Personal responsibility also means that we must correct or otherwise make up for our mistakes, both the ones we have made in the past and the ones that we continue to make today.
Another implication of personal responsibility is that we do not need to be saved. We are responsible for dealing with all of the aspects of our lives. We must use our reason to determine the best way to live (and our discipline to actually live that way); to understand life, including finding our purpose; and to achieve wisdom, to make peace with our circumstances and to accept our death.
4. Truth and uncertainty
The challenge of life, of being personally responsible, is that the world is complex and necessarily uncertain. We cannot be sure if our actions will have their intended consequences.
More generally, we cannot know anything.
(The idea being presented here is the most difficult element of the philosophy. It is also the most important.)
To understand something, something about life, you have to experience it. Reading about it isnt enough. An additional factor, though, is that there are two types of experiences: those in which you participate (from the inside); and those that you only observe (from the outside). As an example of the first, I, personally, know what it means to be a man, and an American, and many other things, from the inside.
However, some knowledge is only available from the outside, because only then can you perceive a subject in its totality as a whole.
For example, women have their own perspectives on men, and people from other countries have their own perspectives on America.
Both views, the inside and the outside, provide information, but they are also both incomplete. They are therefore subject to misperceptions and misconceptions.
To have total or complete knowledge, about anything, is impossible, because we cant have both the inside and the outside views, at the same time.
There are many, many implications of this idea, including that we can never fully understand ourselves, or other people; or individuals from other races, genders and cultures.
This also extends to concepts, e.g., peace to me may mean something different from what it means to you.
All of raises an important question: If we cant fully understand ourselves, or other people, how can we purposely work to improve ourselves or to make the world a better place? And, how can we focus our collective will if we disagree on what our goals mean?
There are other implications as well:
- Humans are not perfect, or perfectible, hence our society cannot be perfect. We can never achieve utopia.
- Even if we are completely well intentioned (and we are not), some of our ideas wont work, and we will make mistakes.
But, we cannot resign ourselves to defeatism to being paralyzed into inaction. We have to accept our imperfection and the uncertainty of life. We have to take risks nothing is guaranteed and do our best to understand ourselves, and to understand and work with other people.
Lastly, this idea also explains why we cannot understand we are precluded from having complete or even profound knowledge of the actual moment of the beginning of life, or of death. When we have the inside view, of both, we cannot communicate about it, about what we are experiencing. Further, in these cases having the outside view reveals very little.
5. God and spirituality
The fact that life is necessarily uncertain, and that there are absolute limits on our knowledge, also has implications regarding religion. Indeed, organized religion disagrees with the above conclusions. Organized religion, of whatever faith (with the possible exception of Buddhism, which is arguably not even a religion), says that everything that is important is known, and with certainty.
Religion has a clever response to the uncertainty of our existential condition. Through being alive, we have the inside view of the universe. Religion, through prophets, messiahs, visions, miracles, and answered prayers, grants us the outside view and through this the total view.
Its a very clever and persuasive structure.
Personally, I dont believe it. My view is that in some way the universe has substance (in contrast to the idea that it is an illusion), and that some force or being is responsible for it. In other words, I am not an atheist.
I actually believe that the universe is alive, or more accurately that it constitutes a stage of a larger life cycle. The force or being, what we call god, is essentially formless it is infinite. In a sense, it has the outside view.
The inside view only becomes available when the force is manifested into material reality, into the universe. It is in this way that the creator, or god, achieves the total view.
Further, the origination of life and its subsequent evolution expands the inside view, until life reaches a state of self-conscious awareness. We are at this stage now we are able to consider ourselves, and the universe.
In the universe, life is the rarest of all things. The universe exists to grow life. It is in fact a garden of and for life.
Through us, and through other sentient life on the Earth and presumably billions if not trillions of other inhabited planets, god itself is effectively striving for self-knowledge.
(Note: This provides an answer to Leibniz famous question of why anything at all exists. And, it expands the meaning of Socrates quote that an unexamined life is not worth living. Through us, god is examining its life.)
6. Value and goals
Given the uncertainty of life, on what basis should we choose? How should we express our free will?
The answer to this question begins with the idea of value. We can survey our world and reach conclusions about what is important, and what we should value.
The Dictator Watch view of value is summarized in the following quote, from the Dictator Watch Manifesto.
Over the last 3.5 billion years all manner of life forms and natural habitats have evolved on our planet. Similarly, in the last two hundred thousand years the period of time since Homo sapiens evolved as a separate species an extraordinary array of distinct human cultures has been established. This diversity represents what is truly unique and beautiful about the Earth: it constitutes the real value of our world.
Every time a species dies out, every time a natural habitat is cut down, every time a traditional human culture is assimilated by the modern world, part of this value is irrevocably lost.
This perception of value can also be used to evaluate any actions that humans consider, as individuals and through groups. If such actions preserve environmental and cultural diversity, and establish the conditions in which they can continue to thrive, then they are acceptable. But, if the actions reduce the diversity and the potential for future development, even if only through indirect consequences, then they are not.
Value lies in diversity. You can even say that the universe is designed to originate and evolve as wide a diversity of life forms as possible. If we as a species destroy great amounts of the diversity that exists on Earth, if our behavior precipitates the sixth known extinction event which it is doing then we are effectively acting against the plan of the universe.
There is an important implication of this concerning the trend that is known as globalization. The goal of economic or commercial globalization is the destruction of diversity. Nature is a resource, valuable only insofar as it is used, and cultural differences should be eliminated. We should all be the same, wear Nike and drink Starbucks, and think the same.
We therefore oppose globalization (and Nike and Starbucks please boycott them).
Using this approach to value we can then decide on our social goals, in other words, to cultivate diversity. This in turn leads to a second level of goals:
- To control our breeding, to reduce the pressures from overpopulation. (We should strive to reduce the global population: as a species we are out of control.)
- To minimize our consumption.
- To celebrate, and preserve, cultural differences, beginning with our large collection of human languages.
- To protect, completely, all remaining natural habitats. (None of the Earths remaining primary habitats, either public or private, should be developed or exploited in any way. Privately owned primary habitats should be purchased from their owners and then set aside in perpetuity.)
A final basic goal is to strive for equality, between all people, and also between humans and all other forms of life. Other species are trying to fulfill their own roles in the universal design. We do not have the right to end their participation, through extermination and extinction, and also through genetic modification.
7. Dictatorship and democracy
This brings us to dictatorship, which is in opposition to equality. Dictators believe that they are better, more than equal.
The definition of dictatorship is simply to dictate, to have power over others in some way and to use it to get them to think and act as you choose.
As this suggests, dictatorship is not only a political phenomenon.
Dictatorship first arose with the military, at the point of a spear, and religion, at the point of an idea (who controls the keys to Heaven). But dictatorship has evolved, and modern forms, e.g., media and corporate manipulation, are more subtle, systematic and pervasive, and hence more effective. We are now told what to think and do about everything.
We are also told that many different forms of inequality are legitimate and hence acceptable, including:
- Humans over nature
- Light skin over dark
- Attractive over less-attractive (using societys definition of attractiveness, which is itself a form of dictatorship)
- Young over less young
- Men over women
- Straight over gay
- Believer over non-believer
- Rich over poor
- And, more generally, powerful over less powerful
Together with the evolution of dictatorship, social institutions governments, religions, schools, and economic and media institutions have evolved, and grown: far too much.
Institutional power is now too great. Institutions dominate individuals. We therefore need to shrink the institutions, to regain control over our lives.
But, it is important to emphasize, this is still our personal responsibility. We cannot just blame the institutions. We get the institutions that we deserve. The problems that we have with social institutions reflect our failings as individuals. To change the institutions, you and I, and everyone else (or at least a critical mass of humanity), will have to change.
In summary, we must adopt incorporate into all aspects of our lives this seven point philosophy:
1. We have free will.
2. The basic rule of life is that actions have consequences.
3. We are personally responsible for all of our consequences.
4. But, this responsibility is difficult to manage because life is uncertain (and because social institutions seek to subvert it).
5. The uncertainty of life also has spiritual implications. I personally believe that we should base our spirituality not on faith but on reason.
6. We should use the value inherent in natural and cultural diversity as our guide, and establish as our goals the need to protect diversity and to strive for equality.
7. Finally, this in turn means that we must defeat dictatorship and establish democracy, in all our social structures.
Humanity all of life is at a crossroads. The sixth extinction event is already underway. And, we have no idea how bad it is going to get.
Scientists are already estimating that it will take life on Earth 5-10 million years to recover from the human impact of the last three hundred years.
Our increasing population and consumption are triggering a chaotic phase transition, the result of which is foretold: the destruction of the Earth as we know it.
We cant let this happen. We have to change. We have to evolve.
Note: Please tell as many people as possible about this website. (Donations and volunteers video and t-shirt artists, website programmers, etc., are also welcome.)
Homepage photo of the Earth: image courtesy of the Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.
© Roland O. Watson 2005