WE NEED TO EVOLVE
By Roland Watson
At the end of the last article, I implied that perhaps the greatest barriers to achieving equality around the world are the current differences that exist in national, or cultural, prosperity.
As a social goal, we want each nation, or culture, to achieve a low stress - to the planet - carrying capacity population. Moreover, we seek a world of no boundaries, where anyone will be free to travel anywhere, and for any reason and duration. However, these goals represent ideals, and there are many problems associated with their realization. Not the least of these is that if we are free to travel anywhere, there is no way to prevent massive migrations to the most scenic or resource rich areas, such that their carrying capacities are exceeded, perhaps greatly.
Some nations, and their underlying cultures, have "geographic" advantages, and one practical outcome of this is that for the foreseeable future there will not be freedom of mobility. People from developed countries, in large numbers, will be able to travel to those that are still developing, for any reason, from tourism to trade, but not vice-versa. And, as such travel occurs for trade, the developed countries will help create in the developing, but then extract a significant portion of the proceeds of, the industry which supplies such trade, and by extension, of the total financial rewards of the latter's process of commercial development.
These are the economic effects of geographic and historic advantages. But, the most basic effect of all is that the achievement of social prosperity is not and will not be uniform, and that the differences that already exist are likely to be compounded, not reduced.
For cultures to be equal, including having similar levels of prosperity, we need to reduce competition between them, particularly economic competition, and instead increase cooperation and sharing. But, economics in the capitalist system is based on free, as in free to compete, markets. And, the major participants in such markets are corporations, which focus first and foremost on their "competitive" strategy. The only economic system that is not based on competition is communism, with its elimination of private property, and its centralized planning and control, but both in practice and in theory it is unworkable.
However, we do retain the ability to impose our will on corporations, and to bring a certain participative impact to their decision-making, through government regulation, and voluntary action as consumers and activists. But, such influence, which can affect the behavior of one corporation or another, can never extend to altering the fundamental nature of markets, such that geographic and historic advantages are offset.
Corporations and banks are going global, and will end up dominating all national economies, but, the majority of their ownership will continue to reside in today's developed nations.
What this underscores is that while we should see positive social developments, including greater individual freedom, or at least the potential for it, and increased education, these will be offset by continuing economic inequality, and the other negative effects of the capitalist system and corporate behavior. Furthermore, this will be magnified by increasing cooperation between corporations and governments. In the current system, in most nations, we do have a separation of Church and State. But, we do not have a separation of State and Commerce, or Education and Commerce. Indeed, with government responsibility for currencies and economic policy, they are in a sense inseparable.
Trapped by form
I believe the long-term consequences of this are that we will not see a reduction, either from culture to culture and also within cultures, in class structure and inequality. For the foreseeable future we will have more free enterprise that is not really free, and more destructive globalization. More than anything, we will have more form and brainwashing. While we do have more knowledge of it, and hence a greater ability to fight it, other than the efforts of a few individuals and isolated communities, most people will not do so. Because of their current level of submission, they will be unable to.
In addition, we will continue to view science as the savior, rather than accept that it cannot provide complete control. We will also not recognize that while it is one of our main routes to knowledge, it is not the only one. And finally, we will fail to take sufficient account of the fact that any efforts that we make to use science to develop new technology, are fraught with the most severe risks imaginable.
Because of this, and apparent improvements and real progress notwithstanding, I believe humanity remains trapped by the form of its past behavior, starting with our selfishness and compulsion to compete, and also the fact that we only really learn through making mistakes. Our goals are human responsibility and equality, but the former is predicated on individual responsibility and the latter on a fair and just society. The domination of form has meant that people have lost their uniqueness, and turned into stereotypes, hence there are no individuals, no individual responsibility, and no human responsibility. And, the evolution of social institutions based on selfishness and greed; with the creation of readily abused pyramids of power; and through which the needs of such institutions have achieved dominance over those of individuals; means that there is no fair and just society - not one on earth - and hence no human equality.
Such inequality and lack of personal responsibility could perhaps be supported in a world without great overpopulation and environmental destruction - as was the case before the development of technology and modern society. However, this no longer holds, now that the problems are so severe and widespread. Here, we can see that we are also trapped by the tangible effects of our past behavior, which have put us in a position where we must continually fight fires of our own making, and which represent larger and larger mistakes.
We have so many hurdles to overcome, particularly with the social contract tilting increasingly towards the institutions, and with seemingly little ability to redesign them to a more acceptable architecture. Indeed, more and more small enterprises are being destroyed, and more and more of us are being forced to be part of large, totalitarian organizations, which have the extensive security apparatus and rigidity characteristic of a police state.
Through all of this, we can see that humanity is moving further and further away from a real equilibrium. But this, although we are unwilling to accept it, or even to acknowledge it, is insupportable. The further the system is strained, the greater the reaction there will be when it breaks.
In the series of articles on the future of the planet, I said that humanity would be forced to adapt to a global environmental disaster, and perhaps even an ecological collapse, and that this would include at a minimum serious resource shortages and the possibility of severe social conflict. To this, we can add the problems that will arise when the capitalist system reaches maturity in all markets and nations, with the possibility that neither its nor our needs will continue to be achievable, and with great inequality still the norm.
The required adaptation will become more and more noticeable within the next two generations. We will be forced to change our behavior: our breeding, and our patterns of habitat and resource exploitation. And, all of this will constitute the background, and likely be the trigger, of such a developing social disequilibrium. In the long-term future, perhaps as soon as the second half of this century, one would have to conclude that there is a statistically significant probability not only of widespread anarchy and rebellion, in many, many countries and cultures, but even of a complete, worldwide, social suicide.
As energy is added to an ordered system, at some point a limit is broached and the order degenerates into chaos. Our increasing population is the same as adding energy, and at some level it will be too much. The limit will be reached.
Humanity's high points
Humanity is at a crossroads. On the one hand, we have begun to forge the way to a new, and real, civilization. We have established many models of truly civilized behavior, which only remain to be implemented more widely. Examples of these, and of the cultures that practice them, are as follows:
- The rule of law, meaning equality and fairness for everyone in the eyes of the police and the courts. Such a development, although with some abuse, exists in much of the Americas, the countries of Western Europe, and a few other nations.
- Social harmony, starting with the granting of mutual respect, which still exists in many traditional cultures.
- A deep and abiding respect for other life, as practiced by such groups as the Jains, a culture in India which follows a strict discipline to refrain from the taking of any non-plant life, as well as vegans and vegetarians, and animal rights activists.
- The leveling of society, with few class differences, as has been achieved in the nations of Scandinavia.
- The desire to do good - even if it is not always realized, particularly in recognition of its critical international role, of the United States.
- The focus on the importance of leisure time and personal development, through allowing for lengthy holidays - and also via the general style of life, in Europe.
- And, the achievement of highly refined creative expression and culture, as in France and Italy, in many urban areas worldwide, and in many cultures in Asia.
It's not enough
However, for all of this, I would still say that we have yet to develop an enduring tradition of peace - anywhere. Nor do we accept the need for an approach to life where we truly celebrate equality, and therefore reduce our need - and our desire - to compete, and to win, and to kill, to survive.
A truly civilized species would not kill to survive.
The last century was characterized by the greatest rate of change in the entire human experience. I personally believe that the rate of change in this century will exceed even this, and also that much, if not the bulk, of this coming change will be for the worse.
Humanity itself is now mature. We are at the end of our life cycle. And, we know what happens with cycles. They either die out, or are replaced by something new.
The solutions to our problems, the achievement of real, positive change, can only occur when our behavior changes, in other words, when we change: when we evolve, and are no longer humans.
It appears to be the case that, as a species, we have created a situation to which we must adapt. However, for such an adaptation to succeed we need change so great that only evolution will do.
Said another way, minor behavioral modifications will not suffice. We need changes of such a magnitude that they effectively require the creation of a new species.
We have put ourselves in a situation where we must evolve. Only time will tell if we are able to do it; if we are up to the demands of our self-created history.
In the next series, I will discuss evolutionary processes.