Reflections and Infections

Posted Jul 10, 2018

No age has come without its dark side. We have always been a territorial species bent on conquering. In such regard, we are not all far from the apes that war in the jungles of Africa; this tendency for war may just be a deeply embedded trait carried along the eons-long river of DNA from an ancient and long-forgotten ancestor. As such, the tendency can be explained.

Joshua slaughtered all the men, women and children to take the land and resources of Canaan (at least according to the Bible, which condoned the genocide as the will of God). Step out of that tome into any other account of the histories of people and the same kind of brutality echos across page after page of human accounts. Syrians and Egyptians and Romans and Mongols and every other tribe and empire madly following even madder kings into war. Like a child who wants anything in the hand of another child, nations reach out to take whatever they can.

Perhaps there was a time when this penchant was necessary for our species to survive. Maybe it helped the shadowy ancestors just clamoring out of the hole of unconscious instinct to eek a competitive edge in the race to be the dominant species on the planet. Maybe we would never have exploded onto the global stage had we not carried this genetic puppet master obsessed with conquest.

But we are not required to follow that primal habit. Humans are not like the other animals, walled in with strict boundaries of what it means to be the creature we are. We are the most curious of all animals, exploring the world often without leaving the spot where we sit. Our minds contain endless worlds, virtual landscapes, safe laboratories. We imagine what the world might have been or what it could become. We figure things out. Some of our kind have realized that they do not need to fight their neighbor. Instead of war, one can avoid risk of death by simply accepting the neighbor. If we do not fight, we will not lose our sons and daughters in bloodshed. These realizations are the root of philosophers--lovers of wisdom.

Philosophers are not as common as the warriors and the kings. Plato, an ancient philosopher, wished that society had Philosopher Kings--strong enough to protect the people but wise enough to know that war is not the best protection for the people. Whether such a leader has come, it’s hard to say. Certainly, most leaders think they are wise by declaring their own greatness; those men are not philosophers.

Hitler. Stalin. Obsessed with conquest. In our age the demonic obsession with power and hate engulfed the entire world into wars that killed millions of people and scarred the hearts and souls of everyone else. Follow me or die. Follow me or you’re a traitor… Their megalomaniac fury for glory failed to accomplish anything good, leaving only ashes and smoke and tear-streaked cheeks on innocent children everywhere.

Humans are the best at learning in all the world. But we do not have great memories, collectively. Our kids do not remember the suffering of our grandparents. The myopia is a great risk for our children. They need to know what can happen when they let madmen get in control of the power. They need to know that war and conquest are not the only voices in our heads. There are other voices more worthy of our attention: love, compassion, wonder, acceptance, appreciation and cooperation are all there inside too. We don’t have to always listen to the xenophobia virus or the wholeheartedly selfish gene. We can also listen to a softer side of our hearts.

We need more reflections on where we want to go to cure the infection of hatred that offers to rot our souls. It’s time for everyone to love wisdom more than ignorance. Tyrants mock such sentiments because they are not wise. We should not follow anyone who is not wise. We should not follow anyone who does not embrace the path of life, liberty and happiness for all people across our planet. That isn’t a call to give up power. But it is a call to keep power from those who don’t have the wisdom to use it for the benefit of all.

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gulli

7:12 AM

There is an interesting book called "When Prophecy Fails" which was a social study looking at the way people behave when strong beliefs are involved (in the book a UFO cult), the basic conclusion being that when people are utterly committed to idea even if you provide them with absolute, irrefutable proof that they are wrong, they will find a way to maintain their beliefs. And that, sadly, is where we are at right now... and in that context rationality goes completely out the window.

You are correct when you say we are not required to follow that primal habit, but look around, so many do. When people feel scared, confused and intimidated by the complexity and confusion of the world around us they fall back on beliefs to explain things. People believe in conspiracy theories because it is difficult to accept that there is a crazy, random chaotic world out there where sometimes bad things happen for no reason, believing it was a conspiracy makes people feel secure because at least someone, somewhere, some unseen powerful entity is controlling everything.

Trump is a manifestation of exactly the same feeling regarding politics... the shady, confusing and complex world of federal politics makes many people feel alienated, lost and powerless. So along comes this guy who speaks in such simple, uncomplicated terms, says things that are easy to understand (cos mostly is literally meaningless) and claims that he is good and against all those bad things that scare you too. So people believe in him, to fight against all those elite socialist goldman-sacks(?!?) SJWs who want to cut off the balls of every white male and turn them all into manservants for gender-fluid minorities.

You are correct in everything you say, I just fear that the majority of people have already proven that we're not much better than that. People will usually give into fear, irrationality and the tribal mentality as opposed to open-mindedness and tolerance.

Remember also that from our earliest age, right through our schooling and into adulthood we are taught in a thousand different ways that it is bad to be wrong. You get marked down at school, told off by parents and so on... is it any surprising that as adults most people are almost pathologically incapable of just saying, "yup, I was wrong"... and the more invested they are in something the harder it becomes to say or acknowledge. That however is a burden we bear collectively for instilling this competitive binary win/lose morality so profoundly in the popular psyche. The popular Darwinsim, "survival of the fittest"... yeah, Darwin never said that, and it's a real distortion of Darwinist principle which has been used to promote competition as a healthy social mindset ever since.
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