by Godofredo Aravena
If disaster is in the near horizon, my first question is: Are the survivalists going to replicate the same system that took all of us to the disaster? It is quite clear to me that if the survivalists repeat the same practices, and re-build a society based on the same codes, sooner rather than later everything will be destroyed again. So I guess, the first thing to do today (while we have time) is to question the very basis of our society. What supports the entire building of human behavior codes? We must assess our behavior in relation to other humans, and of course, our behavior regarding nature.
Humans have built an entire system-culture that is based in a lot of premises that should be at least subject to questioning today, as the train is only taking all of us towards disaster. And recently, speeding ever faster.
If after all this years, and having achieved a much higher level of knowledge (in all disciplines), our system has failed to produce a healthy human community, in equilibrium with the biosphere, the supporting scheme must be revised to the roots.
And probably we will not like what we will find because it can be easily concluded that we are intelligent, but not wise. The root of our failure may be found in the cultural concepts that give support to the rest.
What seems to be wrong are the most basic rules of thumb that rule almost everything and provide the support and basis for ethics and moral. They are totally accepted, and provide the basis for human life in society, and its relation with nature. Religion, constitutions, politics, democracy, essentially everything important for society is built around these concepts.
It is hard to accept that everything may be wrong (or at least almost everything), but evidence, the situations we are living today, clearly provide a big space to question the basis.
Part of the evidence at hand is (to name the most noticeable):
War, over and over again
Fukushima disaster, and other nuclear facilities accidents
A small evermore rich ultra rich population v/s a big and growing poor population
The (unwanted) end of growth
Destruction of natural spaces and other species
These are undeniable signs of a total failure of our culture to become stable and durable.
The basis for this disaster can be found in the most basic concepts that we use to decide our everyday activities. They are very few, but all the rules that support our activity as humans rely on them:
The basic statements related with the individuals that have to be revised are (to list the most important):
I am important
I have rights
We are all equal
Life has a purpose
Luck does not exist
Women and men are equal
I am important
This is a relative concept, and points to the belief that I am more important than others, that I am special. The basic truth is that our status in a community will depend on what we can offer to the community, but at the same time, a durable system will have redundancy at all levels, and will not rely on a few individuals. To the biggest system of our planet (biosphere), we are just one creature more. And because of the basic rule of redundancy, we are not more important than others (persons) and creatures. Within a system in equilibrium, all creatures are important, they are at the same level. In the opposite way, all creatures (to the level of individuals) are “expendables” because of the redundancy principle. In the end we are not important at the individual level, nothing noticeable will happen to the system if one of us dies today (for example, if I die today the system will persist). We can go further, and extend this fact to several individuals, maybe thousands, only making sure that some minimal quantity of them survive. So, individuals are not important. This is true either for biosphere or human society.
I do not deserve anything, all what matters is the result. We have to get things, or accomplish good results in an enterprise, through hard work. Failure in achieving goals is part of the reality-game. Dying in the game of survival is part of the rules. No creature (us included) deserves anything. The effort worth nothing if the result is not achieved. So life achievements, for any creature, will be up to the concrete results of the effort.
I have rights
We (as individuals or groups) do not have rights.
Nature, the closest (and biggest) stable and durable system we can look at, does not know the concept of “rights”. The concept of rights is a human invention, probably as a way to pursue the concept “we are all equal (that also has to be questioned, see below). There is nothing like rights or similar on nature. We can conclude then, that, the “rights” concept is not compatible with a stable and durable system, or, if we want to have a stable and durable system, rights should not exist. At most we may say that we have one right, the chance to try a life, after we are born. But even that is a questionable issue. If there is something we have to thank to our parents, is that unique opportunity to try a life in this reality. The rest is a matter of luck. Our survival and achievements will depend entirely on ourselves (and luck).
We are all equal
Certainly, we are not equal, we are all different, and also, some are better than others, depending on the situation and the need. We have to find and get to know our strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the balance of weaknesses and strengths we posses as individuals, we may become “expendable” or “valuable” individuals for the community. But certainly, no matter how valuable we may seem in some moment, because of the principle of redundancy, we anyway will be expendables in some moment, if the survival of the group is what matters.
We can enhance our capacities by practice certainly, to become more valuable to the rest, or less expendable. This is a constant effort. But, we have to accept that there are others better than us, for some tasks. All it matters is the capacity related with the need, of the moment. Nothing else. As I wrote before, there are no rights.
There is no such thing as free will. We have constraints, regarding other people, regarding our descendants, regarding nature (biosphere). As a matter of fact, we have A LOT of constraints. Although we have some liberties. But, we cannot do what we want. Absolutely not. It worth mention the fact that we cannot have all the children we want, and at the same time, we have to have the necessary children to assure the survival of our species. We have a limited truth to do some things, that is all. Or, at most we can say that we have a limited “free will,” as all other creatures of nature.
Life has a purpose
In essence, currently, human life has no purpose. We do not fit in the system. All other creatures do have a purpose, a function. We do not.
We were created basically to “be.” We are the result of a long process, where the final purpose turned towards the creation of an intelligent creature. We are a very unique species.
We have to find a purpose for our existence, and for that we have to use our intelligence to become wise. We have to learn, and in the process (probably) make mistakes. Our creator probably knew from the very beginning that we would make mistakes. But in essence making mistakes is the way to learn. If we want to have a durable purpose, that would be to become wise, and along the way do the least harm to nature.
Basically our Human style life has no purpose, because it is not serving to the system (nature). We usually confuse purpose with short term personal goals, like being able to have status, a house, a car and many other gadgets, but the only real and durable purpose is serving to keep the system (nature) — us included — running. Our typical human life does not do have such purpose. It does the opposite: It only causes harm to nature. How to reach this kind of life, in equilibrium with nature, is our real purpose.
Luck is not real
We tend to think that we are in control, that we can be in control, and that we have to be in control. Otherwise we are weak. When, as many times happen, we cannot be in control, we create divinities, gods, and human alike entities, so by means of some rites like faith, or ceremonies, we still are in some way in control, and hopefully, a divinity will come in our help. But the point is that almost everything around us is under the rules of probabilities (called Luck in less fancy words), and that is probably the most important factor that affects our life. We as individuals are born in a certain place, in a certain moment, and have some certain capacities, all depending on luck. In the end, we have some control, but it is limited, and we have to accept that sometimes, things will not be as we would like them to be. And we have to live with that, if we want to live. We also have to give more space to the unexpected, and be more modest and humble about our capacities to achieve technological achievements. Otherwise, as being evermore powerful, any failure to give space to the unexpected, and become too secure about our achievements, and at the same time become too ambitious, we are only providing the ingredients for a catastrophe. Fukushima is the most recent example of our belief that we can be in control.
Women and men are equal (as a spin-off from previous “we are all equal”)
In nature there are no examples of female and male doing the same. Male and female are meant to do different activities. Men and women are different. We have to accept this undeniable truth. The current competition between human genders is one of the reasons why we are seeing our entire society falling apart.
It is important to say that being men and women not equal, they are both at the same level, and both are needed to perform their roles. They are physically and psychologically different, because they are prepared to perform a specific role, to become wise parents. By being and becoming wise parents, we can project to the future our lessons of life (from our mistakes) through our children. This is the only way to become wise as species.
In this gender competition we see today, our society loses because parenthood is set to a second level, and with it, the only way to become wise, as species.
The concepts related with the group/tribes to be revised are:
This is probably the concept that causes more harm to the system and ourselves.
When we think and act as “we”, we turn into a creature that only looks for the basic satisfaction of the added cells (people), in a big scale manner, as a creature (our society). At the same time, because of its size, this creature becomes too powerful, a power that is not under control. The individuals vanish. The creature called “human society” does not think or act as the individuals (alone) would do. It becomes a very basic system. The creature becomes the system, and the individuals, slowly began to act as the creature, and stop being individuals. The basis component, the individual, becomes a cell only to serve the system. Also, from inside the creature, is very easy to loose of sight the basic truth, that the creature-society needs nature to survive. This creature also has the problem that one part does not know what other part is doing. So it is constantly in an “out of control state”, grossly “under control”, kept by a small fraction of the individuals, that can grossly do what they want.
There should not be “we,” there should be only individuals temporary working together. I am alone, it is only me and the rest. I have to think in first person first, then the community and other creatures. First person thinking leads to living in community, but with much respect to the other beings. Each one discovers the need for others (individuals and creatures) to survive. When we are born in a “we” world, we do not have respect for others and other creatures. We do not respect nature.
Our species is superior
If being superior is related with the capacity to survive within the rules of the system (nature), and not destroying it, we are very far from being a superior species.
By watching nature, we can conclude that no creature is superior to the others. Some may be bigger, more powerful physically, but that is because their role requires those capacities.
All are required, in sufficient numbers (to achieve redundancy).
But we feel like being superior. I guess that is mainly because we have the capacity to do things beyond our physical limits (using intelligence and technology). But that is like giving a gun to a kid, he is powerful, but at the same time, that is not enough to make him viable. So technology is not enough to make us superior, in a durable way. Our intelligence should make us “superior” if we use that capacity to do the right things, and not destroy the system. In essence, our intelligence is the tool to become wise. Intelligence is a gift that put us above the other creatures in many ways, but at the same time, it comes with an obligation, we cannot abuse of it, and we must learn to use it wisely. This may become a very hard task, especially after thousands of years of using our gift in a wrong manner.
We have the power to become superiors, but today, we are still very far from that point. It seems more proper to compare humans with bacteria, as many times has been done recently.
All these sharp-edged concepts can be rounded a little bit, using our intelligence. First to accept these limits, and then, learning how to live within them.
The human life with no useful purpose for the system, because we are intelligent, can be turned into a life with a valid human purpose that at the same time does not harm the system. The key is to find the purpose(s) that will not finally destroy the biosphere.
I am convinced that this purpose is related with something that we all can do, we are built for that, to create new things. We are meant to create things. But again, the creative process has to be carried out without conflict with the system.
If we impose limits to our capacity, accept that we cannot do what we want, and learn how to do the right thing, we may have very much what we already have today (again in the future), but through living with another goal, with a different purpose. It is very possible that in that new way of living, regarding what makes sense today, may not have the same relevance in the future. Happiness will be related to less harmful activities.
Human society has been built around several concepts that probably explain why we are facing our own extinction today. If we want a model, we just have to watch nature (what remains). As an example, in nature, no individual has rights. The concept of “rights” does not exist in nature. Most of what we call “human behavior” does not exist in nature. And with no humans, nature is a very stable and durable system. So is a model to follow, if we want to last on earth. We have to adapt the basic rules that make nature a stable system, to human society. This does not mean we have to become savages, but to wisely use our power, to thrive without harming nature.
It is time to question everything about our society, all the way to the roots. It’s time for a new Ethos.
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4 June 2014, Wyoming, debate with H. Leighton Steward, who often represents the fossil-fuel industry. Read about Steward here.
Going Dark is available from the publisher here, from Amazon here, from Amazon on Kindle here, from Barnes & Noble on Nook here, and as a Google e-book here. Going Dark was reviewed by Carolyn Baker at Speaking Truth to Power and by more than 30 readers at Amazon.