We are a motley lot, we homo sapiens sapiens species. We range from brilliant gems of intellectual super nova to hard, dense white dwarfs. We are all else in between.
A couple of things I’ve come across in the last week or so have careened around inside my head, trying to find attachment to this or that theory of behavior. I have struggled mightily to understand my fellow brothers and sisters in humanity, and often come away thinking that I seem to have more in common with the average horny toad or muskrat, than I do with some of them.
I have often spoken of the “tenacity of life” and I admit that I find something Godlike in that, although it is not necessary I suspect. The woeful common dandelion bursts forth as a seedling and seeks the sun, finally finding a small possibility in the crack in the sidewalk. Up it marches, sending forth its flower, opening wide, being blessed by rain and sun and some small measure of nutrient. If lucky, and it must be surely luck, it goes to seed and blows it’s progeny forth, most of which will die, but a few of which will find purchase in some speck of soil and begin the process again.
As metaphor the dandelion is apt. For lichen struggles on the tundra as do microscopic organisms under the polar ice cap. Life just is hardy. And that provides an answer of sorts as to why we human who act in such awful ways, manage to continue.
It just ain’t that hard.
We are ostensibly at top of the food chain, the possessors of superior brains, able to build Space stations and microscopic computer chips. But such abilities are not required quite obviously, since we would not be here if they were. The amoeba carries on quite nicely, thank you very much, with no “brain” at all. Genetics promote those things that are conducive to life, and discard those that aren’t. Dogs and dinosaurs, the great evolutionary pinnacle. To a point.
Altruism is part of the natural world, although no animal or fish sees it that way. They are driven by forces that compel them to act as they do, sacrificing themselves in some cases for the “good of the rest”. Penguins gather in large “herds” to keep warm, and those on the outside bear the brunt of the cold and wind until they can take no more and force their way toward the warmer middle, others take up the perimeter in their “turn.” A mother moose will fight, including giving her life, to protect her calf from the wolf pack. Male lions will fight, sometimes to the death, to gain the right to father the next generation. None does it because it suits their own personal interest. Self-interest gives way to the greater interests of all or some.
We are different. We have the same genetic urges no doubt, for they have proven themselves essential to species survival. But because of those big brains, we can think. We can access dangers, and pluses and minuses to our behaviors and we can CHOOSE. And this is where it gets ugly.
We can choose to do what is right for our personal survival, at the cost of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of others. We can be selfish in a way that animals usually are not.
We are not so stupid as humans not to survive, for that would make us less than those who preceded us in evolution, and that logically cannot be. Dolphins and coyotes, rainbow trout, and mosquitoes do NOTHING to actively destroy their species. Only humans can do that. Only humans can orchestrate in some blindly stupid set of decisions the elements of their own destruction as a species.
Our ability to decide between the well-being of ourselves versus the well-being of others can be our undoing.
Any fair reading for instance, of the bible, makes it most clear in both the Hebrew Testament and the New Testament, that the over-riding concern of God and Jesus, as related by the writers, is concern for the poor, the disenfranchised, the widow, the orphan, the stranger. We are told time and time again that in the end we will be judged by how we treated the “least of these”. Yet, many among us choose to read all sorts of caveats into that, and turn much of the bible into a framework to work out one’s personal “salvation”, without reference to the rest of humankind. At least that humankind is of no concern other than its necessity to provide the “bodies” for which we offer our “charity.”
Thousands, if not millions of us “believe” that giving the rich tax breaks, cutting off the poor from government assistance, and bombing anybody who doesn’t heel to our needs, is somehow “right”. Tens of thousands ignore the plain face of history and capture people who ideologically share almost none of their values, and make them their own, i.e, Martin L. King, Jr., being a Republican “like us.”
I could go on.
What in the world is this about?
Seriously, READ this.
See, we aren’t stupid, but we are ignorant. We are wildly ignorant.
Most of us are so ignorant that we should stay locked inside our homes, never venturing forth lest the rest of the world take note of our ignorance. Except that out there in the world, we find kindred spirits everywhere.
We have decided that an opinion is every bit as good as a fact.
Look to your education in high school, because most people don’t go any further. Do you still remember than Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492? What the hell does it matter? Do you still remember the names of the ships? The Pinta, the Niña and the Santa Maria? What the hell does that matter?
That’s what we were taught.
We were not taught by and large anything about the morality or lack of same in entering a foreign land, peopled by others and forcibly taking it from them, and essentially committing genocide upon them.
I can tell you, how many members there are in the House of Representatives, and how many Senators there are. I might even be able to tell you how a bill becomes a law.
Was I ever taught about what representation ,should mean? What is government service meant to be? Was it explained to me what sorts of things justify asking other men and women to sacrifice their sons and daughters for the “good of America?”
I can tell you the basics of dissecting a frog, but I don’t remember any discussion about the ethics of life support systems, euthanasia, when life begins, what constitutes life, what is meaningful life?
What about the right to kill others of our kind?
What about the “right” to lock them up? For what and for how long? To kill who and for what reasons?
We were not educated to think. We were educated to be dutiful citizens, law-abiding for the most part, voting for elective offices at least the big ones, and raising children to do the same, all the time being “patriotic” which means being willing to sacrifice when the government asked us to.
So we don’t even know how to ask the right questions, and we don’t know how to evaluate the answers we get. And so we end up with a whole bunch of folks who believe that people who get food stamps are “lazy” and people who are receiving unemployment will go get a job when they can’t get it any more, and health care is a privilege, and that business is in business to “create jobs” and not get rich.
And it’s all just sad and frustrating.
Donald Trump made a joke about climate change, because “obviously” it isn’t happening, because it’s so awfully cold right now. The Donald may know better, but he may not. Ignorant people make lots of money some times. There is no correlation between the two.
We don’t read. We don’t learn. But we sure have opinions.
Just most of them aren’t worth the paper they aren’t printed on.
The point? I don’t really have one. I don’t really have one.