Human Nature, Nothing More Unnatural - Food For Thought And A Reality Check.
I posit that a populace is made up from two tribes. Two tribes with distinct characteristics as the result of evolution or divine decree. Both tribes eventually 'advance' in intellect through frontal lobe development. Both tribes have fully developed forebrains.However, one tribe is driven more by old brain domination and the other more by the forebrain. . How does this translate into behavior? Imagine a jungle in which visibility is limited but through time two path have been made through the trees. One path runs north and south. The other path runs east and west. The paths intersect at a junction where there is a small clearing. One cannot see this clearing until one is almost in it. Now picture two different tribes walking through the jungle. One tribe is on the east/west path, the other on the north south. In this scenario both tribes are heading toward the intersection. Each tribe has its own culture and survival regimens. Both tribes formed over thousands of years as nomadic Sapiens and developed survival skills through shared ideology, shared resources and increased numbers. However, there was a common denominator in each tribe that attracted people to join that particular tribe. Each tribe lived and died on one of two principles. The principles are evident when the two tribes reach the clearing in the jungle and meet. Tribe one works on the premise that survival means, "Get them before they get us." They reach the intersection and see the other tribe emerge from their path in the jungle into the clearing. Tribe one immediately attacks the second tribe. No observation, no dialogue, no data collection, simply attack. Prisoners will only be taken for utilitarian purposes. Tribe number two works on a totally opposite principle. If they run into another tribe, given opportunity they will exchange information with them, will share resources with them and might even decide to band together for the rest of the journey. If not that, then at least the tribe will share the experience of what they found on their journey, so as to help the other tribe. They will always do this if they if circumstances allow -it is built into their DNA as we might say. Luckily over thousands of years Tribe Two has learned from experience various techniques to not let Tribe One get the advantage, especially at intersections.
Not to digress but an election every four years is an intersection. More intersections will be described further on. Today we call the principles on which each tribe behaves as "human nature." As Hobbs (1600's) puts it, man is inherently evil unless shown a way to goodness. Philosopher Rousseau countered with, 'Man is inherently good until exposed to evil." Was there something in man's development that created two distinct brain actions? I propose resources-especially food. Rich diets enhanced the brain function and lots of food meant less need to pillage and plunder for food. Just think about the storage of grain in Neolithic times. Until bricks were used to create granaries, food spoiled and was eaten by vermin. Everyone in the village worked for production of food. However, once storage was successful a new class of people emerged who didn't have work to put on food on the table. Artisans and thinkers developed as a new class in the tribe. More food better diets different outcomes. However, where there was less food more primitive ways of getting it were dominant. Taking from others was an expedient evolutionary adaptation. Darwin's discovery of same bird, different beaks on the same island demonstrates adaptation, with food being the driver. I suggest you are born with a predominant predisposition to attack or share. If we look throughout the world, tribes or large populations have a disposition to physically touch each other either in combat or preparation for combat, i.e. Romans, Greeks, Huns, and Mongols. Or, tribes touch conversely only touch in love, tenderness, caring, sharing and dancing etc.
As in all behaviors there is a cross pollination, a blending, a bit of each of the positive and negative characteristics mixed in most people's makeup. But, I propose that there is an underlying dominant trait in each of us that determines how we think, act and even vote. Of course over thousands of years the 'war like] tribal people (Tribe One) have learned to put a polished veneer over their barbarian behavior so it is not evident that they are part of the "Let's get them before they get us" crowd. And of course, Tribe Two have developed all kinds of techniques to minimize the casualties before there is physical conflict. Tribe Two develops techniques to resolve issues even before reaching intersections.
Fortunately technology has been a useful addition to the arsenal of those wishing to make change without conflict. The use of social media during the middle eastern uprisings is an example. Regardless, people still belong to one ideological and physical tribe or the other. Did you ever wonder if there is a causal factor in play when you see so much violence in the world even though we are supposed to have evolved into sentient beings? Remember the mass of population around the time of Christ who paid good money to watch the gladiators fight to the death and the Christians get torn to shreds by lions? The people in the stands begat children and their children had children-in fact two thousand years later those mobs ( fans) are still having children. I think as a group they belong to Tribe One.
Other Intersections. Beside elections where to we see the two tribes interacting in their predisposed ways. E.g. We still kill each other. We have wars in which billions of $ of property are destroyed only to be rebuilt and rebuilt while we can't afford to give individuals proper shelter and food. Other intersections. Street demonstrations, law courts especially in individual rights vs. community protection, unions vs. corporation, gentrification of affordable neighborhoods into prestigious neighborhoods, public school funding Vs private education. In fact in just about any arena where there are two ways of looking at a problem and trying to find a common solution human nature will be evident.
Before we condemn Tribe One to the gallows we must recognize some legitimacy in their stance from an evolutionary basis. Perhaps they were almost at the stage of extinction in the evolutionary cycle when they formulated the aggressor stance to survive. The progeny of the survivors learned that one way to survive is to deprive others of their rights to die a natural death. Tribe Two, however, also has some life threatening behaviors built into their ideology. They have a tendency give too much away to the weaker members of their tribe or society in general and that deplete resources very quickly which threatens the whole tribe, possibly into extinction. We might call this social welfare.
Both tribes could do with some therapy. The first step to changing tribe behavior is to recognize that a behaviorist approach doesn't work. Both tribes have fairly well developed frontal lobes. Cognitive and affective therapy might be the right approach. This means creating a shift in awareness and attitude. Reality is always a good stimulator for a shift in attitude. Governments need a Reality Department. Both (Tribes/parties) would have make rational decisions based on a reality, not on lobbying and other devious methods. With computer science we can predict outcomes more rapidly and reliably. The warnings about climate change came about because we had the real numbers to reinforce what was becoming physically evident. A Reality Department can project outcomes in all areas that affect everyone's life. There is a good documentary drama about what happens when we ignore evidence; the name of the movie is, "The Age of Stupid" (2009) now streaming. The Reality Department must include the expertise of historians who can dig into the past of what happened when we did this or that. The example of the Treaty of Versailles 1919 and the long term impact of flawed decision making, I.E. of letting individual egos and national aims negatively influence the welfare of millions of people for decades, resulting in the second world war. The recent developments of the need to fact check POTUS and other influential people is a move toward reality. Paul Krugman, a New York Times newspaper writer identifies with the tribal analogy in his recent piece. "How the Republican Party Went Feral. Democracy is now threatened by malevolent tribalism." No doubt a weighted bias in the title but an acknowledgment of our primitive origins.
Where else can we begin to make changes that benefit both tribes?.
Let's take a closer look at debt, both national and individual. Let's get the facts of what the global debt to equity ratio is and how it will affect us individually when there is a time of reckoning. The 'Let's get them before they get us is evident in so many areas of our lives. The stock market is a fluid example. If I win you loose. Let's look at the true cost of people who feel they have a right to abuse their bodies with drugs, excessive alcohol, gluttony and indulging in as many sins that they can or can't afford at the cost to society. Our ever escalating health care costs and discriminatory health care policies support the us Vs them theory. Let's look at the cost to society of people who squander their wealth, however gained, without paying their fair share of taxes. Let's look at the reality of how much benefit we get from social programs that have unlimited expenditure without a budget for measuring impact and effectiveness. If you can't QUANTIFY it you can't manage it. But where do you draw the line between freedom of choice and totalitarianism. Jeremy Bentham (philosopher) proposed to use the resources available to benefit the most people, to quote him, "It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong."
Who is collecting the data and making sure it's read and used for the greater good. Why not the US Federal Reserve Bank or the Bank of Canada. Perhaps their role and resources might be expanded to include financial reality checks, based on the understating of the tribal analogy. The Fed. for example is not supposed' to have a political bias in their role, but they do they have the infrastructure for problem solving. Make them part of a Reality department. Let the Reality department recruit/hire thinkers who bring new perspectives to human decision making and outcome. Renowned poker champion Anne Duke comes to mind. Renowned researcher and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman would be a useful addition to the Reality department. His quote: "Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance." My suggestion is that WE continue to shift behavior of the two tribes both affectively and cognitively in order to minimize the impact of our/their hereditary inclinations. Let's admit we are all flawed human beings. Let's identify the attitudes and resulting behaviors that we collectively know can lead to our individual and group downfall or survival. So between republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives is there room for a fact based Reality Party or at least Reality Department within in each group? Give meaning to the phrase "Get Real"- your life may depend on it. The 'nature vs. nature argument needs a multiplier rather than the the versus criteria. Nature and nurture represents two powerful forces, combined they can be harnessed to to utilize their strengths and minimize the inherent flaws.