To envision a better world is to investigate the role of humans in it. From the threat of early human extinction some 1 million years ago to much sooner an impending over-population with a severe shortage of food and fresh drinking water. Despite (and because) the many advances we have made, we are still faced with the same fundamental challenge we have encountered throughout our evolution; the contested access to all of the world’s resources.
The most remarkable aspect of our evolution is how little we, as our planet’s most intelligent animal, have changed. Our territorial combats today are not much different from the battles by which most other animals defend their territory. Blessed with extraordinary intelligence and recognition by which only one creature can consciously predict and influence its evolution, individually and as a species, we continue to deplete our resources and fight our battles of access with the same evolutionary ignorance by which a lion secures his.
Sure, the pillage and plunder of the bronze-age have been replaced with a much more civilized religion of economics by which we can claim leaderboard position and access to strategic resources can be secured. And thankfully, imminent death and destruction is no longer the only inevitable outcome of losing. And yet, close observation reveals our modus operandi to be no less oligarchic and detrimental than the pillage and plunder that came before. The prize of our battles has changed, the outcome of our tactics have not.
One cannot argue with the gold-maned lion who roars the plains proudly after he fights and chases off a contender and subsequently kills off any new off-spring reared by his predecessor, in an innate effort to strengthen the evolution of this magnificent beast. The behavior of the lion arguably derived from the rules of nature imprinted on him.
But we can, must and shall argue the behavior of humans equipped with highly developed traits of intelligence, foresight, solidarity, and morale not found in any other animal. And yet despite those magnificent traits, we roar not unlike the lion unfazed by evolutionary concerns about our territorial dominance and victories of power.
We in The United States of America roar with short-sighted pride about our proclamation of the most powerful nation in the world, while a quarter of our children grow up in poverty (with 15.8% in extreme poverty) with its significant mental disabilities as the systemic inbreeding of despair to mankind. Or roar while 70% of Americans chronically weaken their immune system with an addictive dependency on prescription drugs, with $379B spent on anti-depressants. Or roar amidst soaring medical premiums we Americans bear as a result of 69% of our population suffering from the cascading effects of obesity, the vast majority self-induced. Or even more acutely, roar while we allow five million children on our planet to die before the age of five every year, with more than 45% from preventable diseases.
So, when the primal behavior of a lion leads to a stronger species in animals, and our unique intelligence leads to a pageantry of self-adulating progress inducing a voluminous weakening of the human species, some pertinent questions loom. Are we better off being labeled the planet’s most intelligent species? Are we putting human intelligence to good use?
Use or abuse
Why do we not use our unique propensity for hindsight, insight, and foresight to take advantage of the laws of nature to better ourselves? Why, with our immediate off-spring as our student witness, do we define “better” as merely the fulfillment of our selfish short-term needs and ignore our collective long-term interests bound to affect such offspring negatively? Why do we believe our desperate plight for the most extended life preserved by medication is better than the quality of a stronger one? Why do we consistently confound the principles of renewability with the empty promise of sustainability, in almost every conceivable endeavor?
Too much of human intelligence and time is still spent on developing more cunning and opaque ways to dominate others, in addition to acting on the foolish pretense as earth’s mother. Our planet will survive for a projected 3.5 billion years after us, as it did quite naturally in the 4.5 billion years before us. That is if we do not destroy our planet first in our stubborn refusal to subjugate to nature. In a rapidly populous, dense and contested world the most imminent danger we humans face comes from ourselves. From the growing dissent to the collusion of totalitarian regimes and the stifling measure of our commonalities by which we currently judge, control and value each other.
We must begin to use our intelligence to maximize the rewards of our innate diversity, joint capacity, and extraordinary ingenuity, by building a dynamic value-system to curate the value of our meaningful differences in service to our evolving evolution. A new value-system to maximize our existence in nature – on earth or extra-planetary.
“We have it in our power to begin the world over again”. — Thomas Paine