Sunday, 25 October 2009

Western civilization: an evolutionary cul-de-sac

Human nature and behaviour evolved in and are thus adapted to life, and the Darwinian struggle for survival and (reproductive) success, in essentially two different environments: 1) the individual's extended family group, or tribe, with which (notwithstanding conflicts and rivalries between individuals) members identified and cooperated with each other, developing strong bonds of loyalty and mutual commitment, and 2) the environment external to it (including other, rival, groups of humans) which the individual would have feared and, one way or another, sought to exploit to his tribe's, and thereby, his own, advantage.

With the rise and development of civilisation (very recent in an evolutionary context), these two environments were conflated, confounded and exploited, to the advantage of a particular society's dominant individuals and their families, which formed social elites, originally comprising an aristocracy or oligarchy and priesthood, but gradually expanding and diversifying, especially in recent times. State and economy developed to facilitate the (self)-exploitation of this newly arisen, artificial environment, of human society itself, to the advantage of those in positions of power and influence, where, misplaced and perverted, but blinded by familiarity, success, dependency and the human brain's natural inclination to rationalize its interpretation of reality, i.e. its environment, to its own perceived advantage, the individual  continues his struggle for survival, and "success" - only now largely  reduced to the pursuit, retention and exercise of POWER (in the form of money, the moral high ground, social and professional status, etc.), which has, or certainly had, the potential to greatly enhance, especially male, reproductive success.

State and economy also serve society, of course, and every individual is completely dependent on them (as those who profit most from the political and socioeconomic status quo like to emphasize) - but as a shepherd serves his flock, i.e. not for the flock's sake (although he may feel genuine concern for a lost or injured lamb), but primarily for his own (and/or his employer's) sake, for the meat and wool that the flock provides and can be exchanged in the market place for money (the most versatile form of power).


  1. Nice post. Is ambition fed by nature or nurture?

  2. I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to discover and respond to your comment, David, but hopefully better late than never:

    Certainly ambition is fed by nature (our primordial drive for (reproductive) "success", but nurture (how we are brought up, trained and conditioned) will also have a big influence.