An exercise in communication embedded within sustainability.
It is a good resource to provoke discussion.
I have written this response to the video and I welcome your comments. Also it occurred to me that this ‘essay’ could be used as a writing skills task embedded within the context of sustainability – I have some questions at the bottom,
First watch the video…
Here are two comments from the author in answer to some of the criticism of his video:
“There will always be inequality. There is nothing fair about one man being born blind and the other with sight. That outcome is evolutions fate, and no amount of stone-age thinking collectivism will ever rectify the situation.”
“Hunter-gatherers were egalitarians! Sharing makes a heck of a lot of sense if you’re simply trying [to] scrape by enough food/shelter/clothing to survive. In modern chaotic developed economies where participants spend ~90% of their time producing luxuries and new wealth arises mainly from new ideas, sharing is not the best way to motivate and inspire people to maximize output.”
My response to his comments are: “The author of this video clearly has a misunderstanding of the theory of evolution and seems ignorant to the state of many people’s lives in the world.
The video states, “Since you own your life you are responsible for your life” –
I state “What about responsibility for the lives of others?”
Here is my lengthly response to the video :
Libertarianism and philosophy go hand and hand, especially when your philosophy of life includes the belief that there is no ‘right or wrong’. Libertarians know “what is right for me’ but do they think about what is the right for the greater good? Perhaps, however, I think the author of this video, and probably most libertarians have good intentions for humankind but are lacking a certain level of ‘spiritual evolution’ for their system to ever work. I define spiritual evolution in the context of this essay as ‘an awareness, which acknowledges the interconnection of all human beings and species on this planet and the need to consider others as well as themselves”.
As the author has chosen to use the theory of evolution to support his ideas I will do the same. Who was it that said, “Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution”? Darwinian Theory explains much about human nature, and so, let’s apply it to the ‘Philosophy of Liberty’ and Libertarianism.
Along with many higher order mammals, humans evolved as a co-operative species, surviving by using strategies such as living within communities and sharing resources. This altruistic behaviour served humans very well for hundreds of thousands of years. Is altruism still working? If not, what has gone wrong? Why are humans going to war with each other, flying planes into skyscrapers and destroying the planet with over consumption and pollution? This is not altruistic behaviour. The answer might be revealed through an understanding of the theory of ‘mate selection’.
The theory of mate selection states that many animal species display their strength, territory or resources through adaptations like colourful feathers, song, nest building, demonstrations of physical prowess, etc in the hope of attracting a mate or scaring off a rival for a mate. Likewise, humans put value on the acquisition of wealth; fancy clothes or property etc for the same reason. The owner of the massive house with its large plasma TV is really saying – “Look at me, haven’t I become successful, come and mate with me, I can not only provide food and shelter, but I am so successful I have excess to spare. This instinct to ‘store acorns’ is ‘materialism’ and it is in our genes. We can’t help it! Material possessions are seen as sexy.
Materialism is therefore an evolutionary trait that has increased reproductive success and hence survival of the fittest. Altruism is another one. Altruism and materialism are not mutually exclusive. Altruism sits within a superset of behavioural traits, which include materialism and were selected earlier by an environment of scarcity and intra-specific competition. Altruism is a higher evolutionary strategy, which has enabled humans to succeed not only biologically but culturally as well. Through cultural evolution humans are now in a position to enjoy music, fine food, international travel, fast cars, the right to bear arms, nuclear weapons, fashion clothing, I-pods, plastic bags, etc. All those wonderful inventions and commodities that libertarians believe we have the freedom and right to possess.
So humans are both materialistic and altruistic. Is this a fatal flaw in our evolution? As we know, humans are fighting each other over ownership of territory and resources and destroying the planet with over consumption and pollution, so if we are altruistic why don’t we just stop this nonsense and save the world?
The answer is twofold. Firstly, research into other altruistic species has shown that altruistic behaviour is only extended to ‘kin’. This is called kin selection. Help or “sharing” is offered only to those with genes in common, i.e. relatives. Secondly, there is an alternative to the altruism gene; the ‘cheating gene’. “Cheating” is a behavioural strategy that survives within a predominantly altruistic population. Cheaters are tolerated by the altruists and get ahead by exploiting their good nature.
The ‘Cheating’ strategy thrives within a model of ‘liberty and freedom’. If people are rewarded by putting themselves and their greediness before the greater good of the species and the planet then the ‘cheating’ gene’ will continue. Indeed it will be selected for.
To stop the nonsense and save the planet from destruction we must consciously fight against our natural instincts to be selfish and change our value system. We must sanction cheating behaviour and extend our altruism beyond kin or our local gene pool (e.g a country) to include all races and creeds on earth. We must look at the species as having a global gene pool. We must recognise all humans as being kin.
Libertarianism does not recognise the interrelatedness and interrelationships between all the people on this planet. It provides a haven for inherently selfish people – people with the ‘cheating’ gene. Unless humans recognise we have an inherent nature for materialism and greediness, which competes with our altruistic tendencies, we are doomed to compete and fight with each other forever.
Evolution acts at the level of the species but it is enacted at the level of the individual. Intelligent, educated 21st Century, ‘enlightened’ individuals have reached a point in evolution where they are able to understand some of the nature of human behaviour. They are able to see that only a value system firmly grounded in notions of community responsibility and caring for others will ensure the survival of our species. We have been “vehicles for our DNA” (S. Gould) at the cost of our environment for too long. Our environment will eventually no longer be able to support an ever growing population of selfish destructive human genetic material.
Libertarianism as an evolutionary step, will only work if we are all enlightened. This is sadly not the case. Libertarianism only serves the needs of a minority. Whilst there are still greedy people in the world, libertarianism and the notion of ‘freedom’ are too risky, and sane humanitarian democratically elected governments must remain.
Communication skills task:
- Comment on the structure of this essay – how could you improve it?
- Find the references that are missing and insert them into text
- Add some examples to illustrate some points made
- Add any missing definitions that are needed.
- Write your own counter or supporting argument.