By: Alton C. Thompson
Once upon a time there was a group of creatures belonging to a certain species who lived in groups, and had a rather peaceful, egalitarian existence. The male adults occupied themselves with the hunting and snaring of animals for sustenance purposes (not as a sport); but as this occupied little of their time, they spent most of their time sitting around conversing (for they had a language), telling stories, joking, etc. The adult females, on the other hand, occupied themselves with childcare, and also the gathering of edible plants, and unlike the adult males, they had the ability to do two things at once—i.e., child care while they were engaged in gathering.
Both males and females varied, of course, in their innate abilities—intellectual and other—but the females made better use of their intelligence than did the males. This was evidenced by the fact that one day one of them got the bright idea that rather than going out from time to time to gather food, it would make more sense to dig up some of the plants from which they derived food, and plant them near their camp. They began doing so—and agriculture was born. They even taught themselves how to develop the plants so that they would yield more food. Thereby, they were able to reduce their “work week” significantly, giving them more time to engage in childcare, craft activities, “gabbing,” etc.
Adult males had enough intelligence that they were at least able to realize that they were inferior to females. They realized, for example, that females could produce babies, but they couldn’t. They then “hit” on an idea to help reduce the disparity that existed between them and females: Although females had a “first birth” function, they could brought balance into the situation by giving themselves a “second birth” function. That is, they invented rituals (“rites of passage”) that would give youth at a certain age a “born again” experience—a formal introduction into adulthood, with adult males conducting the ceremony, the ceremony being restricted to male youths, of course.
In addition, the adult males, not being as dumb as they looked, got the bright idea of increasing their role in the group so that they would have more control over the females and the young in the group. They did this by inventing ritualistic behaviors related to the world that they lived in, putting them into a code (e.g., the earliest version of the Ten Commandments), and then insisting that all members of the group engage (or not—in the case of “don’ts”) in those behaviors—with those failing to do so being subject to various punishments, the nature of the punishment depending on the “severity” of the crime. This now made them feel not only equal to adult females, but superior to them.
As the females were developing agriculture, the population size of the group began to increase; and as that occurred, divisions began to occur with the males themselves—as class/caste divisions began to arise. And as that was occurring, the distribution of the population began to change; earlier, it had become increasingly sedentary, but now it was becoming divided into rural and urban—with the ruling males occupying the urban areas.
As these developments were occurring, so was another one—one that was recognized by no one, and sensed by just a few: A growing Discrepancy (see Chapter 2 of my eBook). As the society was “developing” and changing, the individuals living in it were maintaining their same biology, but now experiencing stimuli for which their bodies had not become “designed,” found themselves engaging in behaviors for which their bodies had not become “designed,” etc. The more sensitive adults—who, surprisingly were males!—sensed this Discrepancy, and in doing so became dimly aware of the fact that some in the society were experiencing ill-being—which they “instinctively” knew was “wrong.” Not only did they come to “know” this; they could perceive that the reason for the ill-being was that some members of the society were engaging in activities that had the direct result of causing ill-being in other members of the society.
One of them—a member of the elite—had, at some point, a “stroke of genius.” He “decided” (it was his unconscious mind at work) that what needed to be done was to “sneak” into the existing moral code some “don’ts” that related to how one should relate to other members of the society. And because of his position in the society, he was able to do so. Over time, in fact, the ritualistic elements in the moral code got pushed out in favor of ones that were concerned with proper treatment of others (in a negative sense). The purpose of the new code was, of course, to eliminate ill-being from the society—and those who had been instrumental in shifting the orientation of the moral code gradually became conscious of this fact.
Over time, however, it was becoming evident to the society’s Sensitive Ones that the existing code—with its emphasis on “don’ts”—wasn’t getting the job done. For ill-being existed in the society, and it was not obviously resulting from ill-treatment of certain individuals by other clearly-identifiable individuals. Given this, there was the question: What can be done to solve the society’s ill-being problem? Someone then again came up with a brilliant answer: Just as the old ritualistic code had some “shoulds” in it, it was time to make the moral code consist primarily of “shoulds”—and the result was a famous passage in Job, and another one in Matthew.
What occurred, then, was the creation of positive rules: When you learn of others in need (such as the Good Samaritan did), you should feel an obligation to do what you can to help them. This might involve direct help, might involve voting for bills that would provide help to those in need, etc. (In addition, research has questioned the claim that we are “naturally” self-centered, and found that both helpee and helper benefit from helping, suggesting that another strategy might be to publicize that fact in an effort to promote direct helping.) Thus, positive codes arose because of the fact that as society was changing, negative codes were no longer accomplishing their purpose well (of preventing ill-being from occurring). And perhaps such codes have “worked” to some extent since that time.
But what if the society becomes highly inegalitarian, and the government comes under the control of rich individuals. Given that such individuals—because of their position—are likely to be self-oriented, they are not likely to be interested supporting charities or introducing bills designed to help the needy—and may even work to reduce such efforts in existing bills, or even work for their repeal. (Also, they may engage in outsourcing—which causes unemployment, and adds to the ill-being in the society). In addition, because their position tends to make them reckless, they engage in activities—either direct ones, or ones through the government they now control—that may result in “crashes,” which reduce the wealth of many, put people out of work, result in foreclosures, etc. Given that situation, private charity may be insufficient to “take up the slack” so that ill-being pesters in the society. What to do about that fact? “Improving” the moral code is obviously not the answer. The situation seems bleak—even hopeless. But wait! When we recognize another problem, this helps us recognize that by addressing that problem, there is an opportunity simultaneously to address this problem—so that it would be foolish not to do so.
Let me state that other problem in the form of a series of questions: What if the way of the life associated with the society is a high-energy one based on the use of fossil fuels, and that it is discovered that the carbon thereby introduced into the atmosphere is causing greenhouse warming, and that is impacting human life, directly and indirectly, in various negative ways. Assume also that scientific studies conclude that this situation is likely to worsen—either because there is no prospect of a switchover to “safe” sources, or because even if this would occur tomorrow, the tipping point has already been passed—to the point that (a) it cannot be halted (even with technological fixes), and (b) will worsen, so that (c) more and more will die, the culling will (d) become so severe that at some point societies will begin to collapse, and when that starts to occur, (e) even more will die prematurely. What to do about this?
It’s obvious that the only answer is to begin developing a new way of life—one that will able to withstand the ravages of global warming. And because that in itself will not solve the first problem mentioned, it makes sense to develop this new way of life in a way that will simultaneously address thatproblem—by ensuring that an inegalitarian society does not arise.
By doing this, one would not only be able to address the problem of ill-being, but the threat posed to life itself by global warming. How does my story end? I wish I knew!
About the author: Al Thompson works (data management) for an Engineering (Avionics) firm in Milwaukee. Click here to mail him.