Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Red of Tooth and Claw, and Hopelessly in Love

We are raised with the language of competition and conflict. From the cradle we are told we need to look out for ourselves, that it is a tough world, that losers and winners are just the way it is. The other night I listened to a senior liberal politician laud inequality as not only inevitable under capitalism but as "a virtue". Like many, he argued that capitalism is the only viable form of economics - one that's recent travails mean it has to be saved from itself; but, ultimately, there is no alternative given what we are told is human nature - we are naturally acquisitive, inherently competitive. An economic form that does not recognise and foster this trait of dog-eat-dog is, in effect, not just bound to be inefficient, but positively inhumane. Our creativity, by this argument, is spurred only by the possibility (however elusive in reality) to be rewarded financially for our efforts in abundance. Never mind so many are poor and on marginal contracts, or unemployed - that's because they are skivers, indolents who scripted their own downfall.

It is a harsh, cold view of the world and of Nature. We are, at the end of the day, just animals - we temper our predatory nature, sanctified by the Fall from Grace and Eden, merely to avoid chaos. So we must have a system that channels the destructive spark within humans so that they can trade and earn, and exploit and grow rich; if they lose out, then the mythology claims that with a bit of hard work and luck, this time next year, we'll all be millionaires.

Except of course, we won't be. Because our system rests on inequality - ever sharper and more obscene inequality. But legalised; embedded in our cultural psyche and reinforced with all the violence in the hands of the corporately owned Capitalist State.

And yet how flawed this tragic, narrow view is of our species - and of so many others.

Look at history and you will see hundreds of thousands of years of human co-operation: whether from the early cave communities, working with each other to hunt, or, 11,000 years ago, the first farmers. Hierarchy almost certainly appeared only when we worked together so well that agriculture began to provide surpluses, freeing some from labour first to be perhaps soldier-guards and maybe also priests. Consequently, a new set of castes, or social classes emerged - warriors and clergy who, by means of physical force and superstition, between them dominated so many societies for millenia. Absorbing the mercantilists who emerged over the last four centuries into their power structure, they have ultimately remained there ever since, selling their surpluses and gradually accumulating more and more of the world's wealth into their greedy, grasping hands.

But it is not inevitable - no matter what Church and State tell you. Capitalism has existed for a blink of an eye in human history: at source, we are co-operative, not competitive. Ultimately, we look out for each other, sometimes even giving our lives to help others. Barring the odd psychopath, we are social creatures with an inherent sense of justice and fairness. Likewise,and again contrary to the received wisdom, morality, concepts of fairness and empathy, also exist in other species - as the video below shows. Dogs, it seems, do not eat each other - rather, when they see their family or pack, they release the same hormones as humans do when we feel or express love. And, as you will see, some monkeys will refuse to eat unless they know all of their fellow simians are being fed at the same time, and even the same quality of food. Even between species of animals, there is empathy - watch the second video about dolphins saving a dog from drowning and you can see that Nature is not always the harsh and vengeful force our merchant bankers use to excuse their pillaging of the common wealth.

So, before we let capitalism and its creed of greed take our species and our planet to the grave in the name of its supposedly being irreplaceable, take a good look at what humans really are. The truth is, we are not anything like as bad as these robber-barons eagerly tell us. In fact, we're better than them, and better than their rotten, corrupt, inhumane system that commodifies everything, and everyone, but values nothing. And, if we stop listening to the siren swansong of the venture vultures, we can still make the world we want.

1 comment:

  1. Shan Oakes, Hull and East Riding Green Party20 March 2013 at 06:28

    yes - thanks Adrian - its about time humans stopped being so arrogant as to think we are something special and different from other species!