A Paradigm for Peter
During a discussion on May 17, 2020, on Zoom with a lively group of OpEd thinkers. Peter Barus brought up the subject, or question, of "paradigms". He thereby inspired a number of us to put our thoughts on the subject into words. Here's mine.
Humans are unique in the animal kingdom for their ability to form complex thoughts and long-range connections of ideas. Their brains as receptacles of perceptions and ideas are unique in organizing their ideas into larger patterns for easier visualization and communication. Humans through history have formed more and more complex patterns, to which the ancient Greeks gave the name, "paradigm".
Every paradigm is composed of the set of impressions and connections any individual constructs from birth and the unique combination of experiences that make that individual different from everyone else. Since there are certain life experiences similar enough to form a common link, humans are able to communicate, forming ever-growing vocabularies that pull approximate copies of their knowledge and opinions onto a shared net.
The reason for compatibility of brain functions is that the human genome follows a template passed down from the earliest stages of evolution. Humans even share a large number of features with other living things, remnants of which survive as recessive or dormant characteristics selected for by survival. Among dominant features is the drive for survival. Humans' more highly developed capacities have allowed them to recognize and understand this process, but has not, to this day, succeeded in growing beyond some of their earlier, animal-level tendencies, for example, functioning as predators and prey. While hunter-gatherers were a necessary stage of survival skills, at some point a defect crept in: that of turning fellow members of their own species into prospective prey. They may have selected groups as favored associates and others as inferior and suitable objects of pursuit and plunder.
Few other animal species practice self-group hostilities to this extent: army ants, fire ants, bees, dolphins, chimpanzees. It is not known whether such internal conflicts with their own kind are for territorial competition or devices to prevent overpopulation. Normal short fights one on one among animals tend to be a competition for mates, not leading to death and not for genocide or cannibalism, and serve the goal of selecting the better specimen for reproduction. This replicates on the macro level the competition among sperm, where millions compete for one to get through, driven by the genetic program of self-replication.
If the paradigm of life is survival and improvement by natural selection, the mutual destruction by members of the same species is self-defeating, since the best and strongest are chosen for and killed in wars. The human immune system is for the protection against external physical agents. When a body becomes incapacitated by its own immune system turning on itself, such as with lupus and cancers, its survival is threatened, a tragic defect that may cause malfunction and early death. If there are enough spares to keep the species in existence, having certain individuals succumb to such illness will not be fatal at the species level. It is, nevertheless, a loss at the individual level. How many potential geniuses are thus lost?
When such self-destruction occurs on the larger population level, where the human proliferation has spread the species over the globe and collected them into separate self-defined groups and nations, we see nation war against nation, for control of ideas and resources. Such wars don't stop at proving who is better; they lead to the endpoint of the process: genocide, wiping them all out.
The infection is mental, not physicala conceptual virus that has taken possession of and warped the thoughts and emotions of the collective, who have been persuaded that their survival requires the destruction of other parts of their global body. In that process, they are also destroying the integrity of their life support system, the substance of their planetits air, water, land. The built-in immune system of a society has turned on itself, a grievous defect that no one seems to be able to point out and correct. In fact, it forms even subtumors of social divisions leading to internal devourings.
Yet the health of the entire body depends on each cell's integrity, fulfilling its function towards the balance of the whole. Certain organs are entrusted with functions that benefit all. Liver, kidneys, heart, brain, lungs, gallbladder, bladder, arteries, etc.each is assigned a valuable and, one might say, monopolistic function, and all work in synchronistic collaboration for good health. It would not do well for the lungs to attack the heart and deprive it of what the heart needs to be able to do its work for the rest of the system.
tumors form and divert resources from the maintenance of the rest of the body
in order to feed themselves, they form a paradigm of one country destroying
another to take away their resources. Yet the wealth wasted on war production
and execution far exceeds what would have supplied all the attacker's needs
internally or through mutually healthy trade. Wars are the result of the most
pernicious virus of the human cognitive faculty.
I challenge all you thinkers to come up with an antidote, an antibody, a cure for this most destructive power that pits human against human, to eliminate forever the practice of war, violence, fraud, hatred, predation, and all other destructive relationships in the family of mankind.