When Loyalty To Your Own Species Becomes Counterproductive
Many of you are probably aware that pictures and videos of small or otherwise cute animals are among the most frequently viewed and shared categories of media on the internet. Some have linked this phenomena to recent technological developments, namely the ease of sharing them on the internet. Others see it as a symptom of formerly hard-working and obedient slaves slacking off and amusing themselves. Yet others see it as people longing for child surrogates in societies with low fertility. I, however, have a very different theory.
High levels of interest in the welfare, company and humane treatment of animals are just one manifestation of a predominantly subconscious understanding that loyalty to members of your own species is now almost universally counterproductive.
Did you catch the most heretical part of what I just said? Let me repeat it, once again- “subconscious understanding that loyalty to members of your own species is now almost universally counterproductive”. Yes, I am implying that interest in the welfare, company and humane treatment of animals is less about altruism than recognition that almost all members of your own species (including those you relate to) are adversaries. Still confused, let me explain..
Most educated morons try to model the dynamics of human societies based on what we sorta know about bee colonies, wolf packs or troops of monkeys and apes. While small human groups in the past had some resemblance to troops of monkeys and apes, we have gone way past that stage. Human societies, especially those found in countries with at least a basic level of industrialization and technology, are unlike anything else in the entire animal kindom. The combination of self-awareness, relatively long life spans, widespread contraception, ubiquitous communication and transport technology has removed many of the constraints experienced by other animal species AND opened up possibilities without any precedent.
The flip side of this somewhat Faustian bargain is that it creates many new possibilities and opportunities for humans to screw other humans.
But why are these new possibilities and opportunities to screw each other over such a big issue for humans? Aren’t we smart enough to avoid the pitfalls of engaging in counterproductive archaic behavior patterns? Well.. not really. OK, here is a thought experiment. Imagine a world where chimpanzees evolved the intellectual ability to make decent metal spears, swords and knives. Do you think that these new abilities and tools would not have an effect on their societies? Would it not increase the chance of chimpanzee conflict and deaths rather than decrease it? The short answer is that such an evolutionary development is very likely to create chimpanzee societies which are even more centered around war, conflict and killing.
But why would that be so? Wouldn’t chimpanzees who evolved the mental ability to create metal weapons go on to evolve the ability to be more restrained? My answer is.. sure, some chimpanzees could certainly go on to evolve the mental ability to have a conscience or think in the long-term. But how could those smarter chimpanzees stop the ones who are just smart enough to make and use metal weapons but not smart enough to recognize the long-term consequences of their actions. It would take many generations and scores of horrifying wars before enough marginally clever chimpanzees got killed for the cleverer ones to prevail. As you know, it did take a few centuries of conflicts and wars culminating in WW1 and WW2 to convince most people in West-European countries that militarism was a bad idea.
The introduction of new ways to kill, enslave and screw other individuals will always cause a lot of damage before “things work themselves out”. However the process of “things working themselves out” can sometimes take longer than functional societies can keep on existing. Furthermore, a new development can always upset any forming or nascent equilibrium. But what does any of this have to do with viral pictures of cute animals, people spending tons of money on pets and the loss of loyalty to fellow humans?
The answer lies in how humans form, join and maintain functional groups or societies. A lot of human behavior, unlike that of other animals, is not instinctual or hard-wired. One of the advantages of having a large brain is that we can learn and modulate a lot of our instincts, and this has some peculiar consequences. Bees don’t think when they form or join colonies and wolf packs are formed and maintained through instinct and smells. Only the ‘higher’ apes and, perhaps, dolphins display the beginnings of individuals evaluating their willingness to give back to the group based on what they are getting out of it.
The sense of self and selfishness are thus two sides of the same coin.
As I have said many times before, functional human societies cannot exist or persist if most individuals in it believe that they are not getting a fair deal. Which brings us to the world we live in today and also what preceded it. For most of human history and prehistory almost every person belonged to some or the other small group that they could trust. Now, I am not claiming that things were perfect or everyone was happy with the arrangements. But pretty much every person could expect a core group of people to care for, help or stand behind him or her.
But is that still true? How many of you can trust your employers to not screw you over, for a very small gain I might add. How many of you can trust the government, or its various institutions, to treat you fairly most of the time? What about the many corporations you deal with every day? What about your parents? What about your friends? Your girlfriend, fuck-buddy, wife or whatever else? Your kids?
Every one of these institutions and individuals repeatedly make loud assertions that they are trustworthy, only to repeatedly demonstrate otherwise.
A lot of this untrustworthy behavior is the result of a rapidly changing matrix of possibilities. They pull that shit because they can get away with it, at least in the short-term and it is not going to get better. And here is the worst part- almost everybody is doing it to everyone else. Consequently a lot of people now prefer to limit human contact. Do you really think that TV or radio would have become so popular in the last century if society was not already pretty dysfunctional? Would people in functional societies spend so much of their free time using smartphones, social media or playing video games?
The high and increasing levels of interest in the welfare, company and humane treatment of animals in the last 30 odd years is therefore just a proxy of what we think about each other, including those who are supposed to be in our ‘in’ group. We have reached a point where the companionship value of another human being is so low or the associated risk so high that association with animals such as dogs, cats and pigs is more emotionally fulfilling and safer.
What do you think? Comments?