Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Human actions are not motivated by morality

There is no good or evil. There’s only matter.

/*Begin disclaimer*/ These thoughts only pertain to things from a material point of view – given that we live in a material era. This is not an atheist creed, and I am too much of a skeptic to consider myself a follower of the atheist religion. More so, I personally need the moral compass of good and evil in my own perspective on life, for purposes of stability and automatic decision-making. When discussing the absence of good and evil, I am referring only to human (and non-human) action, and how things work in the universe. /*End disclaimer*/

The closest biological relatives of our human race are the great apes – and looking at their behavior can offer an interesting perspective on ours. My idea expressed in this blog came from simultaneously reading (superficially) about power structures in a chimpanzee society, with its alpha male, lackeys, the matron, etc., and reading (also superficially) about a study theorizing that politics has nothing to do with issues or candidates or even logic (which I long suspected), but rather instinctual yearnings of humans to be part of a tribe, and a dominant tribe at that. Just like sports. A third influence was rereading Golding’s insightful “Lord of the Flies”.

Human society is not about good and evil, nor is it only about survival and reproduction. It is about power struggle (perhaps related to both survival and reproduction?). I am ashamed to find something logical in puerile madman Karl Marx, who claimed that the history of mankind is an evolving class struggle – but in a way it is. However, it is not about social classes. It is about classes of humans. Personality, inherited genetics, and the such.

The system is irrelevant. Yes, some systems are better at allocating Earth’s scarce resources where they are most wanted (I purposefully avoided the word “needed”) – capitalism, decentralization, and the rule of law, for example. However, these are merely details. The dominant monkeys will eat the choicest steaks in a capitalist system with the freest of markets, and they would do the same in a kibbutz.

In a way, slavery is a natural human institution. It has only been outlawed in the “civilized” world (read “Lord of the Flies” or modern European history to put the word “civilized” into perspective) for the past century and half, two centuries at most. And it was outlawed in the most advanced societies first – where other much more subtle and efficient means to enslave fellow man were devised, rendering the chain and whip of traditional slavery primitive and obsolete.

The reason I boldly and improperly state that slavery is an intrinsic human trait is because we all want to have more with less effort. Since the things we want (again, I am avoiding the word “need”, which David D. Friedman, son of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, designated as a non-grata concept in economics) generally don’t produce themselves, we prefer others to do the work for us – starting with the inanimate, moving on to animals, and then to fellow humans. It is a human desire to have others produce for them (as long as the perceived cost of enslaving others is lower than the perceived benefit).

In a classroom, the bully will enjoy the fruits of another child’s labor (or that of the child’s parents) through sheer strength. “Give me your lunch money.” In most societies that is still the norm in adulthood. The pretty girls, lacking the physical strength to do the same, try to win the attention of the bully in order to have access to the material things he acquires. They will try to indirectly get to the goods through manipulation and winning the sympathy of the dominant male. The class clown – also lacking the physical strength necessary to partake in the plunder – will try to win the bully’s heart through antics and goofiness. The weak will receive a beating from the bully, as well as the contempt of the girls and other weaklings – for I have never seen them band together.

The appearance of another potential bully will cause power struggles, both physical and psychological. If the resources are relatively plentiful, the bullies can come to a peaceful and separate coexistence – much like a cartel in economic terms – but neither can sleep soundly or lower his guard.

This is continued in adulthood in many societies to this day. This is the way of the tribal warlords in various countries in Asia. This is the way neighborhood gangs operate in cities in the civilized and uncivilized world. This is how nations are run.

In more advanced societies, again, it becomes too costly to rely on physical might. Psychological dominance replaces it little by little (see centuries of development in the “civilized” world). Manipulation, rallying masses with illusory causes, and using them as weapons of mass destruction is less costly than using a military arsenal (it is easier to use willing servants than those forced into submission).

Dominant people in society will use their charm (politicians), religion and the promise to be on the side of “good” (i.e. to belong to the tribe that will dominate in the end), scare tactics (the world will overpopulate, overheat, succumb to disease, be overtaken by the “bad” guys – the competition, the tribe that is supposed to lose in the end), etc. Their goal, consciously or not, is to dominate the weak majority. A behavioral South Africa (under apartheid). Sometimes the dominant ones benefit materially (money, fame, women, luxuries, pride) and sometimes only through the knowledge that they possess power and, very importantly, reputation.

I sympathize with revolutionaries. I experienced one (a revolution, not a revolutionary, for the smartasses still reading this), live, with machine gun fire and terror, all eclipsed by the feeling of bursting freedom, of toppling the most insurmountable dam, a feeling that cannot be matched by a lifetime of orgasms. I feel for the Iranian youth today, fighting for change. I feel for the Cuban dissidents and for others like them. I respect them, and I envy them (they have something concrete to live for, they have a goal and no moral doubts about their actions). However, I am skeptical that they will change anything in the large scheme of things. It’s just that “their” guys will replace the “other” guys – don’t get me wrong, if I had a choice, I would associate myself with “their guys” on the spot, as I completely despise the “other guys”.

I did not lay out a clear idea in the above paragraphs. Just some rambling. If I read this aloud, I can start using some ideas from here to write many mini essays, or even try my hand at a novel, based on concepts found in these notes.

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