The male of the species, Part One

Dogs, women and men.

I did warn you, my dear reader, at the end of yesterday’s post that my introspective mood continues!

Over today and tomorrow, I want to explore why we humans can be so incredibly clever, especially in a group sense, yet the males of our species find it so difficult to express themselves, and what that means for the future of humanity (at the risk of sounding a tad pompous).

More or less at random, a dip into yesterday’s selection of blogs brought to light some deeply disturbing items.

Professor William Even, Professor of Economics at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University was reported in The Conversation saying that:

As of 2014, there were approximately 39 million people aged 16-24 in the US, and 5.4 million of them were neither employed nor in school. That’s almost 14% of the age cohort, or more than two-and-a-half times the national rate of unemployment.

In that same bulletin from The Conversation, John Shepherd, a Professorial Research Fellow in Earth System Science at the University of Southampton in England, in writing about the challenges of directly removing CO2 from the atmosphere, stated (my emphasis):

A new paper in Nature Communications shows just how big the required rates of removal actually are. Even under the IPCC’s most optimistic scenario of future CO2 emission levels (RCP2.6), in order to keep temperature rises below 2℃ we would have to remove from the atmosphere at least a few billion tons of carbon per year and maybe ten billion or more – depending on how well conventional mitigation goes.

We currently emit around eight billion tonnes of carbon per year, so the scale of the enterprise is massive: it’s comparable to the present global scale of mining and burning fossil fuels.

Then Raúl Ilargi Meijer authored an item on The Automatic Earth blog, a blog that usually writes almost exclusively about money matters. His article was called: Power and Compassion. He opens his essay:

Time to tackle a topic that’s very hard to get right, and that will get me quite a few pairs of rolling eyes. I want to argue that societies need a social fabric, a social contract, and that without those they must and will fail, descend into chaos.

Then after referring to the European Union, he goes on to write (my emphasis):

Though it may look out of far left field for those of us -and there are many- who think in economic and political terms only, we cannot do without a conscious definition of a social contract. We need to address the role of compassion, morals, even love, in our societies. If Jesus meant anything, it was that.

There have been times through history when this subject would have been much easier to breach, but we today almost seem to think they are irrelevant, that we can do without them. We can’t. But in the US, people get killed at traffic stops every day, and in Europe, they die of sheer negligence. Developments like these will lead to ‘centers that cannot hold’.

In that part of the media whirlwind that we at the Automatic Earth expose ourselves to, virtually all discussions about our modern world, and what goes wrong with it, which is obviously a whole lot, are conducted in rational terms, in financial and political terminology.

But that’s exactly what we should not be doing. Because it’s never going to get us anywhere. In the end, let alone in the beginning too, we are not rational creatures. And if and when we resort to only rational terms to define ourselves, as well as our world and the societies we create in that world, we can only fail.

For a society to succeed, before and beyond any economic and political features are defined, it must be based solidly on moral values, a moral compass, compassion, humanity and simple decency among its members. And those should never be defined by economists or lawyers or politicians, but by the people themselves. A social contract needs to be set up by everyone involved, and with everyone’s consent. Or it won’t last.

How and why that most basic principle got lost should tell us a lot about where we are today, and about how we got here. Morals seem to have become optional. The 40-hour death struggle of Cecil the lion exemplifies that pretty well. And no, his is not some rare case. The lack of morals involved in killing Cecil is our new normal.

Let me now set the stage for what I want to write about tomorrow. And I’m going to do that by referring to a TED Talk that was recorded by historian and author Yuval Noah Harari. Here’s how that TED Talk was introduced:

Seventy thousand years ago, our human ancestors were insignificant animals, just minding their own business in a corner of Africa with all the other animals. But now, few would disagree that humans dominate planet Earth; we’ve spread to every continent, and our actions determine the fate of other animals (and possibly Earth itself). How did we get from there to here? Historian Yuval Noah Harari suggests a surprising reason for the rise of humanity.

Yuval Harari’s talk is based firmly on his thesis presented in his book: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. (There’s a review of his book in The Guardian newspaper.) Namely:

The book surveys the history of humankind from the evolution of archaic human species in the Stone Age up to the twenty-first century. Its main argument is that Homo sapiens dominates the world because it is the only animal that can cooperate flexibly in large numbers. The book further argues that Homo sapiens can cooperate flexibly in large numbers, because it has a unique ability to believe in things existing purely in its own imagination, such as gods, nations, money and human rights. The author claims that all large scale human cooperation systems – including religions, political structures, trade networks and legal institutions – are ultimately based on fiction.

Other salient arguments of the book are that money is a system of mutual trust; that capitalism is a religion rather than only an economic theory; that empire has been the most successful political system of the last 2000 years; that the treatment of domesticated animals is among the worst crimes in history; that people today are not significantly happier than in past eras; and that humans are currently in the process of upgrading themselves into gods.

It is my contention that humankind’s evolution, our ability to “cooperate flexibly in large numbers”, is rooted in the gender differences between man and woman. A contention that I expand upon tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “The male of the species, Part One

  1. Some fascinating and rather scary references here Paul, and you have segued very neatly from yesterday’s piece. It rather sounds as if you are going to stick your neck on the block tomorrow!

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