PEOPLE ARE PRIMATES
Hippy Sex Fiends and
From the German news magazine Spiegel courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe, a cool interview with a primatologist:
SPIEGEL: Is it possible that even the dream of a selfless society is the result of each individual's self-serving endeavors?
De Waal: No. Socialism cannot function, because its economic reward structure is contrary to human nature. Despite massive indoctrination, people are not willing to give up their own needs and those of their immediate families for the general good. And for good reason. Morality, after all, has nothing to do with selflessness. On the contrary, self-interest is precisely the basis of the categorical imperative.
SPIEGEL: Wouldn't that mean that capitalism is the more suitable model for human coexistence?
De Waal: A system based purely on competition also comes with significant problems. You can see this here in the United States, where there are too few constraints on market forces. It's a balancing act. Competitiveness is just as much a part of our nature as empathy. The ideal, in my view, is a democratic system with a social market economy, because it takes both tendencies into account.
Click here for the rest.
Early on in Real Art's history, depressed by the apparent war lust of the American people as the mighty US military machine geared up for it's invasion of Iraq, I wrote a post decrying the chimp-like and herdish behavior of my fellow countrymen:
I also find that, even though I am leery about the hundredth monkey premise, I am increasingly beginning to feel that we are more primal than I want to believe. Seemingly, most Americans believe in our sacred national ideals, not because of contemplative, rational thought and judgment, but because there are serious social rewards for believing: “Good boy. You’ve memorized the Preamble to the Constitution. You get an ‘A.’ What a good boy you are. A good American.” Good monkeys get more bananas.Click here if you want to read the rest (and, by the way, I've heard recently that the "hundredth monkey" premise is based purely on myth, and therefore bullshit).
Americans also tend to believe the words of the leaders who seem the most excited, the strongest. Watch the alpha male behavior during the upcoming presidential primary season. Watch the monkeys screech and beat their chests.
I was at that point starting to seriously consider the notion that biology, rather than intellect, plays the most important role in determining human affairs. That is, no matter how far we advance as a species, we are still, deep down, the same animals who climbed out of trees in Africa in search of more and better food thousands of years ago. Now, I'm pretty sure it's the truth: we're all a bunch of monkeys pretending to be gods.
The facinating thing about the interview above, however, is that biological destiny isn't necessarily such a bad thing. Most everybody knows about the violent alpha male behavior of chimpanzees, but it seems that relatively few Americans know about the chimps' extremely close relatives, the bonobos. Indeed, the bonobos are so closely related to chimps that they, too, share some 98% of human DNA. That is, we're almost exactly like chimps, but we're also almost exactly like bonobos. And that's a good thing.
Bonobos don't fight; they cooperate. Instead of violence, they engage in sex. Lots of it. With pretty much anybody, male or female, in their respective communities. Females tend to dominate, but in groups, without any sort of real heirarchy, and with very little aggression. The bonobos are the living manifestation of the old 60s imperative to make love, not war. It's as though chimps are hawks, and bonobos are doves.
So, it appears, if you accept the notion that chimps and bonobos give a close approximation of what human nature would be like divorced from human society, that we have it within ourselves to be both killers and lovers, dominators and helpers. Unlike our primal cousins, however, we have much more of an ability to choose. That is, if biology is our destiny, it doesn't have to be violent and destructive. We can choose to be true to our humanity by taking the path of the bonobos, the path of peace.
I'm not monkeying around here.