I’ve become familiar with John Rappaport’s ideas encapsulated in his Matrix concept, and receive a weekly email of his most recent thoughts; this week’s blog on “Is the individual an outmoded idea?” is intriguing as it gets to the core of human activity or action.
Humans act from a personally felt and sensed feeling of ‘uneasiness to reduce or remove that felt uneasiness; (Ludvig Von Mises first coined this definition in his Opus Magnum Human Action). If you are hungry, you eat; if you fear, you run. These are essentially animal attributes that none of us can escape. It is a world in which stimulus and feeling dominate. We are in this sense strictly animals controlled by feelings and our reactions to those feelings. What distinguishes the human from the animal, however, is the human’s ability to abstain from instinctive behaviour.
In ages past, millions of years ago, it was probably true to assume that humans were simply another life form of the Earthly biosphere living the vagaries of animal life when some became sustenance for others, and vice versa, a so-called, paradiscal one-ness of sustainibility. This feeling of one-ness can be actively felt when humans assemble together for some event, foot ball match, political rally, when at times overwhelming feelings seem to appear out of nowhere – the madness of crowds, as one viewpoint might interpret it. It even happens when one watches a televised documentary of some or other human celebration such as the English tradition of trooping the colours in London, whren some become emotional for no particular reason.
The natural state of humanity is grinding poverty where nomadic tribal groups lived at the subsistence level and when most of their waking hours were devoted to the activity of simply staying alive. In a paradisical state where there might have been an abundance, animals including humans would have lived without much happening. This assumed previous state might have been the basis for the belief of the noble savage held dear by some of today’s politically collectivist activists.
Then something happened and that blissful garden of Eden was forever destroyed.
Species mass extinctions occurred, and humans, for what ever reasons, reacted differently than other species, and developed memory from which they fabricated a surreal mindscape to escape from the terror and destruction Mother Nature visited the Earth. The human response to the destruction and awfulness of the natural catastrophe was to escape from the present into their thought-worlds by the process of thinking. This escape into the surreal mindscape became habitual, which is to say, that it became an unconscious human attribute, much as the learned skill of riding a bicycle in time becomes an unconscious skill. The problem is that most of us automatically escape into our thought-worlds when we sense personal uneasiness.
But not all humans succombed to the demands of their mindscapes and unaffected groups returned to their simple lives as nomadic hunters and gatherers living in the rainforests dotted around equatorial Earth that might have been globally extensive in the previous golden age of humanity’s dim memory. Such peoples continue to live, more or less unmolested, in various remote locations on the Earth’s surface.
One biological response to catastrophic reductions in population numbers is to rapidly increase the population so that when the next mass-culling occurs, sufficient survivors will exist to continue the species. If the human species then experiences further global climate catastrophes, as seems to be the case as described in humanity’s various myths, then an obsession with avoiding future catastrophes by human interventions becomes a dominant social factor; and all driven by the collective accumlated memories of those past catastrophes. The nett result is exploding human populations driven by an overwhelming sex-drive, a simple animalistic response.
The maximum number of individuals in any human group where everyone knows everyone else, is about 150 individuals, give and take a couple. Such would be the maximum number of individuals in any nomadic tribal group living at the subsistence level, a level at which most of human activity is devoted to staying alive. But under conditions of exploding populations when no one actually has the physical time to know every other individual , which also recessitates the human response of the division of labour, then in order to maintain social peace and cohesion, the sanctity of the individual had to be developed along with private property rights. This cultural institution was formed to protect the lives of strangers who might appear into strange cultures. Without this cultural tradition, strangers would have been liable to having their goods and chattles stolen by the city or culture they were visting or travelling through.
The tribal view is simply based on collectivist ownership, and this system of social coperation works as intended for groups numbering 150 individuals, or so. But when human populations reach the millions and billions, when no one knows everyone else, then the cultural systen of maintaining social peace and cohesion is achieved by creating individual and private property rights.
However exploding human populations in response to surviving the next global catastrophe, bring their own problems described in the youth bulge theory of Gunnar Heinsohn, in which millions of unemployed youth start to make social mischief.
And it goes without saying that the pyschopaths running the world’s various religions, where they are collectively chasing their unique utopias by forcing others to adopt their preferred rituals to ward off the looming catastrophe(s), are also part of the problem. And underlying all of it is the human ability to think, that has created the mess we are presently in. It is human thought that has divided humanity, and it isn’t a recent revelation either, as the old tale of the Tower of Babel reminds us.
It’s simply that too many of us are too comfortable living in our virtual matrix of surreality fabricated by our brains via the thought process. The solution lies not in turning everyone into mindless robots, but in understanding our catastrophic past and the effects that ignorance results in when we refuse to leave our surreal mindscapes of religion and ideology.
It is literally human thinking that has complicated life into the mess it is today. And it is understanding how we think, that we might find solutions, for it is this ability that separates us from the animal. It is our choice.