Challenge: To advance our civilization while providing a fair, just society for all members.
Our system of civilization is one based upon competition. In all of our striving to provide for our needs we compete with others. This is true whether we are seeking a mate or providing for shelter. This system of a competitive society stems from our evolutionary history. It seems to make sense or at least be convenient to have set society up in this manner since we are predisposed to compete.
In the human world we have taken nature’s system of free competition and modified it with law to suit an empathic, thinking species. The problem is that because we evolved through competition this urge is primary. We follow society’s laws only secondarily. As long as we perceive ourselves as successful we follow most of the laws. However as soon as an individual perceives himself as having been wronged or for some reason living below his vision of his standard he has a tendency to start ignoring the laws in order to rise himself up. In doing so he or she starts to negatively impact others and this of course is where the problems arise.
Basing the structure of our society on this natural competition model lends itself to abuses. In the natural world there is no moral rule set an organism is obliged to follow. Thus organisms will kill, parasitize, enslave and steal from their fellows. The only limits in place are those built into the natural system itself which prevent any one species or individual over running all others.
Making laws to contain our impulses is not anywhere close to 100% effective. Religion does not work either and seems to create its own set of problems when people follow blindly. Our biology seems to hold the trump card. We are motivated very strongly to do what our nature urges us to and one of these urges is to compete for our place in a hierarchical society. This likely springs from an evolutionary “pack” mentality.
I wonder if there might be a more advanced way however. We are no longer a species which is barely surviving like we were in our early history. We no longer have to fear being eaten by other species or have to spend the bulk of our efforts in search of food. We now dominate the globe and can alter the landscape as we wish(not always for the best I’m afraid). We produce food in such abundance and so cheaply that too much high calorie food and too little physical activity provides the major health risk to our population. There are starving people in this world but it is not because of a lack of ability to produce the food.
Competition throughout mankind’s history has many positive aspects and has driven our advancement. Throughout our evolutionary history, struggle and competition has made us not only stronger but has actually made us into the species that we are. We however no longer need to compete in order to pass superior genes along to future generations. We are now a technological race rather than one which is still evolving biologically. Unless we wish to go back to a “survival of the fittest” mode we are married to technology to keep our bodies and humanity as a whole healthy.
So the question is, how do we move forward in the most fair and just manner? A possibility might be to somehow give equal access to resources and education yet maintain some sort of effort/reward system for everything else which would allow us to gratify our urge to compete. Governments have tried communism and failed and I don’t think the answer lies in attempting to actually equalize the standard of living for all.
A society in which members compete for quality of life and are rewarded by how well they do against each other is possibly just an evolutionary step in our civilization’s history. If we wish to push humanity beyond our earthbound roots we must find alternative ways.
This essay has raised more questions than any it might have answered. There are many very intelligent, well educated people in our society. Hopefully some of you will comment on this thus contributing to our civilization’s evolution to a more just, efficient system.