A Few Thoughts On Being Human

We are all alive today against incredible odds. Only one sperm of the millions discharged fertilized your mother’s egg. If any one of the others were successful, then a different human would be alive instead of you. This was necessarily the result of the donor and recipient coming together at a specific point in time and selecting each other from a population of some 7 billion humans. Then, every one of your male and female ancestors, going back to the dawn of human existence, had to all come together and mate. And exactly the same sperm needed to impregnate the same eggs. Then consider the odds against our planet having exactly the right conditions in order to sustain life and that life on this planet had to evolve exactly in the way it did. Finally consider that we live on one of 1.5 sextillion earth-like planets in the universe (that’s a 15 with 20 zeroes). So, either your birth was an incredible genetic and cosmic happenstance or part of God’s plan, but regardless of which you choose to believe your very existence is a staggering miracle. So even though we share this world for a very short time, we all have a special place in the future of mankind and an obligation to create the best possible world for future generations.

Our History

Scientists believe that about 50,000 years ago humans, as Homo sapiens, spread from Africa to Asia and Europe where our ancient predecessors became isolated by the continents and developed different racial characteristics. It is also believed that Homo sapiens have existed on this planet for approximately 200,000 years; however, Neanderthals date back 600,000 years and Homo heidelbergensis, 1.3 million years. Now consider that in the modern sense we have only been “civilized” for less than 1% of this time. Meaning that for more than one million years our ancestors not only survived, but flourished and populated the globe. They figured out how to survive in jungles, deserts and frozen tundras without countries, empires, nations or government programs. They did not, however, survive as lone, solitary beings. Instead, they lived their lives in groups, belonging to tribes and villages which provided protection, love and efficiencies in building shelters, hunting and carrying out daily routines. This “tribal instinct” is still an essential aspect of being human and is embedded in our DNA. It affects our lives today with the same intensity that it did a million years ago.

Civilization

Words like “country”, “empire”, “civilization” and “nation” are imaginary abstractions, invented by regional and imperial rulers to delineate and define conquered territories. The inhabitants of these patches of geography are best described historically as subjects rather than citizens in that all people were “subject” to the will of the ruler. Any freedoms available to these people were either granted to them arbitrarily or taken by force through revolution. This fear typically caused rulers to tighten government’s grip through strong police repression and terror; assuming, of course that they had control of the necessary force. Otherwise, these leaders would either be executed or coerced to appease their subjects by allowing limited freedom and liberty.

Throughout the recorded history of mankind, we have seen tyrannical rulers control their subjects and by extension, the people of conquered nations. We are all familiar with the titles given to these despots: Pharaohs; Emperors; Kings; Czars; Dictators; Presidents, Supreme Leaders and Party Chairmen. Even in the 21st Century, over half the population of the globe is subservient to the whims of some totalitarian authority.

The damage caused by totalitarian regimes in the 20th century alone is staggering: In 1933 Joseph Stalin deliberately starved 7,000,000 Ukrainians (The Holodomor) and Mao Tse Tung (Mao Zedong) in 1952 had some 800,000 dissidents killed and at least 20,000,000 died of starvation from his ridiculously misguided economic policies. By the time Adolph Hitler and his Axis powers quest for world domination had ended in 1945 as many as 85,000,000 people were dead.

While nothing in today’s world compares with the devastation of these events in the 20th Century, there are plenty of current examples where genocide, starvation and terror are used as tools for regimes to maintain and increase power.

Political scientists would classify these countries as small coalition totalitarian regimes. In other words, power is never exclusively in the hands of one person. Instead the ruler relies on a relatively small group of essential supporters, without whom a leader could never maintain control or effectively run a government. These supporters are often generals, bureaucrats, oligarchs or tribal leaders. Life is good for those in power but is horrid for everyone else. Poverty is rampant; basic human rights are often denied or ignored. There is no Bill of Rights guaranteeing the freedoms that we take for granted.

Society

Humans are not solitary beings. Most people would consider a life of solitude exceptionally harsh and lonely. In terms of human effectiveness, it has been shown that better decisions evolve from groups than from individuals; that human effort is more effective and productive when organized in groups toward the achievement of specific goals. Particularly when each individual’s contribution is based on desire, motivation, aptitude, ability, training; and finally that these goals are achieved most efficiently through continuous advances in the development of tools and a good system of rewards. These ideas are best summed up by the term synergy, which simply means that “The whole (collective) is greater (in terms of accomplishing specific goals) than the sum of its parts (members)”.

Humans are by nature competitive, opportunistic and extremely adaptable on the one hand, but also have an intense need for acceptance on the other. In fact this need can be so strong that it supersedes logic, sanity, self-interest and even self-preservation. Along with fear of punishment, this desire becomes an incredibly powerful motivator. Because of these competing human needs, we will allow ourselves to submit to a variety of bad governmental and organizational situations, but once the rules are established, we will endeavor to not only survive but make the best of our circumstances.

We are also taught at a very early age to conform, to obey rules and to respect those in authority over us. These authority figures begin with our parents then, for example: our teachers, police officers and corporate managers. Conformity, to a certain extent, is normal and in fact required to live a life of peace, safety and comfort in civil society. An inability to live by society’s rules is considered anti-social or sociopathic behavior. Conformity, however, comes at a price and that is a reduced ability to exercise free will. The concept of “free will” is especially important when it comes to matters of law because of the state’s ability to exercise coercive powers over the individual.

As mentioned earlier, the basic tribal needs of acceptance, popularity, love and working toward a “greater good”, along with fear of punishment can be used to manipulate us and can even be considered a form of “cult-like mind control”, though this is most prevalent during the process of institutionalization, it is also a common, daily occurrence used by advertisers, salespersons, religious leaders and politicians.

What have we learned?

Today there are approximately 7 billion humans on this planet, existing as Homo sapiens for hundreds of thousands of years. One would think that by now we would have figured out how to eradicate hunger, disease and create for humanity a “Heaven on Earth”. But, the six habitable continents are separated by five oceans, hundreds of mountain ranges, and thousands of lakes and rivers. Until recent history, the inhabitants of the various land masses had little contact with each other and their societies evolved in much different directions. Even today the earth is fragmented into almost 200 independent sovereign nations, each with its own politics, priorities and problems. And the “Superpowers” have always been, and will continue to be, more interested in advancing their own interests than those of “lesser” nations.

We have gotten smarter with the progression of history, particularly in the sciences, commerce and technology which are building block concepts: one advancement leads to another and then to another. And while these advances have greatly improved the quality of our lives, we have barely paid attention to the social aspects of history and when we do, either politics gets in the way or it is recorded from the writer’s personal perspective, preconceptions and biases. This results in a huge collection of historical stories and legends, filled with information, and misinformation that we learn in school, but soon forget. Even when we have tried to learn from history, those pesky details keep changing.

Human Nature

I would like to emphasis an important point: we are all essentially the same. My nationality; religion; and genetic composition does not make me any better or worse than my neighbor, co-worker or stranger across the ocean. We all should be judged individually and based upon personal characteristics under our control. With this in mind, governments should be in place to provide equal protection and equal justice under the law.

Your religion may be the one and only path to an eternity in heaven or paradise with God, but none of us will know until either God supernaturally appears to mankind or we die. Therefore, we should all be free to practice our religious beliefs or none at all, without government interference. To do otherwise is tantamount to despotism.

Even though our species dominates the planet, we are remarkably fragile, physically, mentally and emotionally, which highlights the importance of everything from prenatal care through the nourishment and proper nurturing of children. Still, there is a disturbingly high percentage of the world’s population with severe psychological diseases and disorders. The behaviors that result are a huge cost to society, causing violence, crime, substance abuse, harmful addictions and in many cases, the complete inability to function in normal society. In developed countries, these factors create a huge financial drain on welfare and disability programs, prisons, schools and health care. Unfortunately, there will always be a minority of any population that cannot or will not conform to society’s rules. This becomes especially dangerous when these people are allowed to rule.

An individual may desire the power to do anything he wants: take or destroy any property, abuse, enslave, rape or kill humans at his whim and believe it or not, some societies will let him get away with it. So, the most important questions are: Will destructive behavior be accepted and even valued by the collective (whether a tribe, a nation, a religion or a street gang)? And secondly, will the collective reward the perpetrator by making him ruler? Or, will it punish him through exile, imprisonment or death?

As previously mentioned, the answer lies in the history, culture and values of the collective. For example the brutal and warlike Melanesians, who valued killing and tribal aggression, likely drove the peaceful Polynesians further and further east to Tahiti, Hawaii and even Easter Island. In the Americas, the ferocious Carib Indians drove the more peaceful Arawak’s north from Venezuela to the islands of the Caribbean and would likely have eventually slaughtered and eaten them all. Instead within a few decades of Spain’s arrival to the West Indies, the Spaniards took over and decimated the entire population.

It’s clear that humans will naturally form bonds with other humans, first with family, then with one or more collectives. As these bonds extend to associations that are intended to accomplish specific goals, then rules are established, leaders chosen and strategies for their successful achievement. In primitive societies the mission may be to form a hunting party, gather food, build shelters or establish a system for resolving disputes. In modern society the goals may be to provide consumer products, build homes, bridges or roads. But in any case, for the collective to flourish, one can safely make a few assumptions: First, all necessary missions require preparation, skills, tools and the willingness of all parties to follow the plan. Second, there has to be an ample number of workers to meet all the needs of the collective. Third, the collective should provide a safe, healthy, secure and respectful environment for its members. Fourth, all the members should be able to exercise reasonable freedom to live their lives, pursue their dreams and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

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