Friday, February 17, 2012

Baser Natures, Continued

Willing Exile: Baser Natures

Channeling: Barry Manilow

Now that piece is not well-written at all.  But to pick up something more from it, I'd like to start it out as an introduction to what I think I meant to say.

Though some of its assertions were dismissed as quackery, Desmond Morris' "The Naked Ape" does make the point that psychosocial evolution has not followed up more quickly on the effects of all the technological revolutions that have taken place.  Some of our most basic instincts still hark back to earlier times, and with the explosion of information you can have several otherwise intelligent people live walking contradictions in their value systems.

Take for example many people who are pro-choice on the reproductive health issue, and are pro-life on the death penalty issue.  Some may not like animal testing, but are supportive of stem-cell research.  On the other hand, you have people who are pro-life and are committed to the death penalty at the same time.  Some cannot stand eating meat, but would welcome genocide on others just because they are of a different faith.

Of course I will be accused of simplification and sophistry on this one, but it does beg to be argued - rather than coalescing into more discrete value systems, societies are now a mosaic of various ideas and special interests.  Some people may argue that moral relativism has taken the field and the influence of monolithic institutions like the Roman Catholic Church has waned considerably.  Even adherents of either side (or rather, multiple sides) may even argue the degree to which the decline/progress of society has gone.

It isn't a case of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes."  It isn't about black turning white, but rather the idea: is there a black?  Is there a white?

This kind of relativism, of course, taps into something else of the human experience - the blurring of privacy lines, the increasing need for algesis as rites of passage, and of course, the normal rant of almost everyone - the objectification and commodification of almost everything in the human experience.

As inner life shrinks and becomes trivialized, indeed, there is more need for signs in the human landscape - signs that we are here and are making a difference.  Edifice-building - this is the ultimate exercise of generating penis-envy.  As if the objects themselves can't get any more phallic.

Perhaps it is the sign of that this current incarnation of human civilization is collapsing and move on to the next one.  Some years back the state socialists were already crowing that Western civilization has already turned on itself and that it would only be a matter of time before socialism will triumph.  Funny thing, though, the Soviet economy collapsed, the Communist regimes tumbled, and the cause of the statists crumbled like the Berlin Wall.

Edifices are only as good as the people inhabiting them, using them, giving them purpose.  And yet this temptation to dominate is the ultimate sign of elemental instincts.  The captains of industry get to have their say, the engineers feather their nests, and droves of builders will come even to release rivers of sweat for minimum wage.

Going back to the thoughts spawned by our car ride, nowhere is the need to dominate the environment more evident than in the Gulf States.  Where the vista used to be vast stretches of desert, humankind has created a  feast for all the senses.  Money is no object, and the waste is so rampant even vast stretches of empty space are well-decorated or planted with greenery.  In the midst of all this splendor, menial workers are blasted all around by the elements, whether by sandstorms, extreme heat or biting cold.

We build and we build and we build.  New buildings sell like the newest underwear model.  Instead of merely building a home, one has to have a statement.   When all the odds and ends have been counted, does it really matter to have a designer home in a prestigious location when the sum of the human experience lived within has become vapid, empty, and trivialized?

What are we to do to hold back the tide of the latest wave of fanaticism, of absolutists who gain the bully pulpit and inflame the dispossessed?  What are we to do against the rot within, when our own leaders fail to meet the moral standard to which we hold ourselves accountable?  Do all the arguments about legalities and moral authority compound to a greater truth or revelation that we do not know already - that the nature of our political systems has already given in to our baser natures?  No matter who sits on top, he is merely the current emperor of an empire built on ice cream - yummy and tasty and filling but neither nutritious nor essential to life.  Plus, it will melt as soon as it could.

If we are to move away from this decay, we have to have more than just faith that what we teach our children will be enough  - we have to arm them with greater ability to think and decide, but more importantly, we have to make them strong enough to combine belief in our noblest aspirations with the resolve to endure the many disappointment that our life brings.

For it is also in our basic nature to share when we have more than enough, care for other people when they are sick or in need, and to tolerate and forgive when we realize a person's worth.  We don't need to evolve away from this - human progress does not have to rely on greater human inventions than championing dignity, embracing diversity, stewardship over our people and resources, and finally, loving others as they are meant to be loved.

Should desire for these things be overwhelmed or superseded, then it doesn't matter whether Mother Earth will expunge us from existence or that we do it all by ourselves.  There wouldn't be a life worth living in that kind of living hell.

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