Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Climate Change, COVID-19, Environment, Existentialism
Like his more famous contemporary, Spencer was enamored with the idea of evolution. But where Darwin focused on biology, Spencer imagined that evolutionary thinking could be applied much more broadly. In his mind, it governed entire societies. Today, when Spencer is remembered at all, it is usually for inspiring the ideology known as “social Darwinism”: roughly, the idea that the successful deserve their success while those who fail, deserve their failure.
Modern scholars, and the public at large, understandably view this idea with disdain. Philosopher Daniel Dennett has described social Darwinism as “an odious misapplication of Darwinian thinking in defense of political doctrines that range from callous to heinous,” while the journalist Robert Wright said that social Darwinism “now lies in the dustbin of intellectual history.” Today, few read Spencer’s dense and ponderous books, and his ideas are rarely taught. Gregory Claeys, a historian at the University of London, writes that of all the great Victorian thinkers, it is Spencer whose “reputation has now indisputably fallen the farthest.”
Spencer’s view, though mostly anathema now, appealed to influential conservatives and laissez-faire capitalists—among them, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie—just as it angered the socialists of the time. “Spencer hated socialism because he thought socialism was all about protecting the weak,” Lightman says. “To him, that was intervening in the natural unfolding of the evolutionary process.”
The Complicated Legacy of Herbert Spencer, the Man Who Coined ‘Survival of the Fittest’, Dan Falk, Smithsonian Magazine
According to Michael Price in Science Magazine, humans changed from hunter-gatherer (and presumably, wanderer) to communal living about 10,000 years ago. We seemed to vacillate between extremes, and each time, our back-and-forth switch could be traced through the common house mouse (like it or not, we appear stuck with them). Whether we wandered about or gathered harvests, we seemed to fair better with less Ayn Randian selfish worldviews, and more indigenous communal living philosophies.
An article published on the website Earthday.org is more explicit:
Humans and climate change are driving species to extinction at unprecedented rates. To slow or eventually reverse these declines, we need to better manage our land to preserve habitats and secure biodiversity – the variety of life on Earth. To that end, a study published this week confirms what many communities have known for years: To preserve biodiversity, we must turn to indigenous peoples for guidance and management.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy, compared levels of biodiversity in thousands of areas in Australia, Brazil, and Canada and was the first of its kind to compare biodiversity and land management on such a large scale. Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) compared 15,621 geotropical areas across three continents, with great variations across climate, species, and geography.
To Save The Planet, We Need Indigenous Perspectives, Earth Day, 2019
We have been ravaged by climate events since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and have ignored them all. Ebola was the first epidemic we paid attention to and mitigated at its point of origin so that only two Americans died from it. It is therefore unconscionable that the current death toll of the Coronavirus is 623,353, as of this writing. It's likely to be higher when this post appears. 675,000 died during the 1918 flu pandemic. We're not far behind.
Speaking of Ayn Rand: the main idea of "The Fountainhead" was individualism vs. collectivism, or selfishness, versus community. Also, in "Atlas Shrugged," so beloved that former Congressman, and conspiracy theorist Ron Paul and presumably his wife named their son, Senator Rand Paul. "Shrugged" was about "a dystopian United States in which private businesses suffer under increasingly burdensome laws and regulations." "Looters" want to exploit the productivity of innovative industrialists has the not-too-subtle echo of "makers," and "takers."
GOP "leader," Kevin McCarthy saying "85% of Congress is fully vaccinated," so he says, we have no need for a mask mandate in the House. That declaration is a Freudian slip: that means 15% of 435 members of the House, or 65 members are unvaccinated by choice. 435 members of the House go back home sometimes, and presumably, many to Delta variant hot spots. The variant could then be weaponized on Capitol Hill where many of our lawmakers are in their seventies and eighties. The Delta variant can cause "breakthrough infections," and most of the hospitalizations and deaths are from the unvaccinated. There are also long-haul COVID survivors, the severe ones will put a strain on public resources for rehabilitation, and lifetime care. Again, those 65 can carry the Delta variant back to the House, and turn Capitol Hill into a COVID hot spot. With the 1/6 hearings just starting, it might be a cynical, pathological ploy to delay or demolish any hearings on the terrorist insurrection going forward. Only sociopaths could be so diabolical.
Ten thousand years ago, it might have been prudent to identify someone by their tribal markings, dress, and appearance. If you "did not fit in," there were no diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, only suspicion. "Fight, or flight" was wonderful against saber-tooth tigers, but terrible trying to espouse the tenets of a philosophy centered on E Pluribus Unum.
Borders are political constructs, just like race is a social construct. We are the byproduct of migration from the African continent to other areas, and adaption over hundreds of thousands of years. We look different because of the angle of incidence of ultraviolet light, the environment encountered, and the foods we consumed in those environs. We all for the most part have five fingers, five toes, and red blood in our veins. We all have the same needs on the Maslow hierarchy. It's why the Overview effect has such a profound impact on the viewers, but 7.6 billion inhabitants don't have a spare $250,000 for a ten-minute joy ride. The eviction moratorium expires Saturday, with no further extension. I don't think soon-to-be homeless people will care for an Overview effect.
It has to be in our best interest to help developing countries and industrial countries with vaccination rates: every nation has to get to 70% herd immunity, or higher for the safety of the species. If there's one hot spot in the world, there's the possibility of many variants spreading across the globe. It has to be in our best interest to mitigate climate change, and if past the tipping point, or politically not expedient, design our civilization's infrastructure to withstand the storms, power outages, freak winter freezes, floods, and raging fires.
Octavia Butler was an African American science fiction writer that didn't envision starships, except the relativistic kind. Her "Parable of the Sower" did predict a dystopic America devastated by climate change, social unrest, water scarcity, but apparently, in all that dysfunction, in2024 we land on Mars, and discovered microbial life there. We are three years from the date of that fictional nightmare. In the midst of that eerily prescient novel, and series, there was a rediscovery of community, of people helping people, protecting one another.
Social media is a faux community; it has atomized humanity in echo silos. We were prepped for this when television and entertainment became "infotainment," a bastardization, and a pariah to the body politic. BET, CMT, MTV is owned by Viacom, and caters to different audiences, cable news preceded it, and its digital extension is the oxymoron "social media" as humans stare blankly at their smartphones sucking time, and brain cells.
There is vaccine hesitancy among African Americans, decades stinging from the Tuskegee experiment. There is vaccine hesitancy from those who erroneously believe vaccines cause autism (that was refuted in a later paper). There are athletes who will eat what they are told, train as they are told, who now in the NFL have to decide whether to get a mandated COVID vaccine or forfeit games. Despite their nonprofit status, the NFL is a business, and businesses are not democratic.
The same people who deny climate change, are the same people who fought lockdowns. They are the same people who want Confederate monuments to insurrectionists, but history that would correct the record from obfuscations and mythology expunged, canceled. They are the same people who fought masks, and are the same people who don't want to get vaccines because they believe in the "survival of the fittest" scenario, that they will miraculously be the fittest, the luckiest; the living. Like the Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick volunteering grandparents to die for the economy in the early days of the pandemic. (He's probably not counting himself in that number on the altar of Moloch.)
To survive COVID, and climate change, E Pluribus Unum - out of many, one - has to be cosmopolitan, global. We are all Homo Sapiens, Earthlings, breathing the same air, using the same resources, and will expire on the same planet, as long as it's here, and we are. The United Nations is supposed to be our governing body to do this, a concept that is with its political enemies, conspiracy theories that start with "new world order," and authoritarian tyranny fears, that kind of falls hollow to the experiment in authoritarianism the United States made from 2017 to 2020. It was almost credibly sealed with a coup, on January 6, 2021, had it been competent. The next fascist might be more capable; the next coup might succeed.
For the survival of the species, "survival of the fittest" has to become a part of a selfish past and myth. It's easier to mask, or vaccinate against a pandemic, and mitigate climate change than building superluminal starships defying laws of physics to "escape" our mistakes.
We have to get beyond our learned prejudices, responsible for so much selfishness, sickness, and bloodshed. We need to see each other's survival in all of our best interests. Our empathy needs to evolve.
“We have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men for years now have been talking about war and peace. But now no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
No man is an island,Entire of itself.Each is a piece of the continent,A part of the main.If a clod be washed away by the sea,Europe is the less.As well as if a promontory were.As well as if a manor of thine ownOr of thine friend's were.Each man's death diminishes me,For I am involved in mankind.Therefore, send not to knowFor whom the bell tolls,It tolls for thee.
"For Whom the Bell Tolls," John Donne, Your Daily Poem
I wrote my scifi novel Cereus & Limnic after being inspired by many of the ideas and warnings presented in works like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
Whether people hear the message of our need to work together to move into the future as the human race from my work or from messages like this essay doesn't matter to me. What matters is that they open their ears and hearts to listen to something other than the echo chambers of media and infotainment that are so enticing, yet do nothing but make us feel better temporarily rather than confronting the challenges of our species head on.
Great read, and great insight! I hope more people read and more importantly think about your message!