Posted 2 years ago on March 11, 2012, 5:34 a.m. EST by struggleforfreedom80
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(Today’s Society And How To Improve It - part II)
When we study politics, society etc, it’s also relevant to look at the ones actually participating in this - human beings. Now, humans are biological organisms and have, as all other organisms, certain innate capacities – a nature. This is what I want to focus on now. This text is also relevant to Part III, which explores the issue of dehumanization. In order to talk about “dehumanization” one must have a concept of what the opposite is, namely, who we are as humans. What are our innate characteristics? - what is our nature?
In order to get some reasonable, sensible answers to these questions we have to look at the period that made us how we are – human evolution:
Now, human nature is complex so we don’t know everything about it. Human nature allows for different kinds of behavior and it can be shaped to a certain extent, so it’s a difficult issue to study. We do, however, that there are some fundamental human characteristics. There are certain things, such as solidarity for example, that make up some of the core features. Just look at the history of our evolution. For millions of years things like cooperation, sharing, caring, sticking together and so on, basing social organization on a relatively egalitarian principle, have been central parts of our evolution. Even as far back as Homo Habilis working together for the common good, cooperating on finding and getting food etc. were essential and crucial for the survival and further evolvement of the species. Now, there were also things like rivalry and violence that took place at that time, and these things have to a certain extent also been passed on, but as our ancestors evolved further, all the way up to Homo Heidelbergensis and later on Homo Sapiens, these things decreased and elements like solidarity and egalitarianism, in addition to cooperation, became more integrated in the social organization. Working together for the common good turned out to be a crucial and highly successful factor in our evolution. And with cooperation and working together, things like solidarity, altruism etc - a more collective mentality - also became a natural part of our ancestors’ way of thinking and acting. When our ancestors finally evolved into Homo Sapiens this had become a big part of our way of life: Some of the first human societies consisted of hunter-gatherers basing society on solidarity, cooperation and egalitarian principles. Marx and Engels studied and wrote about these types of egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies; they called them "primitive communism" - a kind of preindustrial version of the modern classless stateless communist society they envisioned might come into place in the future.
In other words, evolution has allowed us to develop a free will, a mentality that allows for variation in behavior, making room for adaptation and molding of the mind; but our ancestors have also passed on certain elements, mostly good ones, that are determined and part of humans today. Things that were the main reason for our evolutionary success, like solidarity and cooperation, are parts of our nature.
In fact many of these things can also be seen among most species, simply because sticking together and helping each other increase the chances of species survival. Peter Kropotkin, a zoologist, philosopher and Libertarian Socialist - contributing especially to the philosophy of Anarcho-Communism - wrote about this issue in his book "Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution", looking at mutual aid and cooperation in nature, arguing that evolution naturally would develop things like commitment to helping others, and that these were important factors in the survival of the species.
Another important contribution to this topic is of course "The Selfish Gene" from 1976 by professor and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. In this book he pointed out that altruism, and cooperation naturally would evolve among species thruout evolution because organisms act as if their genes, not the organisms themselves, are selfish. It is the gene that is being passed on endlessly thru organisms, and things like altruism would therefore accrue in order to increase the chances for the gene to survive. And it makes perfect sense; individuals sharing the same genes would naturally evolve cooperation, altruism and solidarity, because it increases the chances of the gene being replicated. Most scientists on this field regard Dawkins´ contributions to be correct.
In other words, evolution functions in a way which makes the individuals sharing the same genes, to a large extent, solidaric and altruistic towards one another. That most certainly goes for humans as well. It is exactly these things that have made us so successful thruhout or evolution, and they are therefore fundamental elements of human nature.