Monday, May 5, 2014

Why Can't We All Just Get Along? Political Cooperation vs Biology.

In the 1840s it was called Internationalism. In the 1970s it was called Collective Consciousness. Today we call it Global Community or World Peace. Over the last two centuries, an attractive notion that humans might be able to put aside cultural and national differences to work in concert towards unity and the betterment of all, has flitted across the political imagination and eluded us.

During the last 100 years, political actors across the spectrum from Right, to Center, to Left, conceptualized that communist nations would work together to overthrow capitalist ones. Fearful capitalists called it “The Domino Theory.” Hopeful communists called it the universal brotherhood of the proletariat. Yet, when communist nations were established in Russia, China and Vietnam, the results were far less fraternal. Russia and China continued their perpetual border disputes and opposed each other’s doctrinaire versions of communism. Vietnam fought both Russian influence and Chinese naval vessels seizing its fishing boats. Today, Vietnam has a closer diplomatic relationship with Washington than Beijing.

The difficulty of our coming together, even when it appears to be in our best interest and under noble umbrellas like “world peace” or “political solidarity” is puzzling. Perhaps there are elements of our nature that are beyond social interpretations. Activists and politicians resist the determinism of biology. A force that cannot be altered through education and progress is hard for them to accept. Nonetheless, we are a species that rose to the top of the food chain, continually putting the seed of its most selfish, opportunistic and ruthless specimens, into the next generation. Cooperation occurred only when it enhanced individual survival. From before the time that our primate ancestors drove other primates away from an isolated watering hole or productive hunting area, we have passed-on the genetic material of selfishness and tribalism. There is no way that such ingrained biological tendencies  could keep from influencing our relationships with modern groups and tribes.

Certainly, both politics and relationship are more complex than I can elucidate in a two page essay. There are learned social factors, as well as biological ones, that determine outcomes. But politically-motivated people are largely social beings. They are more likely to understand our social tendencies. Additionally, if their goals are along the lines of beautiful concepts like cooperation, peace and world society, they are likely to ignore the uglier aspects of humanity. Unfortunately, the biology is our stumbling block. A psychiatrist would tell you that if a tendency remains unconscious, it will have more control over you. Unless political individuals can begin to address our biological nature, that Woodstock Nation Mind Meld so many seek will remain unattained. The first step is to recognize the problem. Only then can we go on to the next step of finding a solution.