In the day to day hurly burly of our lives we forget that we are short-lived beings. Remembering these timelines is sobering. So what does sober look like? Well for me it is simple; we are here temporarily and what we pass on to future generations matters, the self-aggrandisement that is routine within politics is at best hubris.
The long pre-history without humans reinforces the case for humility. In addition it gives us evidence for co-operation (social animals on all scales work together, from ants to wolves). On top of that we struggle with the language. The biological meaning of competition is simply a demand for the same limited resources, it does not (unless we bring our political baggage to it) map onto the cultural meaning of competition, which carries intent with it. An accidental mutation, which bestows an advantage, is far different to deliberately seeking to put down an opponent and claiming superiority as a result.
Far from being inevitable the emergence of the state and the control of previously free resources by a minority, which came with it, has been resisted throughout history. The rule of law is often a retrospective protection, legalising the possession of what was taken. Just knowing this should provide a re-framing that makes repossession using changes to the law a justifiable position. As an example, inherited land ownership can come under scrutiny and the peculiarity of leasehold be challenged. Some foundational work is being done on Land Ownership in England. It needs to climb back up the political agenda.
So whilst we have undoubtedly made massive progress, so far we have been lucky. As we have seen we also face massive challenges from growing population, scarcity of resources, climate change, risks of pandemic, and increasing power block competition. These were outlined in Timeline, Political Challenges. So we do not have a (god given) right to exploit and subjugate the world – that was a story we told ourselves when we did not know any better and our numbers were very small. It just will not do anymore.
We need to heed the warning signs and start looking after the place – it’s the only one we have. Peaceful change happens, things have improved massively – we can surely increase the rate of progress if we concentrate on what works rather than what is broken. Nothing built by man is permanent and all tyrannies eventually fall. We should be more ready to question what gives us the right (and supposed duty) to wage war when time and pressure will do the work for us.
We have to cultivate the belief in cooperation and maintain the alternative narrative. We have to fight a battle against implicit social Darwinism and not cave in to "there is no alternative” if we are to stand any chance of building a future that is more cooperative and develops holistic policies.
This is both a matter of emergent behaviour and a matter of choice
- When I say it is a matter of emergent behaviour I am going back to Part 1. How we behave is a matter of our knowledge, physiology, natures, culture and beliefs. We can continue to cultivate a set of beliefs based on competition, and hope for the best (we continue to get lucky) or
- Alternatively, we can chose to embrace our social natures, tell ourselves a different true story about co-operation and develop a culture that builds on our successes and brings out the best in people, and we had better do it fast.
If we chose the latter we have to find a realistic political way of dealing with those who cling to competition, and use power for self-aggrandisement. Thinking about this in terms of our primate natures we seem to have invented a set of beliefs and a culture that allows the silverbacks to get out of control and run amok, its time we brought them back into the service of the tribe. This is what the practical application of HoPE requires so in Part 3 I look at this in relation to both change and power.