Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Conflicting Moral Traditions (1)

We are primates. Our branch of the Primate order, Simians, includes monkeys and apes, almost all of which live in communities commonly called “troops”. Orangutans are, I believe, the only Simians that live solitary, isolated lives.

Simians split off from other primates about 65 million years ago (about the time dinosaurs disappeared). Since almost all modern simians live communally in isolated troops, it’s a safe bet that our ancestors, all the way back until before apes split from the Old World monkeys 30-some million years ago, lived communally in troops. Being universal, communal living with the behaviors that go along with communal living must be instinctive to all apes. All apes (but the one species that evolved separatist instincts) including us.

Simians are smart. Pre-programmed robot-like behavior is inconsistent with the flexibility and wide range of behaviors exhibited by simians. Our actions can only be guided, not determined, by genetic instincts. Think about it: as humans our actions are guided primarily by our thoughts and emotions. Thoughts derive from cultural learning, but even our thoughts are intertwined with emotions. Our actions to obtain food are learned but are driven by our dislike of feeling hungry. Even our sexual drive is emotional, leading us to desire actions we can control. While the desire is instinctual, what we do about the desire, how we act, is under the control of our thoughts as well as other instinctual emotions (like the fear of being killed by her husband).

We evolved with instinctive emotions leading us to desire communal living and the behaviors necessary for the success of the community: altruism, affinity for others, loyalty to the troop, acceptance of leadership, sharing, submersion of the self to communal needs, and dedication to communal ends like finding food or shelter or protecting the troop from predators (and other troops).

Hmmm. Altruism. Affinity for others. Loyalty to the community. Submersion of the self. Acceptance of communal leadership. Sharing. Communal objectives taking precedence over personal objectives.

Sounds like… Socialism! And it is. Socialism is instinctive in humans in that our emotions favor the communitarian behaviors of Socialism over the individualistic behaviors of free-market Capitalism.

That is why I claim that Socialism is reactionary, anachronistic, a throwback to our past. But something we still, instinctively, find emotionally satisfying. Our instincts make us desire socialism.

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