Let’s talk evolution. Let’s talk about where we’ve been, where we are, and why where we are going might not get us very much further: Are we stuck with outdated ways of thinking that will lead to our destruction?
Our patriotic instincts mislead
Our desire to ‘belong’ to a certain team, is one of our main guiding impulses – its possession is what has allowed us to advance to become the civilised species we are today. But has its benefits outgrown the world it’s helped to create? Are we in desperate need of a cognitive evolution to overcome our obsession with ‘belonging’, and the associated desire to pit ourselves in competition with anyone who is different?
Everywhere we see it, and feel it ourselves – from school playground friendship groups, to interschool rivalries, and rivalries between families, towns, football teams, Apple/PC, Marvel/DC! And worse, between ethnicities, religions, political ideologies, and countries.
To whichever side we belong, we always want our side to be the most powerful, and if that means to cause harm to the opposition, then so be it – for whichever team is strongest will have the best chance of survival during adversity. We feel an obligation of loyalty, and reap the reward of pride and a little extra self worth when our teams are successful; our brains reward us with dopamine for improving our social connections and becoming powerful members of teams. What the opposition thinks about us, is of no worry, as long as we know they feel inferior.
But how about allies? We like to become friends with people who are different if we think that the relationship adds something to our reputation / quality of life. For as long as differences remain though, there exists a paranoia about a possible threat from allies. The first thought about anyone different, naturally, is fear, because it is most important to first identify what threat they might pose – it’s our natural survival instincts at play, and it’s stronger in some of us than others.
Group alliances will always be disputed by a portion of the members, because some will determine that the threat posed by the others is not worth the benefits of allegiance. People may believe that an alliance is made with ignorance to the threat due to their own lack of understanding. And some people have larger egos – thinking their team is not in need of aid from outsiders, be that through ignorance or bravery.
What alliance opponents consider as their bravery, alliance proponents consider as ignorance; and vise versa. Therefore, the two differing opinions become misunderstood.
What if we ignored these instincts?
Because of our compulsion to become stronger than others, we are drawn to selfishness, which is the very reason why ‘others’ become enemies – set fighting to maintain balance.
Imagine if our enemy didn’t fear us as being selfish? Would they take the opportunity to be selfish and take for themselves what should belong to us? Or would they think “ah, we have nothing to worry about now, so we can all share happily”? They would become stronger if they were greedy, of course, but then they know that those weaker would want what is rightfully theirs, and again become enemies to be feared. So the logical answer is to share. Voila, there you have it, world peace. I mean it really is that simple… if only so many of us didn’t fear those who are different!
But no – the world is turning inwards
Sadly, we are increasingly giving other countries reason to believe we are selfish. Not because we are greedy, but because we are led to believe other countries are greedy, and that therefore we need to be.
In Europe, the support for far-right nationalism has now became a firm staple in mainstream politics. The UK has voted to leave the EU, to the huge delight of the far-right throughout Europe, dismay of the center and disgust of the left. Polls in France show the National Front’s Marine Le Pen will make it to the final round of the French presidential election in 2017, and will stand a chance of winning.
And then there is Trump… Enough said.
Far-right conservatism born through fear, is far more prevalent now than ever before, and its popularity seems set to increase, that is at least until it dramatically proves itself as being dangerously destructive.
Because we are given a false enemy
Economic troubles are polarising national attitudes because the economic power of us all seems to be strained. The desperation for money causes more fear that ‘others’ will take more than their fair share. Of course though, if ALL countries are in money trouble, then it is not the fault of other countries, it is the fault of all of our economic systems – it is the fault of the people with the money, not the people who are desperate for it. Yet the rich divert the blame to a false enemy, so they have no opposition and therefore no need to share.
Plus, for people who lack understanding of complicated economic frameworks, it is easy to believe that to improve their country’s economy they need to stop money being taken by the foreigner. The media which is owned by the rich, and sells papers easier by writing in a dramatic scare mongering way, will benefit from blaming the foreigner for the problems – it diverts attention from their bank balance.
And we find it exciting right? It gives us something to fight for, and allows people to unite as a culture, with the aim of guarding their community. That motivational sense of patriotism – of belonging. The dopamine rushing as we find a new way to bind ourselves more tightly to our groups. An easy reward given by our natural instinct to belong is tempting, so why be open minded and risk losing that warming community feel? It feels like we are betraying our instincts to just consider rejecting the dopamine.
And so this is what whole communities become united in saying:
“Fuck everyone else! They want to live in a different way, then they can go home to their own countries. Their countries aren’t as good as ours – but that’s not our problem – their race/religion clearly isn’t able to live in peace – they can’t modernise like we have. What gives them the right to come and sponge off our taxes? And why should we have to send over money to help them in their countries? Charity starts at home! We have enough problems here, without having to give away billions in foreign aid.”
They are completely startled when it is suggested that they are seeing the world all wrong. They say that they see the world as it is; that they are proud of their country and all they want is to protect their way of life.
Why it is such a big problem
Let’s betray our instincts, reject the easy rewards and consider if our blind patriotic/cultural love might actually now be outdated and leading us on a destructive path.
We need to first understand that the world as it is, is not the world that we should be defending. The world is changing, and there is no stopping it. What we need to defend is not what we already have, but what we are about to create.
Prosperity will not be secured by ‘keeping out the foreigners’ – we are completely missing the point. We are ignoring the future that is coming. The only way to prepare for the upcoming security threats, is to organise ourselves so all cultures can work together to make decisions for the common good, rather than the good of themselves.
Trends in technological advances are exponential, and it’s believed that this century those advances will skyrocket. Technologies that are now only just emerging, during the next 40 years, will completely revolutionise our world. Find out more about the accelerating rate of technology in my explanation of exponential growth.
New technologies mean new threats – every tool can be used to cause harm. Find out about upcoming dangerous technologies in my article, 5 emerging technologies that could destroy the world. In our near future, the power of our weapons, combined with the increasing power of the individual, will make every enemy of anything, a threat to everything.
Everything is everyone’s problem
And it is for that reason, that everything becomes everyone’s problem. Instead of understanding that, we protest against policies that promote global integration; while we sit back taking our luxuries for granted, criticising the cultures of others; while we look down on those sitting at our borders, who dream for what we have.
So let’s be blunt. What makes us more worthy of living in our country than those who are struggling to survive in theirs? We did not create the culture within which we live – our ancestors did! They have fought against the barbarism of the past. They abolished slavery, they created our democracies, they fought to give women the right to work and vote. We just sit and selfishly protect what we have been handed on a plate, as if the world owes us the right of its possession.
Our focus needs to instead be on legitimate problems that include those posed by inequality, criminals, dictators, and religious extremists. We can’t fight those effectively simply because we cannot properly cooperate. We are too busy soaking up irrelevant far-right propaganda, to allow ourselves to see a world where borders don’t divide us. Our main effort should be the improvement of the world as a whole. By focusing on ourselves, all that matters is that we are better than others, but by not helping the others in need, there will not be much to improve upon.
We need to help other countries build democracies, so their focus can be on protecting all people, rather than just a governing elite. A huge threat this century will be posed radical Islam. We need to deny radical Islamists access to the kind of weapons featured in my article 5 emerging technologies that could destroy the world. Should they decide that they have no hope in converting the whole world to their religion, they could decide that it is best to just end the world altogether.
Infinite more reasons will exist for people to want to cause mass destruction. Many of these reasons are due to those people being mistreated. We must stop oppressing those we believe less worthy. We must stop thinking that all our security depends on is the strength of our borders! Borders have absolutely no ability to protect us against some of the weapons that will be created in as little as 15 years.
We must stop believing that our traditional cultures are perfect, and it is the absolute priority above anything else to protect them. There is always room for improvement, and we must find a way to merge with other cultures to create communities that everybody feels comfortable to live in. This does not mean that people need to eliminate religion from their communities. We can create common ground, where religious beliefs are respected without needing to be shared.
Integration, I believe, is an imperative effort, that must be followed if we are to survive the test that is the 21st century. If we are successful, humanity will become defined by its ability to cooperate, and cooperation will be praised one day with more pride than patriotism.