The Twin Evils of Human Nature
Bruce L. Gary, 2020.11.16
The human nature that we inherited from our ancestors is designed by evolution for small tribe living and it is mal-adapted to contemporary conditions. The small tribe tolerates individualism during peaceful times, but it must enforce universal conformance of "eusocial" behavior during preparation for inter-tribal warfare. Eusocial is a technical term describing behaviors that support the collective without regard to individual welfare. A subset of the tribe's members (~ 40 %) are endowed with an instinct to enforce conformance of beliefs and behaviors at these critical times. Since the Enforcers cause all tribesmen to surrender individualism in favor of helping the collective to survive, I view the Enforcers as hyper-eusocialized. The opposite of the Enforcer is the hyper-individualized person, or psychopath. He has no regard for the collective's welfare because for him (90 % of psychopaths are men) only his welfare matters. Whereas a psychopath could not trick small tribesmen because within a small tribe everyone knows everyone, in today's super-tribes, or societies, the psychopath is a master gamer of the system. The Enforcers are natural followers of a strong leader who they deem to be a legitimate authority. This is an opportunity for the psychopath to become an imposter "great leader." What could possibly go wrong? When a psychopath achieves leadership of a society with the support of Enforcers we have what's called "fascism"! This is what happened in Nazi Germany. America is near a precipice of this happening and destroying a 242-year experiment with democracy.
If you take the viewpoint that tribal gene pools are competing with each other then the individual tribesmen they create are the combatants. Do not expect the individuals to be truth seekers, because their job is to preserve and promote the gene pool that created them. It’s no wonder that people have beliefs that can be incompatible with reality, or incompatible with other beliefs they hold. Individual behavior is also programmed to improve gene pool welfare, not individual welfare.
During the millions of years that our ancestors lived in small tribes there was a chronic concern for protecting tribal territory. Occasionally there were outbreaks of all-out warfare. When times were relatively peaceful tribes tolerated individual differences because it contributed to a more effective division of labor that strengthened the tribe. This “individualism” might in fact have been encouraged by the tribal culture. When warfare loomed the tribe would have to suspend tolerance for individualism, and instead enforce a uniformity of attitudes and behaviors that improve the tribe’s prospects for survival during warfare. Eusocialism is a name for beliefs and behaviors that promote survival of the collective, or tribe, without regard for individual welfare. Individualism is the opposite, for it celebrates individual welfare with less regard for the collective.
The evolution of human nature led to an adaptation to the needs of these two states and the transitions between them. The transition from peaceful times to readiness for warfare involves the choosing of a “strong leader” to strategize and coordinate warriors. Individual warriors must forget that they are individuals, because each must follow the commands of their leader. The requirements of teamwork mean that the concept of Individualism is forgotten, at least for the duration of warfare. During the Holocene, starting 11,700 years ago, the collective became a super-tribe and sometimes the strong leader was a psychopath imposter. We call this social state “fascism.”
The only way to understand today’s readiness to answer " the call to fascism" is by first accepting that our nature is what evolved during the ancestral tribal setting. We are individuals living in super-tribe societies with a nature designed for small tribe societies. If someone comes across as a strong leader who is warning of looming invasion there exists a fraction of the population who will automatically react to this call by adopting the stance of preparing for war. I refer to them as Enforcers because they enforce conformance of thought and behavior that is commanded by the strong leader. They think of themselves as patriots, and their excessive flag-waving is meant to intimidate the others into accepting whatever conformance they are enforcing. The Enforcers, who number about 40 % of the American population, are enemies of individualism.
The Enforcers can be described as hyper-eusocial because their unthinking aim is to protect the collective without regard to the welfare of individuals. Individual sacrifice on behalf of the collective, the essence of patriotism, is the only measure that matters for them. At the other extreme are the hyper-individualists. They have no regard for the collective’s welfare. We call them psychopaths. Psychopaths can be keen observers of the weaknesses of others for the purpose of victimizing them. Psychopaths are masters of “gaming the system.” In the small tribe setting the occasional psychopath would never succeed in persuading tribesmen of their credibility. This is because in a small tribe everyone knows everyone. In a super-tribe, however, the psychopath is better able to persuade strangers that he is whatever he says he is. Very often in the super-tribe the aspiring strong leader is a psychopath imposter.
evils of human nature are the hyper-eusocialized and
hyper-individualized, the Enforcer and the psychopath!
In the ancestral small tribe setting neither extreme was a problem. But in today's massive collective the twin evils can combine to become a serious threat. Democracy is an experiment with too little experience for gauging its strength or stability. Can a democracy today be hijacked by a strong leader using fascist tricks. Yes, we saw it happen in Italy and Germany a century ago, and recently we’ve seen it happen in Russia, Turkey, Egypt, the Philippines – and it is on the verge of happening in Hungary, Poland and America
Placing blame may not be helpful but it’s something we just naturally do. Surely we can blame a robber for robbing, but we can also blame the victim when he neglects precautions – such as leaving an unattended car in a poor neighborhood with keys in the ignition. A democracy is more complicated, but in addition to blaming the imposter psychopath for pretending to be a strong leader we should also blame any society that becomes victimized by that imposter. Consider the Enforcers who are just waiting to follow commands from a seemingly legitimate authority “great leader” who warns of imminent existential threat of the home society. They are who they are, and can’t change – so can we blame them for becoming unthinking followers? Yes, we can, but that won’t accomplish anything. Can we blame the news organizations who are just “making a buck” by spreading inflammatory fake news that strengthens the Enforcer’s belief system? Yes, but again that won’t accomplish anything. Can we blame the Republicans in the American senate for preferring to keep their job than save democracy? Yes, but then what. There’s plenty of blame everywhere.
Whenever I hear commentators on TV try to answer the question “what’s the solution?” I am perplexed by the assumption that there is a solution. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe America is destined to take the declining road to fascism and global irrelevance. Maybe the Enforcers who voted for Trump will be like the Nazi storm troopers. Those driving pick-up trucks with big flags will soon be wearing MAGA armbands, with batons and holsters at the ready. They may form roving mobs, looking for unpatriotic liberal elites, Muslims and immigrants.
Today’s social climate in America gives me a better understanding of how Nazi Germany came about. Then, as now, the twin evils of human nature, the Enforcers and psychopaths, combined to create a living Hell on Earth.
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