Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What is to be done?

In the beginning were the barbarians.

They had been endowed by natural selection with a highly evolved sense of fear. The fight-or-flight response to the impulse of fear enabled them to survive in the hostile and threatening “survival of the fittest” environment in which they evolved over millions of years.

In time the barbarians triumphed over all of their rivals to become the undisputed masters of the animal kingdom. That triumph represented a major evolutionary turning point for the species of homo sapiens.

In the absence of predators the heightened sense of fear which had served them so well ceased to be an asset and instead became a liability. Natural selection began to reverse itself.

In the mind of the barbarians fear turned to anger, hatred and aggression with such ease and rapidity that it led them to inflict all manner of immorality on each other from theft, to rape to murder to the wholesale slaughter of millions, and they lived their lives in a constant state of conflict of varying intensity.

Their fear of death led them to invent religions which promised an after-life.

Their fear of each other lead them to divide into tribes and to go to war with each other.

Unable to control their fears they sought instead to control each other via the establishment of “the rule of law” and armed groups of men to inflict their will on each other.

The resulting cancer of government grew to assume control over nearly all aspects of the lives of the barbarians in their nation state tribes leading to paralysis, stagnation, and economic depression. The state grew in proportion to the inability of individuals to control their fears, and the inability of individuals to control their fears grew in proportion to the state. This vicious self re-enforcing and recurring cycle ended with unstable tyrants ascending to the pinnacle of power and unleashing unrestrained barbarous bloodbaths.

The history of the triumphant species of homo sapiens has many stories that differ in their particulars but the underlying story is always the same – the inability to control their fear lead to unremitting conflict and suffering.

The species was victorious but it was still emotionally immature. They had evolved a rational mind and were able to fend off some attempts of the more ancient fear-based mind from seizing control but they were not yet able to assume total dominance over their own destructive emotions.

The war of consequence was not without but within. It was a war for control their own mind. It was a war between the primitive fear-based brain of the barbarian and the rational mind of the post-barbarian. At its core it was a battle between fear and love, for one could only gain at the expense of the other and love was the means by which the rational mind assumed and maintained control – for the simple reason that the fight-or-flight response to fear robs the brain of the oxygen it needs to function properly.

With each passing generation the rational mind assumed greater dominance. Unbeknownst to all, natural selection was still at work and the unremitting warfare between tribes was actually serving the evolutionary purpose of cleansing the species of those most unable to control their destructive emotions.

Over the eons of barbarous warfare emerged a new type of homo sapiens - the non-barbarian - one who was able to control his fear and thus felt no need to control his environment.

The non-barbarian was able to control his fear of death and thus had no need for religion.

The non-barbarian was able to control his fear of others and thus had no need for government, the rule of law, power or coercion of any sort.

The non-barbarian naturally embraced the philosophy of voluntaryism.

The ascent of the non-barbarian represented a large evolutionary step forward in the history of the species. The triumph of love over fear enabled the rational part of the mind of homo sapiens to achieve dominance over the destructive emotions of his barbarian ancestors.

As the others continued to war and kill each other off the “evolved ones” continued to grow in number and to congregate amongst themselves and to ask the question:

What is to be done?

How do we survive and thrive amongst the hordes of emotionally unstable barbarians?

Whereas we see a world of unbounded opportunity for joy, the fearful barbarians see only threats.

Our very existence is a threat to them.

They seek to control us with their laws, and their governments and their threats of punishment and brutality.

They enslave us by looting our income at gun-point with taxation.

They throw us into their dungeons if we refuse to comply with their cowardly laws.

To live amongst these barbarians is a challenge to our tolerance for tyranny and immorality.

What is to be done?

The answer to that question depends upon the answer to another:

Has a majority of the species evolved to the point where they are physiologically capable of assuming control over their destructive emotions and resisting the temptation to respond to the impulse of fear with coercion?

An answer of “yes” suggests one course of action, whereas one of “no” suggests another.

In the final analysis, there are but two options, and the choice to respond to the impulse of fear with coercion is the deciding factor. To the extent that people continue to make this choice our civilization will remain stuck within the age of barbarism.

Option 1: Empowerment

Those who are willing can be counseled to change their conditioned response to the impulse of fear.

Instead of allowing the fear to grow to the point where the fight-or-flight response is triggered and coercion is embraced, they can choose to face and overcome the fear itself.

They can choose to allow themselves to be consumed by the natural enemy of fear - empathy, compassion and love - and to consequently naturally act in accordance with the Golden Rule instead of resorting to coercion.

This choice leads inexorably to enduring happiness.


Because it enables us to live in peace and harmony with our conscience.

Because each time we overcome a fear we achieve an enduring sense of empowerment by expanding our comfort zone. When we do so the world becomes a less threatening and more beautiful place - not because it has changed but because we have.

Because the vacuum resulting from the absence of fear is naturally filled by empathy, compassion and love.

Option 2: Natural Selection

On the other hand there are those who are unable or unwilling to control their destructive emotions.

They continue to choose to allow themselves to be consumed by fear and subsequently choose to use ever more evil forms of coercion against others.

In time, they will be dealt with by those they have chosen to harm.

The converse of the Golden Rule is the Law of Reciprocity.

If one’s conscience is not strong enough to enforce the golden rule, the desire for retribution amongst the victims of the tyrants will get the job done.

We need merely sit back and allow nature to take its course. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. No action on our part is required.

Were we voluntaryists of many lands to give in to intemperance, however, we might perhaps seek to accelerate natural selection somewhat by encouraging the barbarians in our respective nation state tribes to war amongst themselves more voraciously so as to eliminate themselves from the gene pool more quickly.

Eventually, natural selection will ensure that the emotionally unstable barbarians will become a tiny minority and they can be dealt with by mental health professionals. As long as the inmates are running the asylum, however, a means of decreasing their numbers is required.

1 comment:

CW Poole said...

Excellently thought out, Alex, but I see a fly in the proverbial ointment.
"Because the vacuum resulting from the absence of fear is naturally filled by empathy, compassion and love."
With that I completely agree.
"As long as the inmates are running the asylum, however, a means of decreasing their numbers is required."
If the inmates would stay in the asylum there's no problem but they don't and won't. They spill out in among the non-barbarians and slaughter them.
"We need merely sit back and allow nature to take its course. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. No action on our part is required."
Unfortunately, no. The barbarians will slaughter the non-barbarian because the non-barbarian will not use the sword and those who do choose to pick up the sword become barbarians themselves.
If humans keep evolving and growing into loving and compassionate people and in greater numbers than the barbarians we'll (I humbly include myself) outlast them. If not then we may all melt down in some horrible global atrocity of mass genocide.
At least there's always hope.