Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Social Evolution and the Struggle for Survival

Socialism isn't something you believe in, it's something you do.
The lense of "struggle for survival as base imperative for behaviour and therefore character" provides an interesting perspective on the topic of social evolution. It particularly sheds light on what some call the patriarchy and I, perhaps controversially, think is a more general manifestation of authoritarianism perpetuated and participated in by both men and women (although benefiting men for reasons explored below) and which is at its root the rule of force.

Conforming to societal norms is a survival trait. When individual survival depends on the protection of the community, being perceived as a member of the community becomes a necessity. As a psychological trait, beliefs and attitudes that we require in order to survive we take on and identify with, they become our values and part of our character. Therefore we perpetuate those social norms in our attitudes and behaviour as it becomes part of our understanding of the world and how we, and other people, ought to behave. We all do what we have to in order to survive, and it does terrible things to some people and causes them to do terrible things. Who someone has become is often traceable, and understandable, through coping in the face of the struggle to survive.

For early humanity life was savage and brutal. In actual fact modern life is only a little less savage but we have a more sophisticated jungle and hide our savagery behind complex social structures so as not to have to look at it. Survival depending on hunting and survival skills, which in no small measure on brute strength. On average men are stronger than women. Especially a woman with a child would find it hard to survive without the protection of a man, particularly for protection from other men who were the product of brutal times. So the harsh and unpleasant reality for women was that the men were in charge because they were stronger and women needed their protection.

So as society grew, groups gathering together for mutual protection and a shared sense of identity, the men were in charge and the strongest man would have overall control.

As an aside on matriarchies, wikipedia has the following (unreferenced) to say "Most anthropologists hold that there are no known anthropological societies that are unambiguously matriarchal, but some authors believe exceptions may exist or may have".

When the shift from hunter gather to agragrian societies was made, marking the start of the bronze age, mere survival did not occupy the full capacity of a small community and there was time and space for social, intellectual and technological progress including the establishment of basic economic principles that enabled us to move beyond barter. The great advantage humanity has over other creatures, what makes us the apex predator, is our capacity to pass on knowledge from generation to generation and based on reason and understanding grow what is now a vast and unimaginably complex corpus of knowledge about the operation of the world and how to not just survive but thrive.

More complex societies, say ancient Greek or Roman civilizations, were still built on force and men still had an iron grip on authority through force but for a privileged few there was time to think about life and how society could best organize. There was some quality philosophising done in this time, off the back of a brutal system of slavery and misogyny, but progress and social evolution nonetheless and democracy was the outcome.

We moved from a system of rule of force to the rule of law. The full humanity and intellectual capacity of women, equal to or surpassing that of man, started to be recognised societally and the concept of rights came into being. The rule of law was still backed by force, but vested in a portion of society dedicated to peace keeping and preventing crime.

The rule of law enables a peaceful society and further technological progress provides more space for reason and understanding. And the rest as they say is history.

The patriarchy, the current cultural norm that places behavioural expectations on people based on perceived gender, arose as a natural consequence of social evolution from a starting base of savagery and the rule of force. But we're done with that, we've moved beyond the need for it and we know better. At least I hope we do.

"Under the precise circumstances of your genetic and cultural inheritance and the specifics of your current situation, your behaviour is completely normal. You're still able to be aware of behaviour patterns, good or bad, and able to choose to change them."

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