A guest post from John Souter
The People Business
This exercise is about us. All of us, the Homo sapiens that dominate this planet we call earth and the world we manufacture in order to pass our time on it.
As a species we are dominant. We have conquered land, sea and sky, beginning to probe into the universe and in most cases can choose either to decimate or manage every other species on earth from whale to virus - though the latter causes us the greater problems. Animal, vegetable or mineral we regard as resources dormant until we uncover their latent potentials, which are then ours for exploitation.
We are not unique in our exploitation. Viruses exploit anything that suits them in the animal and vegetable world, whales exploit the food of the oceans, plants the nutrients of sun, soil and rains, and minerals the geophysics created by change through the ages. However it is only our specie that can reason and understand these things. And even if we don’t understand, we know that there are others in our species that do and if the need arises, we can study their understanding and learn from them.
Even in this team learning approach we are not unique, though other species may use the suckling bribe in order in order to establish its practice. Nor are we unique in our flaws, the propensity to kill or intimate anger or violence is used through most if not all of the species. Even our ability to reason is not unique; a dog learns tricks or performs duties because it associates it with - probably in some, to it, mysterious way – a duty or game pleasing to its master. That’s still reasoning.
So in the natural sense we have no specifically unique qualities. We can’t dive like a whale, run at the speed of a cheetah or fly like a bird but by the development of our brain and its ability to construct abstract thought we can beat the abilities of the natural species in all these ventures. Now abstract thought isn’t inventiveness. Man didn’t invent fire; he witnessed it through some natural occurrence. Just as he noticed a round rock was easier to roll than a square one. The abstract was in seeing how both of these could be used to advantage.
This was the time when Homo sapiens began to exploit his nature; the foundation of civilization and the gestation of the People Business.
What won’t be included in this discourse are masses of dates, statistics, graphs or formula. Whether this genesis of abstract thought happened one hundred thousand, fifty or thirty thousand years ago is totally irrelevant.
As is recorded history; which in itself is a product of abstract thought – perhaps a fairly advanced thought, since the need was seen to hold an account of the past in order to explain the present and to try and shape the future – but in essence its only a sophistication of folk lore, tribal squabbles, a record of animal movement and numbers and the time to reap and sow. And as a record of account in The People Business it has proved to be flawed through the abilities to apply the same abstract capabilities to its construction, interpretation and exploitation.
So, dismissing all the yesterdays as irrelevant, how do we handle our day and hopefully our tomorrows, in what, by the sheer chance of birth, is the business we are thrust in to.
I suppose the first thing we must recognise is that ‘The People Business’ has a hierarchy. A hierarchy created sometimes by the same chances awarded by birth, at others by the environment we find ourselves in and the values that environment regards as our potential usefulness as a resource in the business.
Taking the above as a given surely we have to ask a question as to the purpose and objectives of this business that only death or imbecility (at times not even that) excuses us from participating in.
But before we do we have to consider how we are capable of asking it. Nature created this earth and every form of life that’s ever been on it and, while we may be capable of exploiting the elements of nature we are a long way off, if ever, of being able to claim dominion over them. Nature is by its nature a dictator. Perhaps generally benign, avuncular, acquiescent it never the less has no care whether we as a species choose to continue to thrive on its planet or be wiped out by nature itself or by self destruction. This is the irrevocable ‘given’ without which the gestation of ‘T he People Business’ would never have been formed and must be the primary factor on which the scales of values and solvency of the business is measured.
The role of Nature accepted, we then have to ask; whether in the affairs of humanity, any concept, system, practice or ideology which doesn’t improve the wellbeing, contentment, security and advancement of the majority of the species and its survival, has any claim to legitimacy or continuance by establishment or custom?
If the answer is no – we have gazillions of problems to sort out.
If the answer is yes – then life for most will continue to be a vale of tears waiting for a death date.
While I believe the answer to the question as posed would result in an overwhelming majority of No’s over the Yes’s, it leads us to ponder on what we actually mean by concepts such as wellbeing, contentment, security, advancement and how we tie these in with the species survival.
This is a problem that has exercised the minds of philosophers and thinkers throughout the ages. At the basic level they have divided it into two camps, called one Determinism, and the other Free Will. Again at the basic level Determinists maintain every happening in life or nature is preordained and humanity has no more control over its outcome than a rock can change into a horse; therefore humanity has no capacity for exercising or claiming the ability of true Free Will. We could call this the God camp.
Advocates of Free Will argue; we have to have free will because we have the ability to make choices. That while we may feel anger enough to kill in some circumstance, we choose not to and choose instead to adopt reason and apply restraint.
Throughout the ages these arguments have developed and formed sects then sub sects; some with a tentative toe in the other camp while others firmly straddle both while rejecting some of each, and so on. Candidly much of the argument is esoteric, often to the level of vanity, and could be summed up as an argument over whether a static ball bearing is downside up or upside down.
Yet the paradox of this hypothesis is not only how little consideration we give to it in our daily lives, it is the scale in which we use it to form our values, morality and our place in society. To clarify, I’ll give you an example – Scientists generally consider themselves free thinkers. While that may well be a true and honest belief, much of their work as scientist is to un-cover and understand inherent qualities and potentials in whatever subject or substance they’re working on. Whether their work proves true or false or they trip over the discovery of the millennium is entirely determined by the inherent qualities that have always existed in that subject or substance. So as individuals they practice free will, or think they do; but in work they’re controlled and measured by determinism.
Confused? Well aren’t we all, and that includes those who are devoting their lives to defining the solution. But take some heart, generally these people are looking for truth with no malicious intent or goal of global dominance; perhaps a little glory and personal comfort from a prize or two and again generally, they’re a pretty egalitarian lot who want to serve humanity.
So in order to define the purpose(s) of The People Business we have to accept another irrevocable truth.
- God – is not an excuse.
- gods – are not an excuse.
And beliefs are doubts that can only be truly dispelled by truths.