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Sunday, 20 September 2015

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A product of humiliation and defeat

"If a person has real character, ultimately success will follow him like a common cur in the street with its tail between its legs." - Werner Herzog, celebrated as one of the most influential and innovative filmmakers of our time.

As long as the building blocks of one's character - tenacity, self-reliance, imaginative curiosity - does not shine with blinding brilliance; man will remain, as much a product of his cumulative humiliations and defeats; and, as much the product of the Monkey-kind from whence he originated.

Thus; though deficient not only in character; but also in many of the faculties that sets him apart from the Monkey-kind, he builds empires of illusions. Having emerged as a twig on the tree of life, and not understanding what sets him apart from all the other twigs; his empires of illusions has set him on a path in which he has bought into countless fallacies such as: education is about training, and success defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge.

He has failed to understand that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. He has failed to perceive that a culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power; which mistakes management techniques for wisdom; that fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume; will condemn itself to eventual death.

He has invented inverted totalitarianism, which unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader; but finds expression in the anonymity of the Corporate State that purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while manipulating internal levers that are, filled with corruption and nepotism. He has forgotten that fame is a vapor; popularity, an accident; riches take wing; and that, the only one thing that endures in life is character.

Fallacies

However, due to the cumulative result of all our fallacies and foolishness; and because, the words "consent of the governed" has become an empty phrase in our nation; this nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow and selfish political and economic elite - a small and privileged group that governs, and often steals, along with moneyed interests. This elite group, in the name of patriotism and democracy, in the name of all the values which were once part of our system and which defined our ethic; has systematically destroyed, not only our morality; but also our manufacturing sector, looted the treasury, corrupted democracy, and trashed the financial system.

Along with that, they had succeeded in turning all our men into spineless lions and sinewless tigers fit only to hunt mice: Men of the Monkey-kind, with nothing else in their anatomy, but the ability to procreate. That also is the reason why, during this plundering, we remained passive.

Evolution

We were mesmerized by the enticing shadows on the wall; because our greed was aroused; and we were assured that our tickets to success prosperity, and happiness were waiting around the corner; and because we forgot that maturity of mind is, achieved only through the postponement of immediate pleasures and instant gain. Going by the evidence present, I will not be surprised, if this is a repetitive process. As human beings - including those even now remaining in the primary stage of evolution as the inheritors of the monkey kind - we want to be happy and free from misery. Yet, we have not learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace, is greed; as well as disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion. We have forgotten that love, compassion, and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness, the difference between man and animal.

Having thus forgotten and failed to understand what sets us apart from the monkey kind; and having failed to pursue life's open-endedness with equal parts focus of vision and nimbleness of navigation; we aspire in our foolishness, to become the pinnacle of evolution; and believe that we are special amongst species; and are not just one twig in the thicket.

Intelligence

Indeed, it is no wonder that, in the light of new research into animal intelligence, some scientists have concluded that there simply is no profound difference between us and other species; even though other scientists of equal eminence argue the opposite: that new research is finally making the profound difference between humans and animals clear. I wonder if we humans are special, only because we landed on the moon or invented the iPad I personally have not done those things either.

Hence, if such achievements are what make us human; then I too must be relegated to the beasts - except that I suppose I can catch a little reflected glory from true humans. On the other hand, if we just point to our large brains as proof of the difference, even that might not work: our brain might be three times the size of the brains of chimpanzees; but elephants' brains are three times bigger.

Of course, elephants have bigger bodies too, leading some to think that we might have the highest ratio of brain size to body size. However, that honour actually belongs to shrews and ants.

However, fortunately, there are other more inclusive ideas about what makes us human. Not long ago, most people in the Christian World were happy with the account found in the Bible: that we are made in the image of God - end of argument. Yet, the theory of evolution tells us a different story, one in which humans slowly emerged as a twig on the tree of life.

The problem with this explanation is that it is much more difficult to say exactly what makes us so different from all the other twigs.

Some determined researchers drew up a new measure, according to which brains grow larger as body size increases; but not in direct proportion. It turns out that with enough tweaking, a scale could be developed according to which humans come out as the brainiest. But the real lesson we might draw from this is how desperate we are to demonstrate that we are special, and how hard this is to do with any rigour and finality.

Until recently, no later than 50,000 years ago, a speck in time in comparison to cosmic time, there were many species of humans across the world. Some, such as the Neanderthals had brains at least as big as ours; while others such as the diminutive "hobbit" found on the Indonesian island of Flores were more closely akin to the apes.

In such a world, Homo sapiens would have appeared much less exceptional, and our close connection to other species more obvious. Some of these other humans disappeared through natural disasters - a volcanic eruption in the case of the hobbit population, while others have been driven to extinction by us.

Pruned

Thus if our twig stands out it might be only because we have ruthlessly pruned the rest of the branch. This at best could mean only one thing: we are the only animals that cook food and that no other species is as destructive of its own and other species.

For too long we claimed to be the only species with reason, emotion, consciousness and morality. Yet we share a long evolutionary history and basic biology with other animals, particularly other mammals. We should therefore expect that if some mammals experience something, most or all mammals probably do too.

It would be simply unscientific to expect one twig on the tree of life to be radically different from those on the branches around it. Therefore, I would say that we are far indeed from standing out as the only complex thinking creatures on earth. Look at the happenings around us. Do we need more proof that many animals think more effectively, intelligently and excellently than we do and behave better?

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