System with Philosophy
“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
“Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.”
― Albert Camus
the human animal
The dominant understanding of human need is an either/or belief in the nature of human fulfillment. This belief is largely shaped by the structure of our systems of social order. Mounting research is showing that motivations differ between individuals dependent on environmental factors (childhood, early world experiences, social conditioning), but are innately similar yet contradictory over the population.
What does it mean to say that environmental factors play a major role in our base motivations? There is a great TED talk by Esther Perel, where she describes her research into how married couples maintain passion in their relationships over the long term. Her findings are specific to romantic relationships, however her research reveals much about innate nature of the human animal. She notes (as supported by research by countless others including Robert Sapolsky, Gabor Mate & Richard Wilkinson) that our behaviour and emotional needs as an adult form very early during the environmental experiences of childhood. Our responses to relationships and life stem from either positively or negatively perceived experiences at an early age. This shapes character and even genetic development. She provides examples of abandonment fears, anger reactions or the opposite, more positive traits that have developed from supportive environments. The nuances and propensities of these manifestations are best left to the psychoanalysts, but the point to be made is that experiences determine much of our future emotional and intellectual behaviour and needs. In this way we are individuals with varying character outcomes.
As the body of research gathers, we are beginning to see that human nature is filled with bewildering contradictions. Kinseys scale of sexual behaviour may be the earliest accepted scientific example of quantifying our complexities. Once again, his focus here is on a very small part of human behaviour, but lets assume that he discovered something broader. Kinsey proposes that across large populations, sexuality is neither one nor the other. It certainly can be, but for the majority it is grey and evolving, determined by a combination of propensity and environment. Think about this in the context of your whole character... what is it that brings you the most happiness?
Adventure or stability, or both at a particular balance? Are you compliant or change focused, or both under certain circumstances? Are you individualistic or community minded? Are you playful or serious and do you wish you were more of the other? Analytical or creative? Introverted or extroverted? We can look at every contradicting attribute of human character and desire, and if we are honest to ourselves, I might assert that most of us would never wish to be an extreme of any characteristic. The basis for this is our socialistic evolution. We are a social species that develops in character by the mirroring or rejecting of behaviours we experience in the world around us. This trait is the foundation of how we learn from infancy from our known carers. In larger consistent stable populations, an unspoken code of behaviour becomes the social identity that the majority will adhere to. This code evolves into a distinct culture which is either open to change or closed for preservation.
The great contradiction of western society today is that it has spent considerable inadvertent energy focusing on socially exclusionary individualism, to completely ignore thousands of years of our physical evolution. The individualistic goals of capitalism are not unnatural to our nature, but they are when they are to the exclusion of others. The unspoken social contract is broken when the group are not considered in the objective of personal fulfillment. I will argue that this has been the key motive for conflict during most of recorded human history. The other would be the isolation of cultural evolution and the challenges of integration/cooperation/perspective. Fortunately, that isolation has all but disappeared in this newly connected world. I am optimistic about the outcome.
base drivers - values for a system
If we accept that individualism is inherently derived from our social nature, we can see that we are operating in a system that is working against our optimal health, both physical and psychological. Great personal fulfillment is attained when we stand out from the crowd to their frenzied applause, best experienced when we succeed in spite to social skepticism (see the contradictions)... when we deliver something of ourselves or for others which the majority didn't think possible. Today we are at the mercy of an unplanned value removed socioeconomic system that holds one thing - profit/capital (not a value) - as the end goal. The earlier days of capitalism were quite promising in fact. Society had moved back to some of it's core values following the demise of 'kingdom'. Social mobility was accompanied by social responsibility and standards of living improved exponentially, as did social institutions and collaboration. Progress flourished. In time, the collective optimism of these new-found freedoms were eclipsed by the reality of the system. Derived directly from the the power structures who used it to control it's subjects, it was only time before other powers would be able to continue to use it in a new (perhaps less obvious) form. We could debate the ills of society and the injustices (the ones we know of) perpetrated until the proverbial cows do their thing, with much disagreement, but if we can accept that no value system is present in our current system, would we change it? If a new system were to be imagined, should we agree that the following values could promote a very desirable society?
honesty / transparency
fairness / equality
individualism / freedom / exceptionalism
society / community / cooperation
We would be interested in your thoughts. Contact us via the Collaborate Page. Click here to see a system being devised and tested now that may be the answer to these questions.