• Posted: Dec 02, 2015 10:47:06
• Comments Welcome
• Vote CoolPhotoblogs
• Purchase a Print
There are so many difficult issues in the world today. It boggles the mind sometimes to think about them. Climate change tops the news this week. World leaders meet in Paris to discuss what can be done. Likely, something will be done. But it won’t be enough. As noted by both the BBC and Reuters yesterday, emissions from new coal fired power plants already slated to be built are projected to outstrip any efforts that might be agreed to in Paris. And recent models suggest climate change will likely proceed at an accelerating rate, much faster than previously thought, due to additions of methane to the atmosphere by melting decaying permafrost regions, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than CO2. No, despite good intentions by those willing to look beyond their own selfish needs, our world is changing drastically in a very bad direction, due to our own failures to foresee and control the consequences of our own behaviors.
There is a social science concept spoken of many times during preceding months in podcasts by the team at NPR’s Planet Money. And every time they do, it saddens me greatly. That concept is “the tragedy of the commons”. Many many times throughout history, people have come together and decided to share or pool limited resources for the mutual benefit of all members of the group. But over and over again, individuals within those groups have decided their own personal needs and aspirations were more pressing and important than everyone else’s and so disproportionally plundered the agreed upon common resource to the detriment of all concerned. And it gets even more tragic than that. Those who haven’t betrayed trust begin to catch on to what those few have done and even they begin to plunder the commons in order to ensure a fair share. In the end, the commons is completely lost to out of control self-interest.
There is just something within the human psyche of far too many individuals that will not be suppressed or moderated or controlled within the overarching concept of “teamwork”, no matter what possibilities are held up for reward or punishment. Only, I fear, with the feasibility of controlling or eliminating the constellation of genes that underlie such irrepressible selfishness will human populations rid themselves of individuals unable to control urges to rape and plunder the commons. As undesirable as that prospect seems, it would certainly lessen the carnage as both the wronged and truly selfish take up arms to secure what each perceives as their fair share.
But don’t take that thought as an indictment of individuality or self-sufficiency. As a group, we need courageous individuals willing to strike out on their own down paths the rest of us are not prepared to take. Such individuals literally open new frontiers for the rest of us. We very much need such people. What we don’t need is people stealing from us, robbing us all of a future, undercutting the health of the entire planet for their own personal gain. Those people are the undesirables. Those people are the ones that need fixing. And if more humane parenting, enlightened and effective schooling, and greater opportunity for meaningful community membership would eliminate the need for genetic fixing, then fine. Let’s do it. But so far, that hasn’t happened or worked.
I wonder ... Would just the threat of genetic fixing be enough to inspire the truly selfish to voluntarily move toward the altruistic side of the spectrum in their behavior? I doubt it. People can and do change. But neither prayer nor counseling nor continuous mentoring nor imprisonment has ever changed the basic wiring of an individual’s brain, wiring immutably established through epigenetic processes during the earliest years of childhood.
The time of genetic fixing is not yet at hand. But it is very close. And when that time does arrive, hopefully there will still be enough humane caring altruistic people left in the world to wisely make use of that technology for the betterment of the entire planet and all its populations.
Saturday, November 28th, 2015