Sometimes, for entertainment, I surf familiar territory within the Internet. News. Music. Blogs. Social media. And throughout this rather insane election year, I end up disheartened from my cyber voyages. Social media, especially, seems to bring out the worst in too many people. Everyone purports to have truth at their fingertips, and the more brazen the contention, the more vitriolic the conversation, the surer each of us is that we have a patent on truth.
Perhaps that’s my issue as well, but I do want to try here to make sense of this state of affairs. I’ve noticed that for some thirty years, we of the developed world have become selfish. Could this be, as I wish to think, the final phase of a benign step in human evolution? One thing the developed world has offered us is the opportunity to develop our individuality as human beings. We have monetary resources and leisure time to read, to contemplate, to try new avenues of expression.
But while this is a good thing as a whole, it has a dark side. This preoccupation with self has, as above, made us selfish. Our egos get in the way of good, decent human interaction. I constantly watch drivers on the Interstate act with no consideration for other drivers. Shoppers at the grocery leave their buggy in the middle of the aisle, preventing others from passing. Just a couple of the most common examples each of us face regularly.
But human nature has a solution for this, and we seem now to be in the first stages of that wave. We’ve once again felt the urge to cooperate. To consider the needs of others. I’ve considered this to be a new tribalism and, of course, it has its pitfalls as well. Throughout history we human types have banded together for safety and for many other benefits complete individuality can’t offer. Previously, though, we’ve joined groups of similar thinkers. Those with cultural practices we find familiar. But the very act of colluding in this way has always set us apart from other, similar groups, and this has brought social animosity.
We’re at that juncture point now, I think. We’ve long since populated the world beyond our habit of wasting resources, and the only way out of our dilemma is to learn a new way of cooperating, a way the human collective tacitly begs for.
Just for a moment, consider some of the ways we now aggregate, particularly in these United States. Democrats. Republicans. Libertarians. Socialists. Military. And the social groupings: Academics. Athletes. Musicians. Even the Klan and Black Lives Matter. We’re all reaching for commonality in others, but in doing so the urge is only half done. Media of all sorts, ease of travel, near-overpopulation, and other phenomena have put us in close proximity to other, perhaps competing groups. In previous stages of history, such exposure has led us to war and other, lesser conflicts, each in its own way damaging. Now, if humanity is to turn the evolutionary corner, we must find ways to cooperate in new ways, to see beyond the “strangeness” of others. This new form of cooperation isn’t new; nation-states, cities, teams, political groups, have always found it necessary from time to time to cooperate on a temporary basis.
Now, it’s an absolute necessity to see beyond our our individualities, our select groupings, to draw on our most basic connection: that we are all human beings, that we have much more in common than the things that set us apart. If we can do this, humanity – and the planet – will survive.
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