Biological vs. Psychological Imperatives

The basic imperatives in human behavior for survival of our species, through eating and having sex, appear to have had an edge over other competitive imperatives like ‘strength through togetherness’ from the very beginning of humanity.

At the same time, ‘strength though togetherness’ today appears to be having a weirdly perverse effect in that we seem to have more and more human actors doing their best – albeit in different ways – to destroy it. Whether it’s mass shootings, less lethal but equally odious nativism, or even climate change deniers, it almost appears as if all those people are working against the survival of our species. Why?

That may be the biggest question of our time. It is not easy to penetrate the many layers of confusion in human behavior to reach a basic understanding of the reasons humans undermine their very own survival when survival itself logically must still be the singular, basic biological imperative.

Those imperatives almost by definition have never changed in 200 millennia –even as psychological imperatives have clearly evolved to match technological and societal advances.

Many recent mass shooters have been motivated by racial animosity, and much of the more generalized racism emerging in our country is driven in part by peoples’ fears of “others” taking what is rightly “theirs.” To such twisted minds, climate change, resulting primarily from more and more humans taxing the world’s resources, represents such a taking on a vast, existential scale. Can violence be far behind?

If survival is now dependent on fewer humans doing less damage to the planet, the basic biological imperatives that have governed all human history to date will have to take a back seat to forces we don’t truly understand yet , and if we do not figure it out pretty soon we might just miss the boat and go down with the old survival flag waving in the sunset!

But, if we can become more aware of the new imperatives, we may be able better to adjust to our new circumstances.  For example, we do know better ways to limit population growth and carbon emissions than mass violence and tribalism.

A good place to start concentrating would be to increase our commitment to those means to reduce short-term pressures such as border concerns.  From there, perhaps we have to grow to understand that, where climate change is concerned, we’re all in it together, on a global scale, and our fates are inextricably linked to our ability to achieve common cause, if our species is to survive.

This all boils down to the simple, but difficult to comprehend, fact that our world has been turned upside down?

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