This week, I figured I should go for something philosophical and more existential than informative or exasperating. It’s good to exercise the old noggin’ once in a while and just think.
Maybe I’m just odd, maybe I’m just a loner, or maybe I’m just a shining example of Nietzsche’s Übermensch, but has anyone ever taken a step back and pondered the evolutionary advantage of being a species that indulges itself in the act of observing one another?
Think about it, there are so many things humans do that arises from the need to observe. Why is theatre entertaining? How come paparazzi and gossip over Hollywood is such a prevalent thing in our society? How is it that privacy came to be universally agreed upon as tenet of Western culture? Why do religions always involve omnipotent, judging beings? How come we all value individuality yet look down upon the hermit? How is it that anyone can care about the everyday events of the Kardashians? Why does Buddhism revolve around inner peace and personal prudence of self-judgment? Why does Christianity revolve around the Golden Rule? How is it that social media grew to be such a huge an integral part to everyone’s lives? How could mankind have been oblivious to the Social Contract proposed by Thomas Hobbes for so long?
Frankly, what do all of these things do for humanity? Sure, nature is not perfect, but it sure does work itself hard towards it, like a goal to always be sought but never caught.
What use does observation, judgment, respect, fear, awareness, morality, law, admiration, adoration, condemnation, worship, disdain, guilt, apathy, and anything else like these things work towards? Is the human condition the pursuit of chasing this answer?
What I can say for certain is that for civilization to work as a cohesive whole, all of these emergent behaviors are mandatory. Something about civilization provides a natural advantage towards the prosperity of the human race. Basically, there is safety in numbers.
It’s a subject that’s raised and debated time and time again on both the individual and societal scale.
Obviously a community has greater chance of success to prosper than one person working alone towards their own prosperity. Or, at least, it obviously can provide a greater chance for its members to succeed. In theory, a civilization is capable of achieving great things without detriment to its constituents. It also provides a response to the harsh reality that is nature, the dog eat dog world against the unified strength of a community. Yet, like all adaptations, this social imperative ingrained in humanity is not perfect.
The next question, is how? This is where I point Monsieur Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Mr. John Stuart Mill, as well as religious teachings and psychological perspectives. The reason society is not a perfect engine is because it can be taken advantage of. Some crafty, shrewd, and devious proto-human got the ball rolling in regards to “sin” and “immorality” by doing one thing: lying. We all do it. We all despise it being done to us. It is what keeps the theoretical society from coming to fruition.
The hero is the person that discards their survival and prosperity for others. Moral behavior is honest behavior. It is an ideal uplifted by society, the Übermensch to strive for. Yet it is an ideal that has not been achieved throughout the history of mankind. We’ve always strived for it, but never reached it.
This is what I believe is the purpose of the redemptive religions. Their ultimate goal is to remind us that we all lie, sin, deviate from the norm (intentionally or unintentionally), to accept it as a part of us all, and learn to cope with others who “sin against us” as well as with ourselves.
Yet the need to observe, admire, and condemn remain. Perhaps this is why Jersey Shore can become such a hit TV show, and perhaps this is why Hollywood actors are looked upon as political gurus. We all know that there could be that one individual that is just so deceitful and manipulative that they don’t care what they do or what they have to take from others to do it. It’s why the Charles Manson’s of the world are met with such shock: How can someone see the whole of humanity as nothing more than a tool and not feel some kind of guilt for lying to others?
Can such a flaw control us all, or is freedom from ourselves and everyone else truly possible?
Should it be?