I learned a few weeks ago that Charles Darwin’s main theory wasn’t “survival of the fittest” (a phrase coined by Spencer, not Darwin) but something much closer to “survival of the kindest.”
“As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. [If they appear different] experience unfortunately shews us how long it is before we look at them as our fellow creatures. Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions… This virtue [concern for lower animals], one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they extend to all sentient beings.” (From Darwin’s 1871 book, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex)
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. In the wake of the United Airlines customer management disaster, in the wake of the Republican push to replace Obamacare with something that is distinctly and decisively worse for everyone, especially the most fragile in our society, in the wake of Trump’s decision to push through the Dakota Access Pipeline, in the wake of so many horrible headlines, it is clear that a good portion of how our society works (or doesn’t) has very little to do with compassion, empathy, or altruism.
As a result, I’m pretty sure that we’re screwed.
Some of us will absolutely be physically screwed, because despite what some people believe, lack of health insurance actually does make disease worse and death more likely, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a society dedicated to cruelty. To individualism. To arbitrary rules and procedures. To putting some people and creatures down in order to lift up others. Our soul, as a nation, as a society, as a culture, is currently under assault.
And the WORST part is that some of the most vulnerable, those at the bottom of this totem of wealth and privilege, are holding up the people and policies that will keep them there.
I’m so upset about all of this that I have an incredibly hard time talking about it without bursting into tears.
I know it will get better, because, honestly, if it doesn’t, the world will just explode or boil up or do something to simply get rid of all of us arrogant primates, but I’m having a hard time with that right now.