the Informed

Our Selfless Nature & The Equation For Peace In The World

Whenever and wherever there is a significant disaster in the world, human beings forget their colour, creed & nationality and flock to help one another. This is our nature, and it is this key element that holds the answer for peace in our turbulent world.

In AD 397, Augustine's Confessions explored the idea of original sin, that we are all born broken and selfish and can only be saved through submission to God. A convenient doctrine if you need membership to your faith and if you hold the supposed keys to salvation. Thomas Hobbes elaborated on the idea in Leviathan, stating that we are savage, self-centred creatures by our nature. But recent research has indicated that, despite the age-old philosophical debate over the nature of humanity, we may in fact be fundamentally selfless in our impulses. In a world where people are pitted against one another to essentially compete for resources, this may be hard to see, but when you strip away the competition, the greed and the lust for money and power, our true nature can be allowed to rise to the surface.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta
While our competitive nature may seem to be a natural part of our existence, many would argue that this is merely learned behaviour. Sports, school, work - these institutions have all been carefully designed to breed this competitive spirit, and being the highly adaptable creatures that we are, when put into competitive arenas, we will fight. Lord Of The Flies, as an example of this idea, only teaches us that when given a threat to our survival, despots will seek to take advantage of and dominate others - but these people are the problem, and they are only a tiny minority.

But let's suppose for a minute that competition does not serve humanity, let's assume for a moment that it divides us and conditions us, serving to hide our true nature from ourselves. What possibilities would this open up? What could we achieve if we were set free from these oppressive ideas?

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other - Mother Theresa

Before we explore that concept, let's first debunk this erroneous adaptation of 'survival of the fittest' as it's been applied to society. Social Darwinism, this idea borne in the 1870's, that the strong should see their wealth and power grow while the weak see theirs shrink, has been used to justify innumerable atrocities in the world. War, racism, Nazism - these have all leveraged this concept for their benefit, yet the idea is flawed and does not hold up This idea that the strong should see their wealth and power grow while the weak see theirs shrink has been used to justify innumerable atrocities in the worldin light of what we know today. In a nutshell, this concept is a huge over-simplification of Darwin's theory of evolution, and does not apply to social conditions. 'Fittest' in this context does not refer to survival, it applies to the ability of a species to be able to reproduce. Yet this idea was hijacked by many a dictator in order to flourish and dominate, and it has contributed greatly to the pitting of man against man. The reality is, we could not have survived as a species if we did not learn how to cooperate for the common good - and this is an important lesson.

So if competition is a learned behaviour (and there has been endless debate regarding cooperation versus competition, yet cooperation has proven to be the victor), and we are ultimately an altruistic species, how can we embrace this idea to better the world and to overcome our divisions? Nelson Mandella had a beautiful and succinct suggestion for humanity in this regard:

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner

 To examine this, let's take a look at some fundamental concepts:

  • we are ultimately a benevolent species, designed to help one another
  • our cooperation has led to our dominance as a species on the planet and allowed us to survive, being neither the strongest nor the fastest
  • competition is a false concept, created to keep people in a sort of slavery of the mind - when the people fight one another, they cannot come together to overthrow oppression
  • capitalism feeds this false concept of competition, hindering our progress
  • only through the rejection of competition in all of its forms can we begin to evolve
  • out-dated ideologies such as religion, borders, nations and left and right (ideas that divide) need to be replaced with ideologies that unite
  • we can work together and still retain our differences and individuality
  • when the notion of competition fades, our cooperative nature will take over
  • without competition, we begin to realize that we all have the same fundamental goals (family, happiness and love), and convincing others that our ideology is the right one will no longer be necessary
  • cooperation on a global scale will lead ultimately to peace
  • the more we learn to cooperate, the more we will begin to reject false leaders and their agendas
  • a life in service of others (our fundamental nature) is, therefore, the path to peace in the world

The huge obstacle to all of this exists only in our minds, in our ideas and thoughts. Since we have been so utterly conditioned to compete, it is hard to see any other way. Politics, the free market - these competitive ideas that seem self-evident but are in fact falsehoods, this is what holds us back. This is the obstacle to peace, and the path to healing our broken world begins with the first step of understanding. Humankind has achieved a great many astounding things, and our road does not end here. In this war-torn world full of divisions, we need to no longer divide everything in two, we need to remember that there is no two, there is only one.

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