“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.” No doubt some of you will agree with the previous quote. Perfectly all right, it’s your point of view. However, I’d like you to try to guess how old the quote is.
How old do you think that it was? Ten years old? How about fifty? Or how about a hundred? Did it even come to mind that it may be over a millennium old? The quotation is actually from Hesiod who lived almost three thousand years ago, which means that the quote has been around for about half of humanity’s recorded history. Surely in those three thousand years humanity has achieved more than most Greeks could’ve ever dreamed of, yet there are those who continue to say that each new generation will be the one who will bring ruin and chaos to the world.
In reality, this fear of new generations is merely the nostalgia of our childhood. Our childhood is where we create our notions of how things ought to be; therefore some grow up unable to adapt to new realities. Fear in one form or another is nothing more than the dread of change. We fear that our surroundings will change in such a way that we perceive is harmful to ourselves, be it in the form of acrophobia, necrophobia, sociophobia, or any phobia you may think of.
People, in general, do not change; when there’s a new tendency such as an extreme hatred for an idea or acceptance for an idea it’s merely because the environment in which the human is has changed and thus they adapt. The environment itself changes whenever there’s new technologies, new ideas, or anything of the sort. The person is still the same and is merely reacting to new input. To put it in simple terms, it’s as if you had a computer and merely changed the software in it. The computer seems to be different when you use it, but at its core it’s still the same.
What really makes history change course is the environment and the past. People all in all remain the same. So, what we really have to do in order not to lose all hope for humanity is to change the environment while taking into account the characteristics of the human psyche so as to not make mistakes. Every social movement up to this point in history has failed to take this into account. All ideologies seem to stem from a world where there is no such thing as human nature, there only seems to be social conditioning. However, this is not entirely because the philosophers or thinkers desire to ostracise biological conditioning from the ideology, this is merely because psychology is a very new field of science and thus there weren’t that many opportunities to apply the newly acquired knowledge in the area of evolutionary psychology.
Let’s use religion as an example. Religion focuses on forbidding things which oftentimes conflict with deeply rooted biological impulses and monogamy is a very clear example of this. In 95% of the time in which humans have been evolving, our species lived in highly egalitarian societies which shared everything from food, the care of children to spouses.
In the last 10,000 years, of course, these notions are almost nonexistent. However, we still have the biological desire to do such things, according to a survey conducted by MSNBC about one in three men cheat while they’re married and about one in five women cheat while married. By marrying they’ve basically signed an agreement not to cheat, yet they continue to do so in spite of this. Moreover, imagine in the cases where there are no legal repercussions for doing so, such as when there’s a prenuptial agreement or when the couple isn’t married, it’s safe to assume that the incidence of cheating is higher in such a demographic.
I’m not saying that monogamy is bad or anything. It’s merely idiotic to expect that everyone should do something which goes against their very being. Basically what’s happening is that we create false expectations of behaviour. Most people will fail to meet these expectations and they will feel guilty as a consequence making them easier to control because they feel the need to amend their supposed errors. If the goal is control then by all means that’s the way to succeed since guiltiness generates subservience; nonetheless, if one does not desire to create a society where control is the main goal then you have to take our biological quirks into consideration.
More modern ideologies also fail to to account for biological needs. Let’s take the most prevailing ideologies of the twentieth century – capitalism and communism – as an example. The first one fails to account for the desire to help others, which some people have (this must not be confused with altruism since there is a psychological reward or a possible future reward), and the latter fails to account for the greed and the desire for self betterment, communism assumes that all human beings desire to be a collective rather than an individual.
If humans ever succeed in creating anything resembling an ideal world they will have to utilize humanity’s flaws and strengths to create a new society. Perfection will never be achieved, that is almost a given, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to achieve it. In the words of P.T. Barnum: “aim for the stars because you may just land on the moon.”
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