Monday, May 05, 2003

the c-word

it's hard to resist the conclusion that some profound fault became embedded in hom sap's brain at a crucial evolutionary moment. the more religious have the easy option - the 'error' mythologised as Original Sin is perhaps an early recognition of this. how else to explain so much that is clearly fundamentally wrong?
to select but one example from a very long list (from the 'a' of 'anger management consultants' to the 'z' of 'zero tolerance' via the 'j' of 'jerry springer') how can it be that the most primitive of instincts - 'c' for 'competitiveness' - continues to operate at full throttle in an environment totally transformed from that which it was adapted to? as a species-specific trait, competitiveness became redundant a very long time ago. Man is the dominant species. no argument. no mere rhino is going to argue with that. the nearest challenger is so far back down the evolutionary track as to be disregardable. and yet this species that completely dominates the animal kingdom appears virtually incapable of selectively engaging the far more important learned behaviours - like cooperation - which have contributed so significantly to this success, and which, you would have thought, should by now have all but replaced the cruder devices that made us top dog. on the contrary, the behaviour that the drive to compete provokes has been displaced into any number of arenas in which cooperative behaviour would be manifestly more rational and efficient.
from the species-specific point of view, for instance, an economic system based on an equitable distribution of the common wealth makes sense - whereas a system based on the assumption that a set of finite resources can be plundered indefinitely by a subset of the species that actively promotes inequity as the driving engine of its economy is, not to put too fine a point on it, psychotic. and, as is the case in most psychotic conditions, it's a system supported by a very primitive sub-system of belief and superstition. actually, capitalist economics has more in common with shamanism and voodoo than with the principles of the enlightenment. just take a look at the language: the 'spectre' of recession hovers threateningly behind 'the market's confidence' that 'sustainable growth' can be maintained despite 'inflationary pressures' blah blah blah. this is the obfuscating lingo of the professional evangelist - cloying, impressive, pseudo-scientific, plausible, but at no point connecting with anything like the substantive proofs that distinguish granite from bullshit.
economists are con artists in direct line of descent from the alchemists. the only thing missing from the contemporary lexicon is the mandrake root.

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