October 19, 2010

Natural progress is violent and uncivilized

MSNBC: Aggressive Goat Kills Hiker
MSNBC: Leaping Fish Injures Kayaker

Over the past couple weeks here in Japan there have been a number of programs about wild animals causing havoc in villages and towns. In one case a wild boar tore through a convenience store and in another a bear was shot after it refused to leave someone's garden. With this sudden upsurge in reports of dangerous wild animals it might seem nature has suddenly gone a little crazy or something. Wild conspiracy theories could get started about nature seeking revenge on evil humanity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Natural systems and environments are not some kind of mystic energy cycles or spiritual havens of peace and tranquility. They have peaceful moments, and their beauty can inspire mystic connections, but those experiences are the exception not the rule. The natural world is a highly competitive place where life or death is decided on a daily basis. Systems collapse and are replaced with great frequency. Places like Yellowstone or Yosemite are not static eco-systems that need careful maintenance and preservation. They are not gardens. The natural world is complex, dynamic, and constantly changing, often in ways that are detrimental to humans. We are part and parcel of this highly competitive world and this is one of the reasons, perhaps even the main reason, that so many of us are naturally violent and aggressive. Rape, murder, terrorism, these are not "unnatural" acts of "insane" people (often men, but not always). These are survival skills that have brought our species through two billion years of evolution. Even though these behaviors are indeed undesirable and destructive in the midst of a civilized society, as long as we are human we will never be completely free of them.

The problem that arises is when we pack tens of thousands (or millions) of people into cities. A city is not a natural environment at all. It is far less natural than an ant hill, and far more destructive. Nonetheless, if we are ever going to succeed in taking the next step and freeing our species from the limits of this planet then cities are a necessary stepping stone. Densely populated cities not only concentrate our best and brightest in a single place, allowing them to work their magic and create the means for us to reach the stars, they also concentrate our most violent and most destructive. This is why crime is never going to be eliminated. The safest cities in the world still have their share of homicides, rapes, assaults, and other violent crimes.

Nature is not rebelling against us, nor have we abandoned our natural roots. The filthy, polluted, dangerous cities of our world are our best hope for a real future beyond the limited lifespan of this one planet. The best and brightest among us are also sometimes the most violent, but that violence must be reined in and controlled long enough to allow them to create new means of propulsion, new ways of preserving life, new ways of reaching out to the distant stars.

Everything works together. We must have cities, therefore we will have greater frequency of violence while at the same time seeking ways of controlling that violence. Some individuals are more violent than others, and they must have constructive outlets for that violence. When those outlets fail, each individual they encounter must have both the freedom and the means to defend themselves. Regardless of whether we are hiking a familiar trail, kayaking in shallow waters, or stopping alongside a highway, we must remain vigilant and we must be armed and trained in the use of those arms. There is never going to be an end to violence, therefore we must always practice vigilance and this will still be true once we leave this planet and head out among the stars.

We will eventually encounter another species, like ourselves, who has risen to the top of their own planet's evolutionary chain. When we do, it is certain this new "alien" humanity will share both our best traits and our worst. They will be intelligent, creative, intuitive, violent and destructive. If they were not, they could never break free of the bonds of gravity and environment.

Our modern "green" movement is not based on any kind of realistic assessment of the natural world. If this insane drive to force the bulk of the world's population to live in poverty (pardon me, "limited consumption of resources") succeeds the only real-world result is that no one will ever develop the technologies we must have to cross the vastness of outer space. The "green" movement's success would condemn us to spiraling populations, greater pollution, and even more destruction of the natural world. By denying the bulk of the world's population access to clean housing, pure water, healthy food, abundant energy, and comfortable material surroundings, you also destroy their freedom to think, imagine, and dream up new ideas. Everyone, regardless of where they are born, needs access to education and opportunities to put that education to work realizing their dreams. Denying them these things, or even taking away these things from those who already have them in order to arbitrarily pass them to someone who does not, will destroy humanity's ability to reach for the stars.

We don't need more "Earth-friendly" technologies when those technologies produce greater human suffering and limit the ability of any given individual to study, learn, and imagine a better future. We don't need socialist governments that shelter the "unfortunate" in a warm cocoon of minimal subsistence while simultaneously denying them the freedom to escape that cocoon. The one thing we do need is creation of social standards and judicial systems that target corrupt, self-centered elitists who by birth, education, or plain old narcissism honestly believe that they and they alone are entitled to the benefits of a civilized society while bearing none of the responsibilities. We need better ways of eliminating criminal politicians, criminal business leaders, and criminal educators who use their positions for personal self-aggrandizement and sensual indulgence. Corruption and the abuse of power are the real enemies of human society, not poverty, and most certainly not individual freedom.

What we really need to be planning, executing, and developing is a space-based, free-market economy that will provide opportunities and stimulate education in places like North Korea, Myanmar, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Eqypt, Palestine, and throughout the African continent.