Hi Chris. As always, thanks for the thoughtful comments.

Yes, I do think we should include pre-city cultures in “civilization”. From my very cursory reading it appears to me that these cultures had, in primitive form, all of the human accomplishments except permanent structures. In terms of understanding humankind, that seems to me to be an arbitrary distinction. Aside from bits and pieces I’ve encountered on the web, my knowledge comes from “The Old Way”, “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes”, “Our Kind”, and “The Dawn of Everything”. “Dawn”, in particular, it has a lot to say about “democracy” and “autocracy”.

I just recently ran across Dawkins memes and was just trying out the concept. It does appear that “meme” is too vague to be useful. I’ll have to give this further thought.

Before I say more, perhaps you’d be willing to say a bit more about:

- “the relationship between habit and behaviour, and although I've written about this philosophical issue many times before”

My guess is that none of the ancient philosophers came close to imagining the world most of us think we now live in, and hence are not entirely relevant. A single super state would be a culture disaster, but I think it is clear that our current chaotic, and ad-hoc global institutions are not giving us a world without war. We may have thought that a “bumblebee files against all sense”, but nature had no such thought. Nature has brought us to our current denouement. Are we biologically and culturally equipped to pass through it? We won’t know until we get to the next act.

I hang my hat on a few fundamental propositions:

- by nature every human mind is different,

- only through civil, thoughtful, and empathetic dialogue can groups of humans arrive at even temporarily productive policies and actions.

I also take it as fundamental that although no mind ever fully knows a non-tautological truth, I believe that there are a few propositions that pretty near all of us must accept if we are to survive and flourish. Two of these are:[1]

- from birth to death every human has an inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”,

- every human being has an inalienable right to a fair share in the earth’s and humankind’s material and cultural wealth.

There are many ways a society can be organized and still live by these propositions. In fact, a multiplicity of different societies is a logical and cultural necessity. But for me, it follows logically that all forms of socially sponsored violence must, in our atomic age, be universally prohibited.


[1] A personal list, but something similar is an absolute requirement.

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Stranger Worlds

The :Great Graveyard of Humanity.

Frank comment

Hi Chris! Glad to see you turning you erudition and attention to the most pressing problem of our time, as you write in this month’s preamble: “to strive towards ending the need for anyone to fight in a war.”

It seems to me that unless we can move to a worldwide civilization in which state sponsored violence is unthinkable (and impossible) your “graveyard of humanity” will eventually come to pass. My understanding of this piece is that it is focused on the geopolitical conditions that have an effect on whether or not states are at war. Certainly, these conditions are important. It seems that some conditions, like an iron-clad bane on state-funded standing armies, are necessary, but in my view these considerations are secondary. For me, everything that is manifested in social reality first occurs in a human mind. Hence, a world without war cannot exist until there is a bedrock shift in the amalgamation of human consciousness.

Despite the fact that the foundations of human consciousness are laid down by nature, I believe such an amalgamation is possible. But first it must be understood that a world without war will not necessarily be a peaceful world, nor is such a world desirable. Here in the 70th millennium of human civilization I cannot imagine a world in which humanity is not organized into competing states along the lines that we currently have.[1] But our inherent human competitiveness need not be manifested in state sponsored, near total violence.

We are a highly adaptable species. In 70 millennia we have created a dizzying array of different cultures. It is not beyond our innate mental/emotional capability to create a multicultural, multistate based civilization in which war is not possible.

The content of our individual consciousnesses is only roughly determined by biology. The bulk of it is determined by life experiences. Our birth culture plays a significant role. Biologically gene changes can take a long time to become dominate. Similarly with cultural memes. It is only within the last 0.3 millennia that we have found (1) that a good model for where we came from is that we are kin to ALL the life forms on this planet, and (2) that “race” is not a natural category. Currently, these two memes are not part of the controlling consciousness of most of us. We can change this. Where is the existential need for brothers to fight to the death?


[1] It is possible that in some distant future we might all live in a single super state. My imagination balks. Nor do I think such a state would be desirable.

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