Archives for posts with tag: lee-way

There are some things each of us must do.

Breathe, drink, eat, take cover.

There are some things each of us should do in moderation.

Drink, eat, ‘rest’…

There are some things each of us should never do.

Lie, steal, kill.

The things we must do ‘depend’ upon our DNA.
Unless we do what our DNA tells us to do, we die.

The things we shouldn’t do have been determined culturally.
Our fore-fathers have noticed that not doing ‘those things’ helped a lot.
That communities who taught their members to not do those things survived a lot easier and fared a lot better than those communities who had been ‘lax’ about ‘things’.
Teaching what to do and what to not do across generations transformed learned information into culture.

In time, culture has fulfilled the same function as DNA.

DNA had made it possible for life to exist. For species to survive. And to evolve when needed. When the environment had changed.

Culture had made it possible for communities to survive.
Individuals belonging to each generation didn’t had to reinvent fire each time they were cold. Or afraid. Or hungry.
They just remembered what their ancestors had taught them and put it into practice.

But there’s also a huge difference between DNA and culture.
Both consist of information passed over generations and both are instrumental in the survival of those who depend on that information being put to use.
The difference consists in the fact that DNA actually demands a certain behavior while culture only recommends certain ‘answers’.

There’s more.

DNA is a ‘language’. It has ‘letters’, ‘syntactic’ rules and even means to correct errors.
Culture uses languages as a vehicle.

Both code information using ‘letters’ and ‘words’ but they differ in how that information is passed to the next generation.
DNA passes that information in a way more ‘rigid’ manner than culture does.

While it is true that slight differences occur whenever genetic information is passed from one generation to another – that’s how evolution works, those ‘directly interested’ in the process have nothing to say about this whole thing. The differences occur accidentally and survive only if they don’t harm the organisms where they appear.

With cultural information things happen in the exact opposite manner.
Differences occur only when enough individuals notice that it would be beneficial for them to change that particular habit in that particular manner.

And now we have reached the moment to contemplate another similarity.

As the DNA has become more elaborate, the ‘superior’ organisms had enjoyed more individual ‘freedom’. Or ‘lee-way’.
Insects have more lee-way than worms, fish have more lee-way than star-fish, dogs have more lee-way than frogs and humans have more freedom than the rest of the apes have lee-way.
Similarly, people belonging to the hunter-gatherer culture had accrued a lot more freedom when they had learned – and taught it to their children, how to make fire. And so on.
Those who had learned how to grow their own food – and passed the information to the next generations, had far less chances of dying of hunger. And a lot more lee-way to conduct war…
Those who had learned how to make metal tools were a lot freer than those who shaped their tools out of stone. And very soon the stone-shapers had been ‘subdued’ by those yielding bronze weapons.

And so on to the present day.
Those who have become adept users of mass-media are seeding ‘change’ into the minds of the naive.

I only hope that they will eventually find out what Ernst Mayr had to say about this process.

Evolution is in no way about ‘the survival of the fittest’.
It is only about the demise of the unfit.

The problem with the ‘lee-way’ generated by culture being that whenever it becomes too wide the whole system becomes fragile.

Whenever people get high enough on freedom they forget that in order to survive we need to remain inside the ‘straight and narrow’ mandated by DNA and endorsed by culture.

Otherwise put, being torn between musts and don’ts is far better than being stuck. In a grave.

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Driven by hunger, trained by habit and enhanced by hope.

That’s how we, humans – a.k.a. conscious animals – operate.

Hunger must be satisfied.
Animals do it instinctively. They can be trained, some of them, only that training is based solely on memory and reward. Their individual contribution to the end result is small.

Humans do it conscientiously. As in ‘on purpose’. They identify first the available food sources – according to their training, rank them – according to their acquired tastes and to the relative ease with which food can be obtained from each of them, and proceed to feed themselves only after all these steps had been performed. However perfunctorily.
It is easy to notice that here individuals have a lot more lee-way. Their contributions to the process can be substantial.

In all of those three phases. And beyond.

When choosing.

When ‘training’ others how to choose.

And when determining that we’ve had enough. That time is ripe to let others feed themselves.

Why are all these people fleeing? From their own country?
Because the Taliban have arrived?

Why had the 300 000 strong, and well equipped, Afghan Army crumbled when left alone to face the 75 000 strong Taliban insurgency?
Because the Afghan government was corrupt? And because “All the major countries – probably except India – in the region had come to terms with the Taliban government.”?

What made these youngsters – very much similar to those above, to choose the Taliban side of the conflict?
And what made the Taliban ultimately more successful than the ‘democratically elected’ Afghan Government?
The Americans deciding it was time for the Afghan People to stand on their own two feet?

As I said at the beginning of the post, we, humans, have a lot more lee-way than the rest of the animals.
None of us is entirely free but each of us has some agency. Some power to influence the destiny of other people.
When exercising that power we’re all influenced by our previously received conditioning and by the present circumstances.
When pressed by ‘urgent considerations’ very few of us remain aware of the fact that present day decisions set the scene for what’s going to happen tomorrow.
When pressed by what we consider to be ‘urgent’ we forget about ‘primum non nocere’.
When caving in to urgency we forget that we are the ones going to live with the consequences of our present decisions.

The Afghans flee their country because they have lost hope.
The Afghan soldiers have caved in because they have lost hope.
The Afghans who have joined the Taliban have done that because they felt there was no other hope.

Who will have to make do in these circumstances?
When are we going to take responsibility for our own fate?
When are we going to start building our own hopes?

Bearing in mind that we have only one Earth at our disposal?
And that if we play our cards right, the sky is the only limit?

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
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