“Everything Else” Is Right

We Are Just Doing It Wrong

When the events of your world are clearly in conflict with your deepest values; when you are being told that others know what is best, that they have access to determinative information that you cannot have; when you know that you are being lied to, your efforts misused, misdirected and you feel the figurative bruises of abuse, when events so monumental as to be unimaginable seem to randomly and arbitrarily control your daily concerns; when all of these things and more surge through and around you, then you are in serious trouble.

Today’s wars, economic crimes, environmental disturbances, injustices and inequities are overwhelming.  And what is the cause, what is the source?  Are we just doing it wrong?  That is, of course, the first and most obvious conclusion: we are driving the car badly and have ended up in the ditch (taken from a now famous metaphor!).  We must, then, discover who and what was wrong.  If we only select better drivers, make sure the car is properly maintained and respond appropriately to the conditions of the road, then we will be safe.

War will be OK, if we just do it right.  Vast economic inequities are fine as long as they are obtained legally.  The environment is so much bigger than humanity that we cannot actually harm it.  The injustices of the world are just how it is, and most of ‘them’ deserve what they get anyway.  God is in his heaven and all is right with the world… if we just do it right!  Many people wear these emotional protections like a shield.

If you didn’t feel it the first time, reread the first paragraph and try as hard as you can to imagine yourself at an opposite end of the political continuum.  Do you still agree with the sentiments expressed?  Who would not agree? If you have trouble imagining who might be offended or otherwise disturbed, let me help: those without values, those who lie to maintain power, those who benefit from the abuse of others and those who regard the Great Many of humanity as fields to be harvested, as soil to be plowed.

There was an intersection just north of my town where people were killed and maimed regularly; one of my dearest friends and his daughter were killed there.  No amount of car maintenance or driver training could fix the problem.  Drivers had to cross a four-lane high-speed road at the very top of a hill; the approaching high-speed drivers could not see the intersection until they were in it.  There was no way to do it right; driving through the intersection was a crapshoot.  The only solution was to redesign the highway, which was eventually done after scores of “accidents” and many deaths.

The process of redesigning a highway is pretty clear, but how do we begin to correct the tragically dangerous intersections of human necessity, biological imperative and the immensity of our presence in the biosphere? If we can imagine for a moment that all human beings enter the world in approximately the same condition, then we are in a good position to realize that there might be a way to organize the world that would best suit the growth and development of those new humans; and if we have gone wrong in a big way, you know, wars, injustice, etc., then our difficulties may have more to do with the design and construction of our societies than with whether the people in general are ‘doing the societies right.’

“But we can’t change the construction of our societies!” I can hear the cries go up.  “It is not like redesigning a dangerous intersection.”  But I say that it is exactly the same.  Eventually the resistance to change is overcome by the horrors of the status quo.  The “only question” is how many deaths, how much abuse, can be endured before we demand a redesign.  The answer has always been, a very great deal.

In fact, we can endure so much that when the detonation of change comes (in society, thankfully not in our roads) we fail to even ask the other “only question”: What are the underlying forces that brought us to these difficulties in the first place?  No, we don’t ask for fear that things will stay the same if we take the time to answer it, and so destine that no fundamental change will be forthcoming.1

We have repeated this failure for thousands of years, carrying with us from social iteration to social iteration an increasingly heavy burden of beliefs and habits that drive our changes faster and faster as well as further and further from the biological imperatives of being a living organism totally dependent on a tiny region of biophysical stability, for that must be our baseline.

The human species was driven from Eden to be sure; Eden, where the rules of order were tailor-made for living things by the natural world, just as living things were tailor-made for the rules.  And we have been driven ever since to ‘overcome’ the rules of Eden and to simultaneously rediscover them.

It is becoming clearer and clearer, for all the reasons above, that we are in trouble, more trouble as a species and as a planetary ecosystem than our species as ever seen and more trouble than the earth as seen in 65 million years.  We have been watching, as only a disaffected and psychologically stunted people can watch, the incredible pain and suffering of billions of people, enduring crippling stress ourselves and living meaningless distorted lives that we pump up by filling our nests with bright and shiny objects.  An even more disaffected and emotionally stunted elite has cornered the market on the most desirable shiny objects even to the point of intentionally harming their own countrymen to collect them.2

The failure to meet the basic biological expectations of new humans gives us people like Michele Bachmann, Charles Manson, Tim Geithner, Bernie Madoff, Sarah Palin, John Paulson, Tom DeLay, Adolf Hitler, all sociopaths differing only in degree.  Manson was not at the Tate house, but motivated the crime.  Madoff and Paulson were not at the various suicides and stress related deaths that they also motivated.  Do you really think that DeLay wouldn’t demagogue like Hitler if it served his purposes; how far would he go given the chance?  Palin, Geithner and Bachmann are dishonest and narcissistic at pathological levels and thoughtlessly heartless.  This is just a random list; it could be populated with many others.

We are creating our own monsters and giving them huge Tonka Toys of power to play in because we have lost the human designs that make being born and growing up as a fully functioning human being relatively common and safe.  We have no difficulty understanding that certain conditions are required for raising and training of a good dog, and yet we expect that people should be  essentially the same regardless of the average conditions in which they grow up.

In our attempts to overcome Eden we are also rediscovering Eden and have learned a great deal about the needs and biological expectations of our new born, things our long ago ancestors did without question.  Harry Harlow,3 in the 1950s, gave ‘mothers’ made of chicken wire to monkey babies turning them into sad monkey monsters and showing us what any baby would have told us if it could: babies need to be held with warmth and feed with mother’s milk and love.  What is to be thought of a society in which this is not a first priority?

No manufacturer of machine tools would willfully or willingly create tools that would damage the machines of which they were a part and yet we produce broken disaffected people as though we had no choice and have designed a system of belts and funnels that gather the most ambitious, brightest and sociopathic into positions of power.

I offer this simple question: What would be the consequence for a society if the majority of the people in it were raised in ways that reduced their sense of insecurity, increased their confidence in their right to basic human dignity and taught them to be the most powerful agents in their own well being? 4

We know what happens to the people in societies (and subcultures) that deny the opportunity for a biologically effective childhood.  We have America today.  Our children have been raised by TV.  They play in the meadows and woodlands of video games. Significant adults are not at home; and when they are, far too many are second, even third, generation products of neglect and, like Harlow’s second generation of adult monkeys from “wire mothers,” have lost the warmth of affection.   The result is a population that is easily misled, easily frightened; a group-think population ready to follow some arbitrary belief tailored by sociopaths for their ascent to power.

From early educational research to current sociological studies, the evidence is clear: the more support for the emotional and intellectual development that is given in the first 3 to 5 years the healthier, happier, humanly competent and more socially independent the adult.  In economic terms, a dollar spent on making such conditions possible returns 7 to 10 dollars in economic production and social savings.

Our failure to nurture our young is here now upon us like a biblical plague.  The disaffected rich no longer hide their disaffection for the disaffected masses.  The masses, in their confusion, give up their ultimate power to withhold their labor since they have believed the incredible lie that a new plasma TV will love them as they cannot love themselves.

But as a final caution let me point out that this problem, as intransigent as it is, does not require the ear of a world leader (though it would be nice) or the regulating of world currency manipulation (though also helpful).  We, ordinary people, know, or can “remember,” how to do this; if there is no help coming from the powerful, from those who dominate employment and its options for maturity leave or flexible schedules and the other things that would allow for more real “monkey mother” behavior, then we can and must make the opportunities.

We have lost much, far too many have lost natural human warmth, but we are not ordinary monkeys; many can, even if diminished by neglect, rekindle their humanity especially in the presence of their (and other) children.  I have no idea what the world would become if some critical mass of humanity began to express their truly human nature mediated by our best scientific understandings, but I know what it will be like if we do not.

  1. It is not actually true that the effort has never been seriously made. The founding thinkers of the USA were dutiful in their study and contemplation of the mistakes of precious systems of governance and not entirely devoted to creating a system solely beneficial to themselves and those like them; though that too was a powerful motive. []
  2. A deep part of their disaffection is that people not of ‘equal status’ are not really recognized as their countrymen or neighbors and need not be treated as humans fully worthy of respect. This is old in human history and must be considered in any remediation of social design. []
  3. ‘Love at Goon Park’ by Deborah Blum, Perseus Publishing, 2002, if you’d like more information. One of my roommates picked up Dr. Harlow at the airport when he came to the University I attended as an undergrad, picked him in the bar. Being Harry Harlow and knowing about the love deficit in our human children was a cross to bear. []
  4. An answer is hinted at in ‘The Spirit Level’ by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Bloomsbury Press, 2009, though it was not necessarily their intention. []

James Keye is the nom de plume of a biologist and psychologist who after discovering a mismatch between academe and himself went into private business for many years. His whole post-pubescent life has been focused on understanding at both the intellectual and personal levels what it is to be of the human species; he claims some success. Email him at: jkeye1632@gmail.com. Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 3rd, 2010 at 8:37am #

    ”And what is the cause, what is the source?”

    “The injustices of the world are just how it is, and most of ‘them’ deserve what they get anyway”.

    ” ‘But we can’t change the construction of our societies!” ‘ “I can hear the cries go up”. “ ‘It is not like redesigning a dangerous intersection.” ‘. ” But I say that it is exactly the same”.

    i do not think that most people even ask that one question; i.e., the cause or FIRST CAUASE as scientist wld say.

    about “that’s the way it is and we can’t do anything about it” appears more widespread notion. it, often, may be an unconscious generalization.

    it’s the millennial misteaching by priestly class that is one cause for how people think about most important matters
    get ur jesus, trust god, it’s his will that we have poor or we wage wars, etcetc.

    and then to make matters worse, they invent psychotherapy, pills, american dream [sans actual nightmares], experts, laws, law and order, defense of our interests, peace in our time, economy, capitalism, starry ‘stars’, god bless america, unamericanism, greatness of america, etcetc.

    and obtain evaluation 99.999% of the people evaluating all that as real!
    and to add to confusion, people say: get a life, get real, forget it! tnx

  2. Don Hawkins said on December 3rd, 2010 at 11:22am #

    “But we can’t change the construction of our societies!” James

    Good write James and much truth and so it goes not much change as yet. But we can’t change oh we will change alright the fires in Israel this very day is in reality what we all face. As our forest’s burn and they are burning of course I read in the WSJ yesterday about the climate summit in Mexico it’s going to be hard when the problem is 50 to 100 years away. Oh boy such nonsense and is it because they can’t face the problem or keep the lie going as long as possible a little of both or you don’t bite the hand that feeds you who probably think it’s a good idea to go out in style the invisible hand sitting in that chair behind the table. Here in the States I do find it strange that to the last new’s organization it’s all out of view except the economy. That is crazy or mad as do these human’s run the system or does the system run them?

  3. Don Hawkins said on December 3rd, 2010 at 3:39pm #

    Let’s try it one more time. The people of Earth speech as we work together or survival is a good word.

    My fellow Americans people of Earth we are in deep shit(could use crap instead). We now are seeing changes that life on this planet hasn’t seen for 65 million years. We change or it will change us that simple. Best guess so far we have about 6 years to make that change or at least be well on our way or it will be out of our hands. I am declaring a State of emergency we will stand up first and at this moment two group’s are headed for China and India as a start the time too face the truth as come. Ruff draft.

    Sound strange well that’s because it is and also what is needed.

  4. bozh said on December 3rd, 2010 at 3:43pm #

    james is still avoiding to posit or postulate the FIRST CAUSE for producing people like bachman, palin, hitler, john waine, king hussein, bismarck, pope, priest, churchill, sarkozi, netanyahu, ovadiah, jeremiah, et al.
    all of these people think egzactly the same in ABDCs: those who own the store solely run it.
    telling us how they obtained the store is always omitted by ?all contributors and posters.
    why do they do that. i can only guess. do they think that u.s can be great again by merely telling us what goes on; fix a few things and, voila, america restored to its former glory. tnx

  5. Don Hawkins said on December 3rd, 2010 at 5:11pm #

    The fire in Israel.

    The dryness of the region that is aggravating this most recent fire is said by many to be caused by climate change and global warming; both of which we have written about on numerous occasions, including my recent one entitled Arab World and Med Region More Vulnerable to Climate Change.
    What may be the result of Climate change getting out of hand was also shown in another article based on a futuristic Sci-Fi movie “The Fire Next Time.”
    It now appears that this very devastating fire is a clear indication that the dire predictions made in the Fire Next Time are now coming to past.
    Green Prophet dot com

    Check out Arab World and Med Region More Vulnerable to Climate Change and The Fire Next Time. I normally go to a search engine while there still is one.

  6. mary said on December 3rd, 2010 at 9:05pm #

    There is undoubtedly a drought. The Israeli use of water (green lawns and swimming pools for instance), compared to that of the Palestinians whose access to water is restricted often necessitating the purchase of expensive bottled water, is known to be wasteful and excessive per capita. Water with which to fight the fires locally was lacking and as Gilad Atzmon has stated, the unnatural dense planting of pine trees has created the fire hazard. Before 1948 there would have been rocky mountainsides and scrub and the only trees would have been olive trees.

    He wrote – The pine tree didn’t adapt to the Israeli climate as much as the Israelis failed to adapt to the Middle East. According to JNF statistics, six out of every 10 saplings planted did not survive. Those few trees that did survive formed nothing but a firetrap. By the end of each Israeli summer each of the Israeli pine forests become a potential deadly zone.

  7. Maien said on December 4th, 2010 at 1:27pm #

    Thank-you Mr. Keyes. You have identified one of the key issues causing the problem with human development. The abuse of children through neglect began many generations ago and was led by the British demand of “Children should be seen and not heard”. Lots more to say about this, but not as a comment.