The World Transformation Movement (Introduction)

by dhw, Wednesday, November 04, 2020, 11:32 (27 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: For me, the “default mechanism” is the very same mixture of love and cooperation on the one hand, and selfishness on the other, that we find in our fellow animals.

Xeno: I wasn't trying to suggest that tribal warfare was nonexistent. Where I'm coming from isn't romanticism either: when you study hunter-gatherer tribes, where are the armies or police forces? They don't exist.

They would have had their own means of keeping order in the event of disputes or “crimes”, and they would have fought their enemies with their weapons even if they didn’t wear a uniform and give one another ranks.

Xeno: The same goes with nomadic groups. Inuit society for example, to combat greed followed a system where if one member accrued too much, they would be forced to share it with the community.

See what I mean? Greed existed!

Xeno:This tells us as well that greed in general was recognized as bad for the community, and that we also acknowledge that while we DO have tendencies that can lead towards murder, we have other tendencies that lead us to keep the peace.

Yes, society can’t function otherwise. Greed, murder, lust, desire for power all exist and existed. We are and always were a mixture, and this mixture of self-interest and of cooperativeness is apparent in the animal world from which we are descended!

DAVID: Cooperation undoubtedly started in early hunter-gatherer small groups in which only by working together in group interest could they survive. Those groups may have fought off other groups if necessary. Which means we learned to blend in self-interest with group interest. Larger group states a few thousand years ago led to important considerations of moral and ethical principals as evidenced by the appearance of religious groups, both Eastern and Western thought

Xeno: I would say cooperation started even earlier than hunter-gathering as it's fundamental to several of our relatives, Bonobos being one example.

David: Very true. But I can't say the bonobos epigenetically taught us about cooperation in small groups. humans had to learn it on their own.

Xeno: And this I think is where we diverge: I don't think we had to 'learn' it as a part of culture that we then pass down. We have natural instincts and emotions that conspire to push us together into groups like this.

Bonobos are also aggressive. Once again, the mixture is apparent in the animal kingdom. Think of ants – always my favourite illustration. Exemplary cooperation, willing even to sacrifice themselves for the good of their community – but also massively aggressive, just as ready to attack as they are to defend. I agree with both of you. First comes the instinct for survival. Secind comes the process of learning how to survive – which depends on the conditions that threaten survival. Even bacteria form cooperative communities to improve their chances of survival.

Xeno: If you'll allow me a digression:
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition there is a meditation they teach called "Tonglen." The theme of the meditation is to absorb the negative emotions in various circumstances of the world and send that energy back out in a sense of loving-kindness and compassion.

Admirable. Sadly there is an appalling conflict in Myanmar, involving the Buddhists and the Rohingya. The existence of a meditation is no guarantee that humans will or ever have overcome the innate self-interest which conflicts with their innate sense of loving-kindness.

Xeno: There's three cases where I can imagine someone willfully engaging in oppression.
1.) They are more afraid of someone else that is somehow coercing that behavior. (Warlord/Organized Crime)
2.) The societal system that encourages oppression due to some sort of scapegoating (Hitler's Germany, The Spanish Inquisition) or even through institutional habit. (slavery itself)
3.) The level of Greed or Lust in that individual is strong enough to give them the emotional capability of committing oppression. (Medieval Crusaders, Human traffickers, Slavers)
So what exactly are you telling us? That none of these “cases” are the result of human nature?

So we wish compassion for the oppressors because if they had their legitimate spiritual needs met, there would be no need for oppression. And... in short that's the primary goal of Buddhism in all its forms.

The primary goal of most religions (though I’m not sure we can call Buddhism a religion) is to achieve some sort of perfect society. But we were discussing the question of whether human nature is intrinsically good or bad and the belief that earlier societies were full of good and devoid of bad. The examples you go on to give us (biblical and Viking hospitality) omit the fact that the biblical tribes and the Vikings were all constantly at war!


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