This is Essay Three in the series Lighten the Load, a re-think of government. What should a government be and do? What should it definitely NOT be and do? Is it even necessary at all? If so, how much and why? How do we decide, against what criteria?
The basic, basic principle: Survive!
There is one thing on which all of us can agree: we want to survive.
We are all trying to live and to exist and to continue so to do as far into the future as possible.
We are also trying to assist others to survive: our children, families, friends, the organizations for which we work, our nations, our natural environment and so forth, because we know our own survival is intimately linked with theirs.
Whatever else we are doing and whether we think of ourselves as animal, spirit or some composite of the two, we are seeking to survive as a living organism.
We pursue survival as individuals; through the various groups with which we co-depend and as a species through procreation and the creation of future generations.
If we don’t survive as an organism then, in this life, nothing else is possible.
The Best Guarantee of Survival
The best way to guarantee survival is to create in abundance those things that support our survival and to eliminate those things that oppose our survival.
The more we can create in abundance those things that assist our effort to survive, while reducing those things that impede our effort to survive, the better we are able to ensure or guarantee survival.
Our pursuit of survival, then, extends beyond the creation of the bare necessities of life to the highest preponderance of pro-survival factors we are able to create.
To better guarantee his survival, man seeks to increase the abundance of all the factors that assist survival.
Some of the many factors that help survival are: access to food and water, shelter, clothing, transportation, communications, good organization, power sources, knowledge and reliable information. No doubt you could sit down and list out many more.
Interestingly, even philosophy, art, religion and recreation assist survival because such pursuits recharge the human batteries, refresh the mind, dream up new solutions and new ways of looking at things and are ways by which we expand our capabilities and understandings.
Moreover, they make us happy and happy people tend to be in better shape and survive better.
Perhaps the most important survival factors are one’s own freedom and ability to evaluate the environment and to compute solutions to survival problems posed by the environment.
The presence in the environment of fellow human beings in good physical and mental shape also assists our own survival. Try surviving in an environment where you are surrounded by people who go sick just when you need them, can’t work, won’t help, can’t be trusted or are just plain dumb.
We all, in other words, have a vested interest in the good condition of our fellows.
There are factors that impede survival or even prevent it altogether and Man must also remove these from his road because if they become predominant, he will perish.
Counter-survival factors are also many and various.
Some examples of them are: no access to food and water, contaminated food, water and air, inadequate shelter, disease, insufficient power supply, a chaotic social and organizational environment, blocked or corrupted communications, false or unreliable information, fixed ideas and inability to innovate, lack of recreation, lack of freedom to move or think, ones own poor mental or physical condition and the poor mental and physical condition of one’s fellow human beings and so on.
Again, you could no doubt list out many more.
A Tough World
Man pursues survival in a tough world.
In seeking to create pro-survival factors and eliminate counter-survival factors, he cannot afford to do a sloppy job because sooner or later he will be punished for it – by non-survival.
The task of survival requires determination and application.
It also requires, self-evidently, one other very important ingredient: team work.
Man has discovered that survival, even at its barest level, cannot be successfully pursued without a team-effort: that is, by co-action and co-operation.
The greater the abundance of pro-survival factors Man wishes to create and the more thoroughly he wishes to restrict impediments to survival, the broader and more thorough must be that team-effort.
Thus we have groups.
The ability of man to form groups in which he co-acts with his fellow man, to create, continue and extend the effectiveness and cohesion of groups, is a fundamental pro-survival attribute.
The more we can do it, the better we survive.
By co-operating with others we pool our human and material resources and co-act towards a shared goal for the group. For any group to succeed, its members must be able to align their activities towards its shared goal.
Where the group goal is a pro-survival goal – the creation of factors that assist survival – its success will assist survival: of the group, its individual members and of the wider human community of which the group is itself a part.
Where the group goal is one that impedes survival in some way, its success in approaching or reaching its goal will impede the survival of the group, its members and the wider human community of which it is a part.
To the degree that the activities of group members can be aligned towards a survival product or objective, survival will be assisted.
To the degree that the activities of group members cannot be so aligned, survival will be hindered.
Human survival requires, self-evidently, that human groups achieve objectives or produce creations that assist survival: from the production of shoes to the design of a building, from a scientific discovery to great art that stimulates imagination.
There are many and varied groups: families, firms, neighborhoods, clubs, unions, governments ….a very long list. Many groups are comprised of smaller sub-groups.
Very large groups embracing manifold smaller groups are called nations.
The largest group of all, which embraces as sub-groups all other groups, is called Mankind.
Groups Co-act with Groups
When individuals or groups are allowed to introduce, uncorrected, activities that are not aligned to or run counter to survival, cohesion will fail and the pursuit of survival will be impeded.
Groups co-act with other groups and when the activities of many such groups align to and assist broadly-shared, survival goals, we have enduring societies and civilizations.
To the degree that human beings cannot so align their activities in co-operation group-to-group, to the degree that they fail to identify and correct unaligned actions that impede survival, the survival potential of those groups and therefore of the wider community is hindered.
Thus, civilizations, cultures and societies fall apart and perish.
The Death of Groups
The demise of any civilization, such as our own, can be traced to a failure to notice and correct activities that are unaligned to, and impede, the collective pursuit of survival.
Where correction or removal of counter-survival activities does not occur, counter-survival activities accumulate over time; their aggregate thrust away from survival eventually outweighs the aggregate thrust of other groups towards survival.
We witness this in the present Unites States, for example.
The most successful nation on Earth is in decline because the counter-survival activities of various groups within it have begun to outweigh the pro-survival efforts of other groups. There is an aggregate thrust now, towards death.
The ability to notice and correct counter-survival activities must be present if long-term survival is to be in any way guaranteed.
It is itself a survival factor.
Someone Pushing in the Wrong Direction
If a society moves towards its own death despite an awful lot of push by a awful lot of good people in the direction of survival, then clearly there must exist on the part of someone an even bigger push in the opposite direction.
Turmoil, disaffection, insecurity, instability, disruption and the loss of broad agreement are symptoms of the presence of activities that inhibit survival.
Well being of Groups and Individuals
A group must help its members to survive; its members must help the group to survive.
The well-being of the individual depends upon the well-being of the groups to which he or she belongs; the well-being of the group depends upon the well-being of its members.
The well-being of any group also similarly depends upon the well-being of other groups with which it co-acts and co-depends.
The Individual Helps the Group
In order to assist his own survival, the individual must therefore assist the harmonious co-action, towards survival goals, of any groups to which he belongs or with which he interacts.
And those group include his nation and mankind.
He must also not assist, and would be wise to actively impede, any counter-survival actions he encounters and the groups that emanate such actions.
The Group Helps the Individual
The survival of self and survival of the group are inextricably intertwined.
Similarly, the group must notice and correct or remove from it any counter-survival actions of its members or of any other group, if it wishes to protect its own ability to survive.
The ability of the group to survive depends upon the willingness, confidence and ability of its members to contribute to the group effort the fullness of their mental and physical resources, know-how, experience, imagination and so on.
A group can inhibit members contributing to it to the full potential of their capabilities. It does so through poor education, suppressing the free communication of ideas, punishing honest errors, creating disaffection, apathy or fear and many other errors. To the degree that it does so, the group will fall away from its full potential to survive.
Any group –including large groups such as nations – that increases the abilities of its members increases its own survival potential.
Any group that decreases the abilities of its members or restricts the ability of members to contribute to their full potential, decreases its own ability to survive.
Removing Counter-survival Efforts
The effort to inhibit the counter-survival efforts of a person or group must not itself introduce even more counter-survival efforts and Man must beware of actions that do so.
For example, the suppression of all freedom of communication to “handle” the false reports of a single newspaper or the suppression of a group with savage discipline to “handle” the wayward conduct of one or two of its members.
History is replete with examples of measures that oppress Man introduced under the guise of “dealing with” factors that oppress Man.
The inhibition of education and the free flow of communication and ideas; the constriction of the personal liberties of honest people or taxes that penalize the industrious and so forth are direct strikes against the survival of the nation or culture upon which such measures are inflicted.
Sphere of Co-operation
The higher we wish to push the creation of abundance that guarantees survival, the wider must be the sphere of co-action of human beings and human groups.
One man alone will hardly, if at all, be able to produce even the barest wherewithal of survival. Imagine having to make your own clothes, food, shelter, shoes, tools, medicine, sanitation, light, heat etc.
A small group of people is able to push survival higher by specializing tasks and exchanging what they produce with one another. They might be able to produce shelter, pottery, crops and clothing to a certain level but the production of automobiles, railroads, computers, scientific research and the like would be beyond their human resources.
Large groups embracing in cohesion many sub-groups are able to evolve entire industries and vast projects that tame the environment and thus move abundance into a much higher range.
The broader the range of co-operation among individuals and their groups becomes, the more varied can be the specialization of tasks and the greater the variety and sophistication of what they can produce.
To sustain a highly sophisticated and technologically advanced civilization therefore, it is necessary to sustain a very high level of co-action among nations and other groups.
The maximum attainable degree of survival requires a sphere of harmonious co-action that embraces all human beings.
Anything less than that full sphere of co-action means that Man survives at a level below what is achievable.
Therefore, disruption of the cohesion of that group called Mankind suppresses the survival potential of all groups and all human beings.
Man is not the Enemy
When Man elects other men as foes in his business of survival (for example through war) he is also creating further survival suppressors on top of those amply provided by the environment.
Man A plus Man B is greater than Environment. Man A plus Environment is greater than Man B.
The planet upon which human beings live and the universe in which that planet exists contains an abundance of actual or potential suppressors to survival, sufficient to keep Man’s hands full into the foreseeable future.
The optimum level of co-action required to deal with those many suppressors of human survival is universal co-action among all human beings and their groups.
The degree to which human being drop away from that optimum level of co-action determines the possibility of failure in overcoming those impediments to survival.
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