Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Is Might Right - A Reflection

I actually started writing this a few weeks ago, and it really took a lot out of me. I wanted to get it right, to make sure my thoughts come across clearly, and that I have a unified message. But as the weeks went by, and I added more and more information and reflection, and the world was showing signs of getting madder and more absurd, particularly following recent events in the UK, the increase in explicit racism, and news of slaughter and degradation from all over the world, I realised I could never get it totally right, and it can't possibly have a definitive form, this post. It can't even have a proper end, really. It's just a momentary contemplation of our nature in regard to force and its application. So i'll just get it out, and hope that for those who read it, it simply triggers their own reflection, without judgement because nobody has a definitive answer to our challenges (or if you do, please come forward!). But what we can do, is stop and think, and nourish our awareness.

We are part of a species, for whom survival is still an innate biological motive. Power and dominance, therefore, are a supreme value, which probably explains the majority of the world still living under oppression. Power is also the construct of basic population control, and is used by government, religion, any establishment where one person has charge of another - military, prison, schools. But power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Whenever one person is physically superior in size and/or strength, temptation to surrender to base instincts proves too much all too often. This is why specific legislation has to be in place to try and minimise abuse of rights of the vulnerable.2 Because there is an accepted paradigm that with great power SHOULD come great responsibility.

Concurrently and conflictingly, we are taught the way to get ahead - in life, in business, even in love - is through ruthless determination and the subjugation of others to our will, a bullish idea constantly reinforced by capitalism - might is right.4;5 If we don't comply to these standards, we're considered unsuccessful.

However, do might and dominance bring us peace? Does control over people put our fears to rest? Or does it just feed them further? Our genetic makeup is to survive and procreate, for the benefit of the species. But shouldn't over-population have caught up with our evolutionary need by now? We've pretty much beat the odds on the species survival worriment. Surely we can let that go! Why is survival of the fittest still a factor? Why is our first defensive impulse a choice between fight or flight? Could there not by now be a more sophisticated option, one of compassion, understanding, empathy?

Here's a situation - a young girl had been abused. It's affected her her whole life. She shares her trauma with her friend, who keeps her secret and is agonising over the emotional and psychological damage it's done her. Years later, he's confronted with the assailant. The friend is now frustrated by not being allowed to respond on her behalf, retribution is not his to be dished out. But, one has to consider, is his need to even the score a need to exert dominance? Would that too be an expression of the innate urge to overpower and dominate? And would it indeed restore the balance? Would it repair the damage? Could it also be an expression of his feeling of dominant possession (albeit protectively so) over her too? Even our loving, protective feelings, it seems, are channelled by territorial or possessive primal urges.

Here's another - A pre-teen boy is on the train with his friends. He is the unofficial alpha of the pack. They've had an afternoon of minor delinquency and feeling cocky. The boy sees a woman on the train standing at the doors as they're all about to disembark. As he passes her he calls out 'move, bitch'. To him, she's not a person but a thing, an object to assert dominance over, an aid in his assertion of leadership. It never is a straightforward situation, complicated relationships with parents and siblings, patterns of behaviour observed and reinforced, humiliation experienced over time - these all culminate to the moment being what it is. But the fact is now he has become a synthesised aspect of humanity. A cellular pulse, a binary digit, an on-off. He recognises the moment to overpower, and he takes it, regardless of context, outcome, impact.

Women, generally speaking, being the physically weaker of the sexes, are the one half of the world which is by and large controlled by the other. They are still viewed as a toy to satisfy men, an object to be observed, coveted and possessed. They have no rights in a some men's minds. Here to meet needs, not to have them. As John Lennon brutally pointed out - woman is the n****r of the world - referring to the term in its most intended derogatory sense, expressing the ease with which basic human rights are not acknowledged. Forced marriages, sexual slavery, and human trafficking are still the most widespread practices in the world. The latter being the second biggest criminal industry, with women comprising 49% of the victims, children not far behind. And the highest recorded numbers of slavery as a whole are recorded in countries where human rights are at the lowest levels.

It's not only women, it's any vulnerable demographic - in fact, as soon as someone's rights are removed, they are viewed as weak, the temptation to dominate them becomes strong. Our musings on such matters in progressive thought indicate that society is measured by its treatment of its most vulnerable members (Aristotle, Ghandi, Carter, Johnson, and various other leaders and thinkers). Unfortunately, in the main, what primal instincts control us in private when we're in a position of power, can still override those we display in a group with progressive empathetic norms. And those affected by a group baying for blood override the individual's strong conscientious predisposition.

It's even been recently discovered that, overall, only the Neanderthal female genes remain in today's species, but no males. It's theorised that the females interbred with the homo-sapien males, as the Neandrethal males suffered from a genetic defect in their sperm causing low success rate of breeding. However, it's difficult to ascertain whether the homo-sapiens were carrying out atrocities to wipe out male Neanderthals and take charge of the women, or whether Neanderthal women got rid of their own men in order to breed. Either way, this implies that as a part of society exhibited inadequacy which was deemed as weakness, the other part exerted dominance, either by males or females.

In light of recent events in the UK, it is clear we are far from having evolved out of our fear of tribal extinction, still controlled by strong irrational impulses to reject the foreign as a threat, and keep our tribe perceptibly familiar and safe by minimising "foreign" surprises. This is apparently more easily achievable through fear-mongering towards homogenisation, using manipulation, propaganda, and sheer violence.

But most societies are periodically visited through history by ameliorating influences, morally progressive political and cultural leaders, however brief that affect may be. Progressive efforts shine with the likes of occasional crusaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin can-do-no-wrong Trudeau. However, even the self-proclaimed feminist and social reformer has recently stumbled, reacting with force against provocateurs in the House of Commons, when discussing a bill relating to assisted dying. How can power and progressiveness be reconciled? Can one be both forceful and progressive? It may be that the key lies with that balance exactly - the two sides of existence, yin and yang, masculine and feminine, softness and power. In which case, gender equality would be a definite step towards reform, and the reason to keep pushing for this more than ever. Because using softness as a force, instead of stubborn blind forcefulness, is a much more sophisticated way of achieving results.

Martial arts is a great example for how that works, as it takes the base atavistic need for power and aggression, and with guided awareness raises it from the gut level up to the heart level, via an artful skill. It teaches mind-body connection, the true consequences of power, basic discipline and responsibility. Through these comes compassion, and a sympathetic joy in encouraging and helping others in their practice, and a friendly
competitive delight in a safe environment to train and hone your skill. On the other end of the competitive spectrum, we have the fight clubs - those connect the participants with the base level aggression only, our primal selves, but do they elevate our humanness to a higher level? Could it be possible that through allowing aggression out in a consensual fashion, comes human connection and a channelling of that aggression using a positive outlet?

Internally, control over another human being seems to stem from a need for connection - with our own kind - whatever we consider "our kind", with the person we are trying to control, with feelings we are not able to fathom and may be scary to face. In any case, our need for dominance is surely at as stage where it does more harm than good, we have outgrown our use for it and must strive to evolve beyond it, transcend to empathy and love instead.

Some sources:

1. The Breakdown of Nations / Leopold Kohr, ch. 2 The Power of Aggression, 1957
2. Anti-Discriminatory Practice 3rd ed / Neil Thompson
3. Addressing Violence, Abuse and Oppression: Debates and Challenges / Barbara Fawcett, Fran Waugh
4. Might Is Right (The Logic of To-day) / Ragnar Redbeard, 1896
5. The Economic Institutions of Capitalism / Oliver E Williamson, Yale University 1985
6. Applying Political Theory: Issues and Debates / Katherine Smits


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