IAN BUCKLEY. Homo sapiens’ catastrophic prospects: why and how wise remedies so long resisted.

Proposed here is whether the wise counsel of Jesus of Nazareth, Adam Smith, George Kennan and legions of other insightful souls might well provide a sound basis for solutions to the world’s self-made catastrophic disasters – a vitally crucial issue demanding action before ‘point of no return’ overtakes all. 

First considered is why, despite humankind’s ability to provide for the needs of all across the world, the arrival of settled agriculture led to lack of common purpose which has split communities and nations asunder, causing aggressive tensions and wars that continue to undermine biological sustainability. Indeed, a reality so advanced it threatens the survival of all species, including (alleged) homo sapiens.

Genetic – c.f., Culture-based Human Survival Paths
Throughout millions of years of evolution humans (like all species) could not have survived without genetically-determined selection of cooperative behaviour. However for humans things changed greatly following the fortuitous occurrence of settled agriculture, for then surpluses of food, tools and weapons led to stratified society specializations which allowed corrupt leaders to divert community wealth to themselves and buddies intent on preferential ‘exclusive’ gain. Thus, instead of focusing on culturally-determined improvement of all in society via wondrously creative social, scientific and artistic developments, corrupt choices enabled the self-privileged to misapply the common wealth to evil ends including self aggrandizement. (Darwin, C. ; Diamond, J. ; Wright, R.)

Whether or not one is a theist, initial genetically-based, species survival makes sense as a hallmark of human morality for otherwise there would be no life. However, the additional ‘gift’ of cultural choice, while wondrously valuable, is full of unforeseen traps capable of ending life. For, while today’s crises began with minor conflicts over land and resources, corrupt systems soon expanded greatly into exploitation of conquered peoples, resource plunder, slavery and international wars between contending ‘winners’ over the spoils. Then to major conflicts between imperial leaders intent on ‘grandeur’ including ‘godhood’, hence politico-military corruption coupled to pseudo-religious doctrine to ‘justify’ the worst kinds of exploitation and killing. However, such could never provide an enduring ‘civilization’, it being at war across itself, fragmented, unsustainable.(Gibbon, E. ; De Rosa,P.)

Nevertheless, as still today, within many societies there existed a benevolent spirit of fairness which induced those like Jesus of Nazareth to advocate a god of creation having common-sense values of love, inclusiveness, mutual appreciation and sharing. However, following Jesus’ crucifixion Constantine, aiming at increasing Christian support, re-branded Christianity ‘legal’ subject to Roman authority. Although that would block Jesus’ advocacy of love, inclusiveness and fairness which challenged imperial power, Church Fathers agreed at the first Council of Nicaea (CE325). Hence far-reaching corruption since Rome’s top families assumed its leadership, the rich and powerful engaging in secular power struggles, a total negation of Jesus’ message. Consequently the wide range of evil anti-Christian outcomes extending to current times.(De Rosa, P. ; Tuchman, B.)

Origins of the West’s Disastrous Mercantile System
After Rome’s fall and the brutal land carve-up during Western Civilization’s genesis, Paul Kennedy in “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Growth and Military Conflict 1500 – 2000” relates how, while Europe’s Christian nations continued fighting one another over territory, resources and markets, its maritime powers explored foreign coastlines seeking further gains. Hence, e.g., the post-1492 invasion plunder and slavery of the Americas and Triangular Trade that for over 300 years greatly expanded Europe’s wealth. All well described by Moral Philosopher Adam Smith who recognized not only the European system’s injustices at home and abroad, but its instability and enormous weaknesses that lured the West into increasingly disastrous wars. Indeed, augmented by new technologies and fossil fuels, together with its focus on privatized wealth and power, its unsustainability and collapse appeared assured. (Kennedy, P. ; Smith, A. )
Accordingly, based on common-sense moral principles and logic, Smith in Wealth of Nations made clear what would work sustainably. Consistent with Jesus’ Christianity such was ‘lauded’ by Europe’s ‘exclusive brethren’, yet to this day rejected, undermined in favour of ever-expanding production, colonization and ‘more decisive’ wars – essentially regime changes abroad. However, still competing with one another, tensions continued rising; hence universally destructive WW1. But, failing still to see the system as cause, Germany was crushed, its colonies taken by victors who blundered on. And when the system collapsed into Deep Depression, fearful Conservatives encouraged Hitler’s Germany to re-arm, then supplant the communist USSR. Hence the vastly more destructive WW2. However, still nothing learned: nuclear weapons developed (‘lest Hitler get them first’) and dropped on Japan; then unending regime changes in defiance of International UN Charter Law binding the USA, its principal architect. Bombed intensively, Korea and Vietnam, were but the first of many.(Smith, A.; Sachs, J. ; Churchill, W. ; Eisenhower, D. ; Leahy, W. ; Kennedy, D.; Cumings, B.; UNC ; Blum, W ; Kennedy R. F. Jr.)

Transition From WWII to Homo  Sapiens’ Self-made Crises of Today
As David Kennedy records, the US did not emerge from its deep 1929 Depression  until vast military production began in 1942 – it then greatly expanded after WW2, justification being military threat from war-devastated USSR which at terrible cost (~24 million lives) had driven Hitler’s army back to Berlin. George F. Kennan, US Diplomat in Russia during WW2, considered that European security concerns be handled diplomatically, but to no avail. For preparations to use nuclear weapons to destroy Communism at its alleged source proceeded even after USSR’s counter- response made it mutually suicidal. Like others, Kennan was appalled noting in Norman Cousin’s The Pathology of Power (1987), “…Were the Soviet Union to sink under the waters of the ocean, the American industrial-complex would have to go on… …..until some other adversary could be invented. ….”. Tragically still a reality, with expanding militarism coupled to regime changes and hideous bombing wars maintained in spite of enormous human costs, fast-deteriorating environments and economies. (Kennan, G. F. ; Ellsberg, D ; Clark, Wesley ; Sachs, J ; Pope Francis ; Galbraith, James K.)

In short, although the amazing accomplishments of artists, philosophers, economists, scientists and citizens over the past 500 years could easily have supported homo sapiens in secure comfort, the West’s mercantile political economy’s beneficiaries clung to their authoritarian military mind-set with its gross injustices, exploitations, inefficiencies, international tensions and endless wars which have caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of mostly young people, they and their wonderful talents lost to the world. And yet, still shackled to this system, today’s Western Leaders blindly continue to manipulate sources of wealth and power, including Orwellian obfuscations of terms like ‘freedom’, democracy’, ‘national security’, ‘free trade’, ‘terrorism’ (others’, not ours!) to disguise the true origins of what all too many regard as ’normal’: i.e., exploitation, inequity, monopolies, belligerent ‘trade’, international wars cum terrorism, and advanced environmental degradation – now so extreme they threaten life on earth.

And all such unconscionable developments in the face of benevolent humanitarian advice through the ages by the wisest of people – from Jesus of Nazareth, Edward Gibbon, Adam Smith, Major Mitchell and Pope John XXIII – to today’s wake-up calls as from Bill Gammage, Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and others who revere justice and the State of Nature with all its creations, all its living species, including deluded confused homo sapiens. For we still have a great deal to learn, much by studying the ways of indigenous peoples like our Aboriginals with their 60,000-year history of common-sense peaceful cooperation and sharing as they safe-guarded their natural surroundings, (c.f., NITV).          

Ian Buckley, former medical scientist who has a long-term interest in the origins of wars that have plagued evolving humanity since the establishment of settled agriculture.       http://www.anu.edu.au/emeritus/members/Ian_Buckley.html


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6 Responses to IAN BUCKLEY. Homo sapiens’ catastrophic prospects: why and how wise remedies so long resisted.

  1. Dr John Benson says:

    Much of the injustice in human society and ultimately damage to our planet, comes down to that a small proportion of the human population are psycopaths who are excellent at gaining ascendancy through self-focus. They get to the top in business, government, politics. History is full of them. Affronting them creates conflict as they are so narissistic and will go to war to protect their patch. Wise counsel is lost in the hum bug of ego … and it is true that Chimps are not very nice to external troups and our species is an ape in the broader scheme of taxonomy. We are highly territorial, tribal and aggressive but also highly social. Barnaby Joyce is a classic case of someone so engrossed with their own importance they cannot recongise right from wrong.

    • Ian Buckley says:

      John, What you say is broadly correct, the crises faced today originating in a tiny percentage of corrupt individuals who maintain a system that supports them in their alleged ‘rights’ to exclusive power and wealth. Yet the great majority of humans are benevolent fair-minded folk like those of the Western nations whose leaders loudly proclaim democracy and economic justice, – they thereby also bound by national and international laws prohibiting cheating in all its forms, including foreign plunder and war. With that in mind, can you – or anyone – suggest a way out of the dire predicaments we find ourselves in?

  2. Ian Buckley says:

    Gordon, I agree, for one needs to see just what else we are facing, as Julian Cribb, Bob Douglas and many others make clear. To survive throughout evolution all species must to a high degree act cohesively or they will regress to extinction. That’s how genetic selection works. Hence, for any species whose will is ‘liberated’, to be at war across itself spells doom. Historically, corrupted self-appointed ‘leaders’ misdirected humanity’s wonderful talents towards their ever-growing exclusive wealth and power, such leading to cheating their domestic populations (monopolies, etc.) and colonizing others’ lands, people and resources, all with tragic consequences. (c.f. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN.html : IV.3.38 & IV.7.166 ). But as this caused ongoing wars between Europe’s competing powers, it led to WWI and WW2, industrially amplified mutually-destructive wars that left everyone far worse off. Moreover, it led to nuclear weapons used on Japan, aggressive policies to ‘defend’ the US and maintain its expanding production, militarism and regime changes needed ‘to keep its economy growing’ – as explained by former US diplomat in USSR, historian George F. Kennan in his Foreword to Norman Cousin’s “The Pathology of Power”.(see Appendix 2, in CV Sources, essay 9) All this expanded unnecessary production, wars of acquisition, resource depletion, toxic wastes, – and most terrible onslaughts on Nature, our common home which all species must conserve for their joint survival. See:file:///Users/ianbuckley/Desktop/POPE%20%20FRANCIS/Laudato%20si’%20(24%20May%202015)%20%7C%20Francis.webarchive
    Ian Buckley, CV with Sources: http://www.anu.edu.au/emeritus/members/Ian_Buckley.html

  3. Gordon Wignall says:

    max bourke AM

    I agree that we do share 98% of our genes with some type of apes but we also share our genes with all other living creatures for example mice (92%). The gap between the genes of an ape and those of a human (1.8%) is a huge difference in the scheme of things. Some believe that we evolved from apes which is not true. They are not our ancestors, they are merely closely genetically related. So to suggest that we have a cultural connection with apes would be drawing a long bow.

  4. max bourke AM says:

    Not so sure your premise is correct. We came from a genetic line that included chimpanzees and bonobos. The closest of these, chimpanzees (98.3% same genes) has a quite shocking cultural behaviour that suggests violence is deeply ingrained.

    • Ian Buckley says:

      Max, I think I’m more in tune with Gordon’s response. I know we have to take account of the prime function of sex as the generator of genetic variations which can be altogether extreme, both good and bad. But on balance those favouring survival via cohesive cooperation had to predominate or we would not have got to the birth of agriculture.

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