Progress through conflict

I like capitalism. *Jo raises a bat in anticipation of having to ward off the thrown object(s)*

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I mean I like other things too, like puppies and… eh… (okay, I’m leaving this blank, I’ll come back to it later when I’ve thought of something else)

I’m inclined to believe that capitalism is largely responsible for driving humanity forward. Which sets a lot of peoples teeth on edge because capitalism also pollutes rivers, kills rhinos, exploits and disenfranchises. Personally I believe people do that. Capitalism isn’t religious dogma, mind-control or hypnotic suggestion. (although maybe it is and I’m just their mindless mouth piece or drone* and therefore shouldn’t be trusted) Capitalism is just a problem solving model, but like a lot of things it suffers from the spotlight effect.

*the ant kind. Not necessarily the one soaring up in troposphere on desert thermals and raining down death on weddings parties and daycare centres.

The spotlight effect, basically, is analogous to when you shine a spotlight on something the mind becomes visually zoned in on what is illuminated by the spotlight and you’re inclined to ignore everything else thats happening on or off stage.

Let me also say right near the beginning that I like lots of other philosophies waaaaaay more than capitalism. But these are all highly individualistic (and also often theoretical), and are very unlikely to take root on a global scale with its myriad of cultures. When viewed as a collective I don’t think we are an altruistic species. There are obviously exceptions to the rule and there is evidence to suggest there is reciprocal altruism in smaller groups, but when we add everyone together and consider things with a sense of Realpolitik, I think the statistics would skew towards the selfishness of the individual.

Surely the aliens would judge us by this metric instead of the aberrations to this rule? Ie the sum of the whole. Ergo we should stop pretending that we are something we are not and embrace the stuff thats proven to move us along our linear progression towards… eh… where do we want to be again? Has someone officially decided this? You know, the end goal we all agreed on in the strategy session. You’re not allowed to say heaven.

I recently read… or maybe I heard (it all starts to blur together) how the thing that really drives us forward, innovates and (eventually) makes our lives better is conflict (I think there is the assumption that we survive said conflict or are of a later generation than the combatants). And how our imagined utopian and peaceful society would eventually just stagnate and stop evolving for lack of conflict.

This has gotten me thinking. On a personal level I tend to believe in the motivating power of a good enemy. And maybe this is true for humanity as a whole? Maybe the best driver of progress isn’t capitalism, but rather conflict?

I am not a big fan of nationalism. (which tends to make people think I’m for globalism, which is not necessarily true, I think these issues are complicated) In any event nationalism, for all its benefits (and there really can be some profound benefits in terms of cooperation among individuals who think they are special and unique) overall, just promotes a dislike for outsiders and fosters this weird culture of taking credit for the ‘achievements’ of your ‘nation’ as something you’ve personally done.

Nationalism does lead to competition though. And when that competition spills over into hostility, generally, there is a huge leap in progress.

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I’m not going to wax on lyrically on how all the things we’ve designed to murder and maim each other have actually, down the road, become a huge boon to us all, because I think the evidence is largely irrefutable.

I do however think, upon reflection, that conflict between nations, in order to drive innovation on a sharp upward trend, needs to be a conflict of equals. Or at least perceived equals. Conflicts where one side just bombs the #$@% out of the other doesn’t really drive anything except the amount in the expense column.

Maybe these things are cyclical. Progress is initially driven by conflict, for example the space race between the USA and USSR and when space exploration ground to almost to a complete stop because there is no enemy to motivate, capitalism stepped in to pick up the slack.

Of course, there may be an important caveat to all of this in so far as, the weapons we now have now are planet killers, so any further conflict may be, self defeating. Or not. Destroying the earth would likely motivate us to become a space born, interplanetary species. This may after all be, at this point, be inevitable.

Postscript. I don’t really want to sacrifice myself in some conflict so that future generations can have a better time of it. But I am generally appreciative of the sacrifice that previous generations have made (in terms of dying en masse) so that I could have a car, iPhone and internet. Thanks guys.

Comments

  1. It’s hard to define moving forward. My idea of it doesn’t match most everyone else and their drive to innovate and grow. There are better ways than dams and windmills and nuclear plants in the thirst for power to power. We’re just impatient and wasteful.
    Capitalism certainly has opportunity but need to be regulated or a few will wreck everything. I just hope science can save us from themselves.

    1. Agreed. Everyone’s goal of moving forward is different. For me at least its the eradication of death, disease and poverty (stuff we’ve actually been doing okay with) and for the freedom for everyone to peruse their own interests (getting better, but still got some way to go).

      This is actually the biggest problem I have with democracy. Well… not so much democracy but large empire style democracy. If everything was kicked back down to the state level… and then even better to the community level people would be inclined to make much better decisions.

      Eg. A community town has to provide their own power and water. I can imagine there would be serious resistance to building a coal fired power station next door. Suddenly, because it is affecting us in a very real way, we have to take responsibility for our actions.

      Just my thoughts.

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