The selfish gene and survival

I thought about this question sometime back, about contradictions, why though we believe that something is good, we don’t actually do it. There are many various papers and answers out there. But here’s yet another one, a realisation that I got from a conversation with a friend.

Anyway, her point was that these people who do these good things eventually lose and die out, they aren’t greedy, hungry for their survival, so they don’t thrive as well as those who are. So even if people like their ideals, its not sustainable, not survivable. Their ideals exist only for their generation, its time based.

But then there are other arguments, that by doing good people will respect you and give you credit, its ultimately for your good if you do good, in the long run. People can see your sincerity and all that. So the selfish will die and the world becomes better?

I think perhaps the best survivors are the cheaters. The double crosses and those who blind side others. Like the capitalists/corporate social responsibility who show that they genuinely care, that they’re doing their best, while gaining a whole lot more in profits. Have they deluded themselves as much as us or do they really know? Why do we and they know this but nothing changes?

They’ve attained the best of both worlds – selfish gain and making it seem like they’re doing good.

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Against Apathy

A story I heard about today, about a place in the Netherlands.

How did the Nazis manage to infiltrate the area? At first, they came and took away the foreigners. Perhaps they did have some reason – these people could be illegal immigrants? Slowly, bit by bit, the Polish, the Italians. Then the homosexuals. Slowly, the crowd was thinned out. The disabled – were they taken away for rehab? Curing? The Jews.

(The order of who was taken away first isn’t accurate)

But basically this wouldn’t have happened if the group had solidarity in the first place and seen the people being taken away as part of their group. Denying the powerful from taking away those people. Just because it doesn’t happen to us doesn’t mean that it will not, one day.

Social anxiety, paranoia, the surveillance state

 

Are you afraid of the all-seeing state? Think 1984; Big Brother is watching you, Dave Egger’s The Circle, Foucault’s panopticon. Think about how you can tracked by your tech devices, the internet stores everything that has ever been uploaded, the cameras on your phone, laptop, can be activated without you knowing.

I am not particularly afraid of the aforementioned situations. I’m not really afraid of CCTVs. But I think I do think I have social anxiety (manifestations include being unable to sleep/stress eat before I’m meant to be meeting friends. Cyclical thoughts about random worries before I meet them: will it be awkward, what if it’s boring, what if I am wasting time, where are we going to go, what will they think of me, etc.)

I despise seeing so many people I know around me (in school). I understand the desire many of my friends expressed when they were kids and I couldn’t comprehend: the desire to go somewhere else and start their life entirely afresh, to not know anyone around them. Previously I couldn’t understand what they meant.

But some thoughts/realisations:

  • I think I’m quite an observant person, I watch my surroundings. And so I feel that I know a lot of people around me since I’m always scanning the room and picking out faces; some are familiar strangers. Perhaps people don’t feel the same kind of anxiety as I do because they do not observe their surroundings/people around them as much as I do. So it’s not that I know/recognise more people than usual, it’s just that I watch out more.
  • I feel stifled when I notice familiar people because I impose the way I watch upon these other people. I assume that everyone is as observant as I am and I don’t like the way that I look at people, I won’t like other people watching me in the same way that I am watching others
  • I suppose I’ve quite a good memory of people from the past/familiar strangers. I recognise their faces and names (sometimes? Often enough) easily, and I’ve been part of large ‘organisations’ (schools, clubs etc). Hence it’s only normal that I will recognise so many people.

I’m not doing anything bad but I don’t like to be watched. Perhaps it’s because I have to acknowledge people when I’m in the same space as them. People you know also have a ‘presence’ (their breath, the space they take up, something that triggers some unnameable sense in me) in the room – I am unable to concentrate studying with other people I know. I will think about them. I wonder if they are watching me, what they are thinking. Weird stuff like that.

The tether of Thought

I’ve been studying quite a lot about politics lately. Usually I hate politics – I’m not the most sociable person, I don’t like dealing with ‘political situations’: this person said this and that, all the ‘drama’ (I don’t keep up with it, I do hear but I pretend not to know. Or I don’t tell people that I know). I usually am quite careless with what people tell me (not in a bad way, IMO), I’m not afraid to say what I think/what other people think, as long as I deem it within reason (i.e. I know that relationships aren’t going to be severely harmed if I decide to speak my mind). I would say I’m quite a logic driven person, I like to get things done, I don’t like dealing with paper work, I don’t mind if you hurt my feelings (usually, haha. I mean, feelings are temporary, and I would like to think that people are generally nice and know how to be tactful. I can see things from people’s point of view).

Anyway. Politics, to me, is something that like most things, everyone should know and think about, but not specialise in. Politics, IMO, doesn’t really get things done. You can learn about it forever. Methodological practices – who is speaking, are they being heard/represented, are actual things being done etc. (tons of readings and information out there about this), justice and all that stuff.

I suppose I’ve come to appreciate politics a little more, after studying about it. Ok, well, I kinda already found it fascinating to a certain extent but perhaps more so during the last year. I watched videos about the flaws/manipulation in statistics and stuff.

I want to talk about logic, reasons and other associated terms:

  • REASON: broader, includes logic, but includes arguments/rhetoric. Anything can be reasonable but not everything logical. Reason gives meaning to things; modernism?

I don’t particularly like reason.

I usually say that ‘while I understand your POV, I don’t think that excuses it’. Think about all the crappy reasons that has been given to excuse things – I didn’t do my homework because I didn’t feel like it. That’s a reason, but it isn’t a good one. ‘I stole because I’m in need’. Sure, it may be humanly forgivable/understandable, but not divinely forgivable/ethically and morally correct? And of course there are implications not taken into account/impossible to measure: even though you were in need, who is to say that the person you stole from is not in greater need?

  • LOGIC: branch of math/science that is concerned with deductive theorems which can be dis/proven with absolutely/certainty. A positivist approach?

I usually veer towards this. A little Weber-ian – I believe in the dictatorship of the official, the one who knows more, the expert who knows best. I think I’m fairly submissive to (excellent) authority (you must prove your worth, but I think I can follow pretty easily. I am willing to sacrifice myself for the greater good? Generally. Even if I am disadvantaged. I can withstand ‘bad things’.) But unfortunately, now, knowledge is impossible to know and creation of knowledge is so political. Logical deduction can be correct, but also contradictory and has huge flaws (read this: http://www.whirledbank.org/ourwords/summers.html – it argues that the World Bank should encourage more migration of dirty industries to less developed nations? It’s ‘true’, utilitarian, logical.)

  • EMOTION: yet another way in which we can make decisions. And I guess there are many more; COMMON SENSE, LISTENING/PARTICIPATORY COLLABORATION.

Is making decisions based on emotions what makes us human? While we may accept that sometimes the poor are as such due to their own fault, we need to acknowledge that sometimes its chance, misfortune, circumstance, inequalities which has been passed down from generation. We need to have the human quality of being kind (if that is possible/such a thing). But emotion is so un-grounded, we can argue about whose feelings are more important forever.

I suppose I’ve just been thinking. How do we make and dream of a better world?

FS 6: Blurred boundaries and names

I haven’t been doing very well since the last two weeks and I’m not too sure why, but I thought I’ll just write it here as a record. I don’t want to think too much or talk too much about it, but I’m sure that I will be fine.

What makes a part, a part and not a whole? What makes its distinct from the entire thing?

Naming creates arbitrary boundaries. Naming is useful when we need to identify a part, to target an area, to separate for whatever reason. But it can cause division – think about country boundaries, land which is connected to each other, what makes them two separate countries rather than an entire piece of land? It’s for convenience, jurisdiction, administrative. Think about bodies: what makes a thumb so special that it needs a name, rather than saying it’s your hand? Why do some things have names, but there are millions of molecules in your body which don’t have a specific name. This naming, differentiation can cause problems: refugees displaced in a different country from where they identify themselves with, fixing a problem in a part of your body can have implications to your entire being.

Look at your body, look at your land. How are these lines drawn?

I found it fascinating to learn about these boundaries in my trip. One of the boundaries between Thailand and Laos was defined as the ‘thalweg’ (the line of fastest flowing water in a water body) in the Mekong River. But this boundary can change so easily due to many reasons: thalwegs change naturally – a river is always morphing, reshaped by erosion, deposition, weathering, changes in water volume because of sudden huge influx or shortages of water during unusual circumstances. Human intervention in the river – creating dams, blasting rock reefs. Human intervention out of the river – changing the landscape around the river will affect things like rainfall, surface runoff (more soil goes into the river and changes its course). Wet and dry seasonal patterns which make the tide rise and fall, every single day.

How can we say that’s a worthy boundary?

Unequal valorisation

We got back our results for our summer school modules last week and the quiet people who could write but did not party got good grades while those people who were loud and mingled a lot did not. This is a generalised statement (I’m assuming the louder ones were not as good writers), but this is true from the few people I heard from. I had wondered how the professors would grade the course. There were some sentiments but nothing definite: we want you to get out of your comfort zones, human geography is about interactions and forming relationships rather than grades, etc. I wish everyone would just get an A. It really doesn’t make a difference. To me, at least?

I was working with someone very different from myself and I think it wasn’t necessarily a bad team. We were very dominant in our different talents. One to socialise and collect/ask for information, the other to record, think and make coherent thoughts. That does not mean that one is more important than another. But the value we ascribe to different talents is very different.

This differentiation of value is natural? What is the point of doing research and finding out a great many things if you are unable to record it, to communicate your findings to other people, to make what you have found useful/apply it to situations? But at the same time, if you merely thought and did not find out information/your data is flawed due to limited understanding and interaction, what good is your research as well? (This idea can be applied to many things like in our capitalist society – we value services more than real goods, but this definitely doesn’t mean that real goods aren’t any less important. We value leaders, but a leader is not powerful without followers).

I think this unequal valorisation is precisely why the idea of communism cannot really work (or at least my idea/the convention idea of all people being equal, greater equality; I don’t mean the dictatorial kind of communism that we see in certain places) – ah, I had a stronger argument, but I lost it. Maybe I will write it as a comment if I remember, another time.

It’s about us VS them, it’s about hierarchies and seeking differences. It’s the differences that draw us closer together as communities (being able to bitch about the same person draws people closer together. It builds trust, a common identity, stuff like that). It’s natural for us to seek out these divisions and to say that one is better than the other? (That’s how divisions – of labour – came about? Is there anything wrong to say one is better than another? It’s necessary, isn’t it?)

I’m not really bothered by this difference in value; I guess I just see it as life, I don’t see the need to create a more equal world. Things about the gender wage gap, how I am doubly discriminated as an Asian Female (but not really, here in this part of the world, where I am the dominant race, although the gender thing MAY be an issue). I’m just tired of being calculative – there is no end to counting my privileges nor my dis-empowerments.

But ‘uncertainty doesn’t mean ignorance’: I should still dream of a better world. It’s just the question of ‘How do I make the world a better (more equal?) place’?