And yet there are those who think Humanity is the problem. 'Humanity is destroying the environment' they will say. Whereas the truth is that it is a particular culture that is destroying the environment, rather than Humanity per se. I have written about this before. The species is fine, it is the culture that is the problem.
Kindness is bigger than Gross Domestic Product growth. Kindness is more, so much more than national pride. Kindness is older than any religious creed. Kindness is more beautiful than sending a rocket to Mars. Kindness makes us human. Kindness is prehistoric. Kindness is in our genetic disposition. Our default state is trust.
Boris Johnson is unkind. Kindness is political.
Obama was charming. His political action was unkind. Not as unkind as the political action of some others, but only by small degree. Not much of a difference, really if you were one of the many innocent people harmed by US Foreign Policy during his 8 year stint as President and Chief of Staff. Poverty also expanded, as did the wealth of billionaires, under his 'leadership'.
Evolution and Kindness.
That is to say that the evolution of our bigger brains dealing with more complex relationships over longer time frames is inextricable from the evolution of shared parenting, multiple bonded relationships, among hominids. Kindness again. Group kindness is a thrivivalist behaviour. One needs a much more complex brain to live well through shared mutually nurturant relationships as a social group, a social species. Kindness is evolutionary!
Some would say that, politically, kindness has the potential to be revolutionary. Jacinda Ardern is revoluntionary and not a guillotine or AK47 in sight.
In all species of primate the infant stays close to the mother for extended periods of time, physically close, attached, in touch, body to body. Mammalian and primate infants are vulnerable and they need that constant care and protection while they are growing. Human infants are among the most totally vulnerable, and our vulnerability lasts for a long time.
Mothering is expensive.
Shared child care is evolutionary economics.
Nonetheless, those experiments and the evidence of disruption of child-mother bonding formed the germ of the idea of that became Attachment Theory. The theory stated that the degree of nurturance or disruption of child-mother bonding in infancy - that vulnerable stage - determined the sociability and adult behaviour of the adult to be. One aspect of the theory looked at the setting within which mothering occurs, and took note of external stressors that might impact attachment bonding. A stressed mother can undermine healthy attachment, through no personal fault of her own, simply because she has to endure stresses imposed by external events and actions of others.
Attachment Theory 2.0
Science can describe with ever greater detail and intimacy the processes of brain development from within the womb, through birth and infancy, toddlerhood and onwards. Science can describe with great accuracy how experience and environmental factors have effects that are invisible, that happen beneath the skin and within the skull, yet which lead to outcomes in behaviours that are all too visible and easy to misconstrue.
The Extended Family Brain
“The brain is heavily influenced by genes. But from birth through young adulthood, the part of the human brain that most defines us (frontal cortex) is less a product of the genes with which you started life than of what life has thrown at you.
Extend that across a population and we can suggest a way to prevent distress emerging in future populations by nurturing the earliest relationships that extended families can provide. Kindness in policy is indeed political.
That bears repeating - affective state self regulation is largely matured by age two, in all healthy human children. The 'terrible twos' is a cultural symptom of distress, not a biological marker.
As I understand it, this is when the infant becomes a walker, and is capable of independent exploration of the new world she or he is in, and the last thing the new explorer needs is a shortened fuse. The care and kindness that earliest empathic parenting is delivered with sets the child up for life and equips the child with affective state self regulation that is necessary for adult life.
I know I am repeating myself and Sapolsky, but it bears repeating - it is absolutely critical that readers understand that this is what the evidence asserts : Robert Sapolsky writes : "“The brain is heavily influenced by genes. But from birth through young adulthood, the part of the human brain that most defines us (frontal cortex) is less a product of the genes with which you started life than of what life has thrown at you.
In a typical human extended family, child care is shared. That is the norm for all studied egalitarian cultures. That is also the norm in most older pre-industrial sedentary cultures. In peasant families, siblings care for younger sibling;, babies and infants are held by mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grand parents. This care is typically loving, replete with those little kindnesses that inform life long bonds of friendship and support.
The Nuclear Family and The Factory
In addition because contraception was not used, serial pregnancies were normal outcomes, infant mortality was high, and child care was shared by siblings, aunts and grandparents, and so they all lived within easy reach. This helped build resilient factory system communities out of the destruction of the older peasant communities. The men went to work, and the women collectively cared for the children and the men.
Schools were invented to indoctrinate and train future factory workers. Personal development was ignored.
Nannies and others.
Right now, as the pandemic of SARSCOV2 and it's disease CODIV19 rolls out across the Earth's countries, we are seeing the impact of lack of kindness across the developed world, were some nations have rejected zero community transmission strategies for dealing with an epidemic, with intolerable human costs and associated economic costs, all of which is met with continued denial of shared responsibility. That is unkind. That is an institutionalised lack of kindness at scale.
Other countries have adopted zero community transmission, and have avoided all the costs and harms, and that represents a form of institutional kindness. Indeed, Jacinda Ardern is explicit about this, and has been since before her first election into office as New Zealand's Prime Minister.
Kindness is political. If we want a healthier future for all our children, and for all their children, then we had better start acting with political kindness in mind at every part of our culture. The bullying is lethal, toxic nonsense and in evolutionary terms utterly irrational. We must bring it to an end, with kindness as our primary ethic.