Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Herod, Christ and the Evolution of Empathy.

Jingle Bells, and all that - 'tis Christmas, a time of good cheer to all men.

Logos of the companies exploiting parents and children to make profits whilst polluting our Earth home.

So here's a thought I present as a present to all readers.

Survival is not the same as Thrivival

These are two images I have crafted express the difference I sense that lies between thriving as a human community and merely surviving. Modern consumer culture is clearly not thriving, and it is close to not even surviving. Egalitarian cultures have thrived for many, many tens of thousands of years across this Earth. I know which state I would prefer we were living in. It is possible to live well, to be comfortable and truly happy as a community, to thrive without causing intense damage to our shared habitat. It is not thriving to live comfortably, worried, stressed out, dimly or acutely aware that we are causing irreversible long term harm and irredeemable short term harm.

"Survival of The Fittest" is in reality a meme created by the philosopher, economist, sociologist, writer and  academic, Herbert Spencer, in a book he wrote, Principles of Biology,  after having read Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection: Or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life  which Herbert, and the majority of his class took to reflect their cultural assumptions in regard to their comparison between African, South American, Asian and Indian cultures and the White European Imperial culture from which the Industrial Revolution and their wealth and status emerged. Spencer was a white supremacist seeking to justify his stance.

It became a common re-interpretation (misinterpretation)  or re-positioning of Darwin's central thesis, and was never used by Darwin in the manner most commonly attributed today, aka that the strong (the most favoured races) naturally prevail over the weak in 'The struggle for Survival' - a phrase so beloved of Malthusian enthusiast David Attenborough and others less savoury, whose sense of the phrase is probably better articulated in the term 'might is right': people such as George Bush, Dick Cheny, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Jimmy Savile and others.

Darwin first used Spencer's new phrase "survival of the fittest" alongside "natural selection" in the fifth edition of On the Origin of Species, published in 1869, intending it to mean "better designed for an immediate, local environment"

Darwin was referring to the evolution of life enhancing traits in response to environmental changes, which he observed in some detail.

It turns out that empathy is one of those traits or capabilities that has emerged in the human organism, as well as many others, as a life enhancing trait that facilitates and sustains long term existence really, really well.

Optimal Human Well Being is an Evolved Default.

Empathy, and indeed love, lies at the base of both effective co-operation and accurate responses to environmental changes. It is a bio-logical mandate.

It is also true that this behavioural trait is vulnerable, and under chronic stress can be undermined. The architecture is genetic, yet the development of active empathy is experiential, it is cultural...

Some cultures are more empathic, egalitarian, others are hierarchically violent. James Prescott's research reveals this dynamic spectrum and shows a correlation  between egalitarian societies who demonstrate high nurture of babies, infants and children, and hierarchically violent societies where typically there is a disruption of biologically mandated child mother bonding processes.

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is another diligent researcher who has looked deeply at the evolutionary biology of the egalitarian cultural human. 

Her work has been presented in books such as 
The Woman that Never Evolved, selected by the New York Times as one of its Notable Books of 1981, Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection, chosen by both Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal as one of the "Best Books of 1999" and, her latest, Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding.

Hrdy has challenged, and transcended, many of the flawed assumptions that biologists have held dating back to the Victorian era. It is a body of work that continues to provoke and inspire a new generation of scientists..

Her key insight is that alloparenting - where parenting was a task distributed throughout the group - was a key shift in pre-hominid primates, and in early hominids that drove the evolution of a larger brain, the brain that can manage the detail of layers of co-operative relationships, that can manage self regulation that is required for peaceful, effective conflict resolution and bond building over generations.

Disruption of the biological default for optimally healthy behaviour changes behaviour.

Which is the logic or reason why torture (topical subject these days) and politically and ideologically based economic pressure upon vulnerable communities and people remain consistently utilized  tools of Hierarchically Violent Power - the bullies understand the effect, and it's utility.

Herod and Christ, and the people they have been portrayed as.

I am not at all religious, nonetheless I find their stories instructive. The crucifier and the crucified.

What was Herod's childhood like? We can only guess!

But we do know something of Hitler's infancy and childhood, as we do of Pol Pot, George Bush, Tony Blair, Stalin and many other leaders who exercised power that deployed massive organised violence and caused untold harms to largely innocent people (Herodianesque) and none appeared to have had the kind of nurturing experience that would have laid the foundation for caring empathy.

Alice Miller's book 'For Your Own Good'  touches on this subject, with regard to Hitler, Stalin and 'traditional parenting' in European culture, and is a classic in this regard.

No excuses, yet understanding the roots is essential.

This is not to suggest they - Hitler, Stalin, Bush, Cheny and any other abuser - are thus excused from accountability and responsibility for their actions and the harms and consequences imposed on others by their actions. Far from it, as there are many examples of people who had dreadful childhood experiences who emerged to become kind and caring adults.

It is to suggest that there is a way to understand, and thus prevent the abuses of Power we see as a fundamental pattern of what is known as 'civilisation'. And that lies in how we parent, how we as a society related top and treat our children, and the most vulnerable people within our Society.

Abuse and bullying are, at heart,  cultural problems. Some cultures avoid those problems by the way in which they parent and relate, others do not. The choice is ours, as we have the information, and the responsibility.

The choice is yours. It is mine.

Let us all make that choice as our daily Christmas present to ourselves, our families, our communities and our culture.

Kindest regards


Thank you for reading this blog.

"Do what you love, it is your gift to universe."

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Friday, 5 December 2014

Questions every social worker, every civil servant, every carer and every parent (to be or active) ought to wrestle with

There is a genuine need to protect society from some people whose behaviour is dangerous,  by incarceration, and  not as a 'punishment' or ‘revenge’ or 'paying the price' but as a safety of the community measure, and this must be done as humanely as possible.

There is also a need to see where rehabilitation can be efficacious, and what best facilitates this.

Abuse does not answer abuse, and violence tends to be cyclical......I have NEVER come across a Survivor who would urge violence against abusers.

It horrifies me the way Survivors voices and insights are brushed aside by people who claim to be supportive yet also declare they'd be happy to 'hang 'em'.... those people are making life for Survivors harder rather than easier because they are clouding the discourse with their rage and hatred.

I do understand that there are reasons why so many people react in this manner.

Social conditioning, inter-generational trauma behaviour patterns .....

How many people were flushed with stress hormones whilst in the womb?

How many mothers are subjected to stress by external events?

How many fathers have been trained to be 'tough'..?

How many men return from war, with wounds they mask, that their children are affected by?

How does chronic stress (12 years of schooling, relative poverty, religious indoctrination) alter the growing child, in schools, where bullying, peer pressure and submission to authority are constants?

These are not excuses for adverse behaviour, but an attempt to understand that dynamic that flows through time within Hierarchically Violent social systems where Power has a massive influence on peoples lives, and the emergent psychology of society, at the grass roots.

How many 'leaders' learned bullying as a power transaction in private boarding schools?

Is Social Services, as a State Institution, concerned with regulation over healing?

These are all questions EVERY social worker, every civil servant, every carer and every parent (to be or active) ought to wrestle with... as by taking that role on, they also take on a response-ability to those the intend to serve, and more so to the children yet to be born from those they serve....

Where is the nurture?

And importantly, the question of what best represents optimal human biological health must be tackled with a back ground in science, anthropology, history and personal growth..

These are the questions that Survivors have had to answer in their path towards resolution.

The State has yet to step up to the plate on this, as is the case for the mainstream media.

Kindest regards


Do what you love, it's Your Gift to Universe