Updated: Sep 7
When we take a look at any country, population or group of people coexisting within a social system, there is a single question profoundly influencing the mechanics of this system. It is a simple question, but one which may prove difficult to define and understand regarding the implications of the answer to this question.
Every single individual has their own beliefs and thoughts, which influence the way in which they approach life. However, most social systems, no matter how seemingly disorganized, generally have boundaries, guidelines, rules, laws and expectations of the people within, even if they make the choice as individuals to disregard such guidelines. No matter how individuals choose to approach life within a given group, generally there is a consensus which is expressed through the culture and laws. Whether it is a primitive Amazonian tribe or the most advanced nation in the world, we are governed by the rules and behaviours deemed relevant and acceptable in maintaining the structure and systems driving the functioning aspects of this population.
Every group has one thing in common and that is the fact that they, collectively and generally speaking, function based on the particular point they reside on a spectrum, between Evolution and Altruism.
Why Evolution and Altruism? Are we so different to our ape ancestors or primates in general? It has been observed within Chimp society that all individuals within the troop work together for the benefit of the entire group. But even more telling than this group trait, is the fact that an individual within the group will choose to advance their own standing by seizing opportunities, to which they are the sole beneficiary. This in nearly all cases will only occur if it is perceived to not negatively influence their social position within the group . So an individual will work with the team, but also take advantage of selfish opportunities when presented to them. Human beings are no different. We follow the rules presented to us and we work as a team, driving the system forward, but should an opportunity arise to advance as individuals, we will in most cases seize this opportunity, even if it may be at the expense of others. It isn't unreasonable to be selfish at times or to put our family's needs before the needs of others, no matter how desperate an outsider may be, but after our individual and family needs are met sufficiently, at what point do we start looking to help and give to others? Now magnify this situation to an entire group or population and you will understand- 'The Biggest Question'.
As a population where do we reside on the spectrum between an Evolutionary approach and an Altruistic approach to life?
The Evolutionary approach- This approach is defined by Darwin's law- survival of the fittest which in human terms within the context of the modern era, is often defined by wealth and beyond wealth, other aspects such as, intelligence, social network, family lineage- followed by the traditional strongest, fastest and fittest. People who follow this approach at the extreme Evolutionary end of the spectrum, do everything for the purpose of their own advancement and needs. This also naturally extends to their immediate Family. The concerns of others less fortunate does not factor into their thinking at all, so forget charitable giving or support of social welfare on the part of these individuals.
The Altruistic approach-This approach is defined by pure selflessness and a desire to in almost all circumstances, put others first. An individual living at the extreme end of Altruism lives to serve others even when it may be and often is, at their own expense.
Many people choose to approach life in a self-serving manner, existing at the extreme evolutionary end of the spectrum.
The same cannot be said of the altruistic end. There are very few individuals worthy of meeting the requirements of pure altruism, if any. However, they are more selfless and consider others in their actions.
But this is not the point. The point of this post is to understand that, the way in which a collective group of people, whether it be a community or entire country define their position on the spectrum will determine the way in which the social and economic system runs.
When a population chooses to lean towards altruism, the systems within that population reflect that value. Scandinavian countries are known for this, placing a higher value on well-being and access to basic needs for the people within the society. They are still essentially capitalist and exist somewhere on the altruism side of the spectrum, but only marginally.
Leaning into the other end of spectrum, countries like the U.S. The reason being, the high value placed on the free market and an almost 'every man for themselves' attitude. As I said the U.S only tilts towards an evolutionary approach and similar to Scandinavian Countries only falls into the Evolutionary end marginally. This marginal tilt, as minute as it may appear on this spectrum, manifests in a much broader sense- influencing laws, policy, economy, health, quality of living, governance, well-being and based on several studies it influences collective happiness too.
An Evolutionary approach at the extreme would manifest in a horrific manner. Think about it. A population where the attitude of whatever it takes to prevail is practiced. Killing, murder, violence, coercion, manipulation- all fit into this model- survival of the fittest.
This subject cannot be unpacked in a single post but to summarise the point consider this question. If you wanted your country to express the manner of its economic and societal approach somewhere on the spectrum between Evolution and Altruism, where would you want it to be?
The only manner in which such a collective approach can be promoted is through education, election of correct leadership, rules, guidelines, laws reflecting the vision and ideals agreed upon by the majority of the population.
Are we living in an environment where it is every man and woman for themselves or as human beings are we transcendent from our primitive animal instincts, existing on a level of higher awareness, promoting a fuller, more inclusive environment as well as higher standard of living for anyone actively involved in this population.
The answer to this question will shape the future for any society for generations to come. Choose wisely.