This started as a simple question: “Why do we treat each other like dirt?” and ended up going down the rabbit hole of Transhumanism and the World State. So fair warning, it might get a bit heady. Which is a terrible pun, given that I'm know going to mention the brain. Ba-dum *tish*
We've all seen those memes involving the brain going bananas at night with ideas and thoughts. Lately though, my brain tends to wake me up with such thoughts, rather than keep me awake with them. Is this any better? I don't know. But I do know it's given me plenty of food for thought. Specifically, the idea of 'what goes around comes around'. Or 'karma', if it's acceptable to use a theological idea without following other tenants of the related religion.
I find myself wondering why people continue to treat others like dirt, when it's been established that such behaviour will only be visited back upon them. I'm talking on a personal level here, not global 'why do we start wars', although you could argue that there is no global scale, that all problems begin with the individual. Though, fittingly, I'm going to come back to this point later.
In any case, I'm not overly religious, in terms of following a set of rules/scripture, but neither do I cherry-pick the 'best ones' to suit my own ends; rather, I personally believe that we should treat others how we ourselves wish to be treated, not for some greater reward, but simply because it is the decent thing to do. You would think, at the most basic possible level, every person knows this, even if they don't feel inclined to act upon it. So why do people feel inclined to go out of their way to make another human being feel terrible, when they themselves know how awful it feels when someone does it to them?
It should be a simple question. It should be something that automatically pops into a person's head before they comment on something: “How would I feel if they said this to me?” and/or “What will I actually achieve by saying what I feel like saying? Would it be in any way positive?” If not, why waste time saying it? To make yourself feel better? But again, you'd just be opening the door for that negativity to come back to you, and surely, no one wants to spend their time waiting for the other shoe to drop...?
We are creatures of impulse if nothing else and as such no one is infallible. I learnt a coping mechanism for stress/anxiety a few years ago that involves 'A, B, C' – A is the situation that upsets you, B is the thought process concerning how that affects you and C is your response to it. Most people go straight from A to C (in other words: knee-jerk reactions). If more people learnt to bite their tongue, take a mental (if not literal) step back and consider their response and the ramifications, we might all be better off.
However. Like I said, no one's infallible and I sometimes can't help instantly reacting to something, especially if the other person is being blatantly unreasonable and/or accusing me of something utterly wrong. At times like these, the ABC method is hardest to maintain, as often it requires you to seemingly acknowledge the other person's opinion as fact or some form of truth, if only to keep the peace. This is the whole 'be the better person' angle, which should be our default setting but the sad truth is sometimes it just feels better to be equally shitty with someone else, to attempt to put them in their place. But sometimes they just don't want to hear or accept it, and that's when the strength of will and character most comes into play.
In reference to this, I've been reading/watching/playing a lot of books, programs and games lately that involve ideas of 'Transhumanism' – basically, 'build a better human' (typically through the use of genetics/cybernetics). If you look at how (technologically) advanced we've become in the past 100 years, I don't think it's unreasonable to think such an idea as Transhumanism won't be reality in another 100, which opens up a whole load of other philosophical and ethical arguments that I'll leave for another day.
My point is this: we're technologically advanced, yet as a species still dominated by the very societal faults that have plagued us from the dawn of time; which brings me back to the underlying question of “why treat others like dirt?” ie “Are humans broken beyond repair?” A slight tangent to this, is that as we advance in this way, so too do we appear to create more avenues and opportunities to create tension and disrespect. Social media is, largely, a fine thing, and I for one love the idea that we are now more connected than ever. But, with such freedom of expression the barrier between action and response, between opinion and reaction, is thinner than ever. With everyone now able to tell everyone else their thoughts and opinions, they invite discussion (which is healthy) and conflict (not so much). So how do we regulate such things? Can we regulate such things?
In 1946, a host of the world's top minds (including Einstein, Oppenheimer and Niels Bohr) collaborated on a booklet called ONE WORLD OR NONE. The context of this was atomic war and weapons, but the aim was to argue the case of a single world government. As the introduction (by Arthur H. Compton) states:
“We now have before us, the clear choice between adjusting the pattern of our society on a world basis so that wars cannot come again, or of following the outworn tradition of national self defense, which if carried through to its logical conclusions must result in catastrophic conflict.”
Bohr himself states:
“...the fate of humanity will depend on its ability to unite in averting common dangers...”
The United Nations existed by this point, but many of the authors note that the fundamental laws of the UN would have to be changed and implemented on a global scale to ensure true international peace.
It was not a new idea for 1946, however: Nietzsche himself proposed the idea of a one world order in Thus Spoke Zarathustra in 1883-1885, as did HG Wells in The Shape of Things to Come in 1933. A 'World State' is not to be confused with movements such as Fascism, though, which put one race or idea above all others – a true World State would involve collaboration and shared ideas. However, it's a nice idea in theory but as I'll mention in a moment, isn't the most realistic notion. Now, also at this point it would be all too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of conspiracy as ONE WORLD OR NONE is 80 pages of what is almost certainly labelled by some as propaganda, and the general conceit of creating a unified global ruling order might veer dangerously close to the tinfoil hat brigade and talk of the Illuminati etc, but the fact is this was a real issue and proposal by many educated men.
However, I would also be remiss if I ignored how science is seen as the uniting factor in a true one world government, with religion having to be in some way tempered, if not outright abolished. That's completely mental. Also, even many of the authors noted above acknowledge that creating a World State without using force or coercion would be practically impossible – in other words, it can only exist if everybody agrees – which brings us full circle.
People will never, ever completely agree with one another. Someone will always think their opinion (be it religious, political or personal) is right, or more right than anyone else. Someone will always treat others like dirt, whether because it makes them feel better, gives them a sense of power, or simply because they can. Does this mean we're doomed? Nope. If we were, we'd truly be on the path of nihilism suggested by Nietzsche. What is does mean, is that it is up to us as individuals to be better, to set an example to others, that how we choose to act is exactly that: a choice. You choose whether you let the state of your life, country or the world anger or upset you just as you choose whether or not to do anything about it. You choose whether to ask for or accept help. You choose to treat someone like dirt or with respect.
Maybe I'm generalising, but without knowing every single person's circumstances that's all anyone can do. And until science breeds out or technologically removes all those pesky emotions it's up to us to do what we can to be the better person, and help others be the best they can be.