If you’re kind to people most things get easier in life. Whether it’s calculated or not, selfless or merely because it makes you feel better about yourself, the end justifies the means as it’ll open doors and often fuel reciprocal kindness. What’s more it’s something that most of us can easily work into our daily lives. You can be mischievous but still be kind, you can be a drug addict but still be kind, you can be a rock n roll star but still be kind, you can be a sex addict and still be kind (using blow up dolls a handy hint), you can even be a gangster or serial killer and still be kind (targeting bankers and media executives a handy hint).
I’ve never thought that Religion is a great promoter of the simple human act that would drive moral emphasis in a utopian society, that act of being kind. Religion as a concept is divisive and restrictive, with the leader (God I believe) in the Old Testament a jealous, petty, vindictive, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, and genocidal bully (plagiarised twice, latterly from page 44 of an excruciating interview here. Approximately two million years ago (quite a while before that nasty God got involved and tried to plagiarise evolution, much in the same way I’m plagiarising this next passage), a fledgling species known as Homo habilis emerged on the great plains of Africa. At the same time that these four-foot-tall, bipedal apes appeared, a period of global cooling produced vast, open environments. This climate change event ultimately forced our hominid ancestors to adapt to a new way of life or perish entirely. Since they lacked the ability to take down large game, like the ferocious carnivores of the early Pleistocene, the solution they hit upon was scavenging the carcasses of recently killed large mammals. However, this survival strategy brought an entirely new set of challenges: Individuals now had to coordinate their behaviors, work together, and learn how to share. For apes living in the dense rainforest, the search for ripe fruit and nuts was largely an individual activity. But on the plains, our ancestors needed to travel in groups to survive, and the act of scavenging from a single animal carcass forced proto-humans to learn to tolerate each other and allow each other a fair share. This resulted in a form of social selection that favored cooperation: “Individuals who attempted to hog all of the food at a scavenged carcass would be actively repelled by others and perhaps shunned in other ways as well,” writes Michael Tomasello, an American psychologist.
This new research suggests that initially our species succeeded because of traits like sharing and compassion and kindness. Put simply, those communities flourished best, produced the greatest number of offspring, and thus shaped humanity. Fast forward to now and how have we capitalised on that promising start? Well, society seems to be dominated by the rich, with greedy, elitist, corporate ideologies and an obsession with material goods and celebrity. It’s probably not sensationalising the situation too much to suggest that continuing upon that path will probably see the downfall of the human race at some point in the far future. As a majority we seemed to choose material goods and gadgets (letting fellow humans suffer immeasurably to churn out the latest fashions) over a less materialistic world based around the notion of being kind to each other. One of the reasons for this may have been that most corporate workplaces aren’t in sync with our evolutionary roots and aren’t overly concerned about the success of the human race. Corporate culture imposes uniformity and compliance over notions of cooperation and kindness.
The hope comes from a growing corporate culture based on a new financial model known as mutual organization or the cooperative, a modern institution that has much in common with the collective tribal heritage of our species. Worker-owned cooperatives are regionally distinct and organized around their constituent members. As a result, worker co-ops develop unique cultures that could be expected to better promote a shared identity among all members of the group. This shared identity would give rise to greater trust and collaboration without the need for centralised control. Worker-owned cooperatives focus on maximizing value for their members, thus the cooperative is operated by and for the local community, a goal much more consistent with our evolutionary heritage. As worker-owned cooperatives continue to gain prominence around the world, we may ultimately witness the downfall of Carnegie’s “law of competition” and a return to the collaborative environments that the human species has long called home.
Frank Noon would love to associate with a humankind that has kindness as its motivating force. One that doesn’t need religion to control it, one that instead educates its young with a strong moral guidance based around notions of compassion and kindness. An honest society based on intelligent, scientific reason rather than fiction, a society that perpetuates simply the correct and proper view that we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and share human values and that we can live good kind lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. As Frank says in 2082 ‘It’d be such a step forward in human civilisation’.