One of the human race's most significant limitations is its affinity for self-destruction. This is simply a recast of a common argument that politics, religion, technology, old-world and new-world discrepancies, as well as international commerce have affected humanity's ability to move forward. Part of the problem is our inability to come to a consensus of the very meaning of progress. New-world cultures believe it to be technological advancement, international trade, and economics, while old-world cultures believe it to be tradition and superstition, and ironically, the stalwart ability not to change and be affected by fickle materialism. Agrarian cultures like those in Africa and New Zealand ascribe to this modus, aiming to avoid the hustle and bustle of technological advancement and maintain the simplicity and purity of their natural ways. (I'd like to point out that none of the 700 Native American languages had a word for emotional depression.)
I'm not excusing away humanity's self-destruction with a convenient and cowardly dose of relativism. I most surely think humans should judge one another on both an individual and cultural level, however, they should do it from an informed perspective, not from fear or tradition or profit. No, we don't do this right now. Since new-world cultures are based in technology and economics, they mutate informed perspective toward the special interests of their economic belief system. It's a built-in ulterior motive. The problem with economic advancement is that once you start on the path, there's no going back. It's a one-way road because the home culture is heavily encouraged to participate (and thus, believe) in it, and international relations quickly and irreversibly become involved. There are no real economically isolated areas left anymore, as North Korea even trades with China.
While economic proliferation generally increases the standard of living, it doesn't have anything to do with our standard of understanding. The geniuses who developed economics may have been able to understand human nature clearly and effortlessly, but that gift does not automatically transfer onto the masses whom practice their economics. Thus, the masses have screwed up human nature and will continue to do so until they--as a whole--accept that although they can somewhat easily understand the intellectual products the geniuses create, they as the masses need to do the intellectual legwork to understand their fellow man on deeper level than assets, inflation, debts, gains and losses.
Humanity's staggering reluctance to generate a working and more pluralistic definition of progress has turned many throughout history into pessimists, who say that since humanity hasn't improved throughout time, despite all the great people who've passed through, it will never improve. They prescribe that we are doomed to our own devices. Subjectively I want to nod my head at this, though knowing what I know about the addictive elements of technology, as well as humanity's weakness toward group-think and peer pressure, I don't think we've seen all the colors on our palette. I think we've seen plenty of our weaknesses and credulity toward believing what charlatans have to say, but I don't think we've given our potential an honest shot, because of our belief in the human-centric dualism of morality: humans are good and/or bad. This is where I sympathize with old-world cultures, who understand that life is a shade of grey. Our lives aren't just about our lives, or in other words, we are more than our moral value judgments of ourselves in relation to the world in which we live. Now, current cultures talk of "making our destinies," but if you unfold that statement you can read: "making our individual destines hopefully on the path to good." It's very human centric and spiritual, and I find that the majority's definition of progress--no matter which flavor--is saturated with human-centricity.
Orwell's take on all this lies in Socialism and Utopianism. "Nearly all neo-pessimist apologetics consists in putting up a man of straw and knocking him down again. The man of straw is call Human Perfectibility. Socialists are accused of believing that society can be--and indeed, after the establishment of Socialism, will be--completely perfect; also that progress is inevitable." (p. 501) Socialism is often perceived as being Utopian, but it's at base a simple ideology of striving toward betterment. This is not a political discussion of that statement's the accuracy or validity, simply a recanting. Orwell here stumbled upon one of humanity's general's diseases: Human Perfectibility. Why are these two terms even combined? Can one legitimately qualify the other? Quoting the first line of John Gray's Straw Dogs: "Most people today think they belong to a species that can be master of its destiny. This is faith, not science. We do not speak of a time when whales or gorillas will be masters of their destinies. Why then humans?"
I think it's more than possible that this is one of our primary ingredients to our self-desturction. I think this observation is looking at a real piece of our own history, devoid of any timeline or whoever was in the position of power.
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