Who am I? In my most basic form, I am a human aware of my own existence. Without my awareness, what would I become? Probably…a savage, a creature susceptible to whatever stimuli presents itself to me and whatever feelings I as a human can’t avoid. With hunger, I must get food at whatever cost, disregarding the wellbeing of those around me. With anger, I must destroy the source of that anger to the extent that I can, brutally, without inhibition and with no mercy. With lust, I must satisfy that lust with no restraint, anytime and anywhere till I need not anymore, which would probably be upon death. With jealousy, I must resort to anger and so on. With envy, also resort to anger and so on. With greed, take whatever I desire from others at whatever cost. With fear, run as far as I can from that danger and the demons that chase me. With defeat, submit and wallow to whatever has caused that defeat. With leadership, rule with a bloody iron fist to safeguard my position with uninhibited aggression. With pain, hurt whatever or whoever has caused that pain. With shame, resort to resentment, then anger and so on. With pride, refuse command with disdain and be quick to anger and so on…. I am a slave to my impulses, some sweet, some sour, it is all that i know…but… though my impulses can’t be ignored, they can be noticed and be controlled, and that’s what makes me… a Rational Savage.
It’s this rational savagery that gives me the hope and confidence that I will probably wake up in the morning and society will not have destroyed itself slaving away to each of their individual impulses and drives, destroying whatever displeases them considering the fact that there is a lot to be displeased about. It is this rationality that enables each one of us to compromise and not make the chaos in our thoughts and desires become reality. To not destroy ourselves in the pursuit of our human drives (acquisition, bonding, defending, feeling, and learning). In the end, not everything we think in times of stress, depression and anger must be acted upon, because if you did, jail would be your destination. Thus we must weigh the cost before acting.
The question thus arises as to who the natural person is. From my description above, humans are more irrational, crazy and impulsive than you actually think. There is no inherent goodness, neither is there inherent evil, it’s just…..a blank page, filled with space to be continuously filled by the stimuli we expose ourselves to. You may have grown up in a home with good ideals and morals, it’s thus possible that because of that, you can be more naïve, believing in the kindness of strangers until that malevolent experience (bullying, betrayal, deceit) shocks you with a force so great you cannot process why someone would consciously treat you like that, hence causing your stress, anxiety, depression, resentment for others among other effects.
We are products of what we learn, thus you just can’t expect random people to not be mean because you do not know where they are coming from and what they have been exposed to. It is also naïve and childish to believe in the inherent goodness of those around you because you just can’t know what’s going on in their minds concerning you. All you can do is be true to your morals and hope for the best. If we were inherently good, idle thoughts would not be what they are most of the time. Thoughts of envy, lust, anger, fear. Instead I would in a state of idleness be thinking of bible verses and generally pure thoughts. Our thoughts are mostly driven by our basic drives to acquire, bond, learn, defend and feel as described in the book Driven; How Human Nature Shapes our Choices.
We may not be inherently good but I strongly believe that we have an incredible capacity for good. Rationality thus arises to circumvent and understand these emotions we have and weigh the necessity to act on those impulses. Rationality is the reason I can walk away from many things that other animals would probably kill for, like food, a right to mate, like a threat to dominance or pride etc…
Many of the things that I expose myself to, indeed create responses in me, fatigue, anger, boredom, anxiety and many more. Humans are controlled by their environments, an environment that imprints in us an ideal by which we have to carry ourselves to produce a functional relationship with society, I would describe an ideal as an abstract idea that you just can’t go against, just like a stereotype ingrained in you from childhood. For Christians, this ideal is infinitely stronger than that, we have the 10 commandments as some of the earliest ideals in religious memory, Do not steal, Do not kill, Do not commit adultery and 7 others. The commandments given in Mathew 22: 34-40 as well by Jesus Christ being that you must love the Lord your God, the progenitor of the ideals with all your strength and all your might and the other most important ideal states that you must love your neighbour as you love yourself, an ideal and commandment sums up not stealing, not committing adultery, not killing and others as these would entail not harming your neighbours.
These ideals give us a foundation on which to stand on, these ideals once crossed would tantamount to evil. An individual raised without moral ideals is unlikely to have as much control over his actions compared to one who did. Even animals despite following only instincts still have ideals that they follow most of the time, a wolf for example that loses a duel for alpha of the group will lie in a pose of defeat exposing its throat to the victor, the victor realising the duel has been won upon seeing the losers throat exposed, will not proceed to tear that throat out because even it itself knows that it will need a hunting partner in the near future. Jordan Peterson speaks of the duels that lobsters engage in, where the terms are determined by the one willing or unwilling to back out of the fight, it’s a test that goes till the loser seals its death sentence when the victor with its pincers gorges out its eyes, a demise the loser could have avoided with rationality.
A chimpanzee is brutal, six times stronger than a human being among other characteristics, in anger a chimpanzee will not hold back, it will tear out your eyes, dismember you and even disfigure you just to torture you, and one would call this sadistic. I refer to an American report of a woman who raised a chimp from infancy but after years of living with it for some reason, it attacks her and her friend whom it disfigures badly in the same manner I have described and going on a bloody rampage until it had to be killed. In the wild, troupes of chimps will literally go to war with other troupes of chimpanzees and brutally obliterate their enemies, tearing off their limbs with uninhibited aggression. An animal subject only to instinct has no use for self-control, it is its own way of self-preservation considering that the wild is tough, it must eat or be eaten. Their relationships and interactions not being so diverse must be the reason they have self-preserved in spite of terrible violence.
Human systems are more complex, we have relationships, romantic, professional, filial, distant etc. with rules and ideals governing all these relationships etc. imagine a world with complete inability to rationalise and reason out some of our impulses. It would be a mess…or maybe we would not even be what we are today, unable to build peaceful society etc.
Rationality must be employed in our daily lives to overcome all these problems we may face because, in the end problems will keep coming, but our response to these problems will determine our individual futures. An inability to mindfully employ rationality will result in useless war, crime, violence and anti-social behaviour, and in the end, chaos.
Probably a reason why autocracies with absolute leaders don’t last long but if they do, die painful deaths. Rational leadership is necessary for society to flourish, one of the factors I believe have enabled some countries to have relative peace for over 30 years under one president. Being sociable is why for example among chimpanzees, the alpha that takes time to be social and groom its troupe members may have a much higher chance of staying in power than a brutal aggressive alpha that will because of its brutality probably be attacked by a group of chimpanzees and dethroned. Democracies work despite their own issues, even a peaceful dictatorship is more acceptable than a brutal democracy.
It is inevitable that whatever impulse that is in front of me I will notice. Yes, I will notice an offence against me. Yes, I will be sexually aware of a woman in front of me that I find attractive. Yes, I will notice someone else with something I might want. Yes……The mere presence of these impulses and my inability to control what I notice is what makes me a savage, however, the difference is, I will not act on the impulses that are not relevant or appropriate to my ideals and to my current wellbeing, it is a burden I must carry to fit in society and see myself in a light I hold worth fighting for. And that in the end is what makes me a rational savage…..just like you.
Jordan Peterson states that, it’s naïve and childish to think that people are naturally good, that is not our default position, its birth, catastrophe, malevolence then death. However there is something to look up to, an ideal we can hope to achieve. The most vulnerable people to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are naïve people believing themselves good and believing the world good too. The reality is that when someone malevolent touches you or you do something so bad you didn’t think you could do, then it’s probable that you will get messed up.
Be aware of the insanity all around us and in you to be able to strongly pull yourself through, ever looking up and walking towards that light at the end of the tunnel. Peace and prosperity is not the story of mankind. Instead it is one of catastrophe and growth from the rubble, with ever growing rationality. Keep walking towards the light.
He who is impulsive, is a fool in action.