On being a member of a not very intelligent species…

May 23, 2020

Warning: politics ahead

Once I’ve waded my way through the acres of knitted words, confusion and hypocrisy about COVID-19, sometimes I’m reminded that there’s a world out there that’s increasingly wrecked thanks to our stupidity. Today I came across this article, which told me of temperatures hitting 27 degrees inside the Arctic Circle and 30 degrees in Western Siberia. So global warming, melting icecaps, and release of methane from thawing tundra proceed apace, creating irreversible change…

We are (quite reasonably) currently preoccupied with a dangerous disease, and yet we are also allowing the rich and powerful to continue wielding the wrecking ball, as they strive to return us to ‘normal’: the main concern at the moment seems to be, will people be able to jet off on holiday, or will airlines and holiday companies go out of business? We are still wondering whether there needs to be another runway at Heathrow, and various people want to expand our local (Leeds/Bradford) airport. We are planning to spend astronomical sums on a high speed rail track that will not benefit most of the country. We are not thinking, here is an opportunity to rethink transportation and working practices in order permanently to use far less energy and produce far less pollution.

And this is where I come back to an increasingly frequent thought: we really are not a very intelligent species, and it’s showing more and more. The very rich and powerful have always managed and will always do so: they will survive the ravages of disease and global warming by doing whatever they need and want to do. In the end most of the rest of us can die off, and they will just preserve enough slaves or serfs to sustain their luxury.

I’m currently reading an interesting and unusual take on the story of the Russian Revolution and subsequent attempts to build socialism, and I’m constantly reminded of what a Polish friend who is a historian once told me: a different group managed to take over the reins and they assumed the power, wealth and privilege that goes with it… and all things considered, that is exactly what happened. The rich and powerful are not intelligent, merely rather clever: they see how the current system works in their favour and work single-mindedly to keep it that way. If they were more intelligent, they might see how to do just as well or even better out of preserving the planet for everyone, but that’s not actually necessary from their selfish perspective.

Which leaves the rest of us also deficient in the intelligent stakes, because we collude in allowing all of this to continue, to our detriment. Are we really that stupid?

Keeping us distracted is the first thing. There is so much to watch, do, buy, consume, that we do not have the time to contemplate alternatives, and our media see to keeping it that way. Deceiving us is next: democracy gives us just the right amount of soft power and manipulable choice that we think we are in the best of all possible systems. If that doesn’t work, there’s always brute force to keep us in our place (Chile 1973). So even though a relatively small number of us might succeed in seeing through (some of) the murk, it gets us nowhere…

I get quite depressed seeing this picture of our species, and seek to raise my spirits by thinking of all the astonishing inventiveness and creativity that we have demonstrated through the ages, which has helped get us to our current, quite advanced, state of development. And I think of all the good, helpful, and selfless people I know, those who in so many ways are serving their fellow humans. Is it intelligence that is lacking in all of us, that no-one has yet come up with a way to show enough of us that we must do things differently, and to offer a way of achieving this? Are we so easily duped, deluded and side-tracked?

One Response to “On being a member of a not very intelligent species…”


  1. I think I would want to substitute the word ‘wisdom’ for what you describe as ‘intelligence’, There are plenty of highly intelligent psychopaths around – a good few of them running countries!. I share your view that we’re a faulty species, sadly governed by our hindbrains and entirely unable to deal rationally with the conceptual clash between competition and co-operation (although to be fair, I think other apes have the same problem..)

    Oh well…

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: