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Human Fralities Path to Self-Destruction

Updated on August 1, 2021
Michael L Falk profile image

Retired social psychologist/criminologist who served as regional director of the NYS Division of Parole for Manhattan and The Bronx.

Power and its symbiotic enabler, capitalism, are literally killing our planet and its people, today more than ever.

Unfortunately, this unbridled destruction has been going on for centuries but like a roller coaster plunging ever so much faster to its bottom, recent events have riveted our attention to the perfect storm of global warming, a pandemic and collapsing economies.

Although this massive destruction has just recently coalesced, it has a long history that uncovers the true nature of our civilization.

Throughout the existence of mankind, war has been the one dominant factor in defining our survival on this planet. It never ends. Its monumental costs in terms of lives, dollars and human suffering has been a consistent but yet, all too often disregarded blight on humanity.

The killing of one another has remained a shameful pillar of our species. Yet, shame has seldom been a factor in how we deal with each other. History clearly shows that the relentless murder of each other is, in fact, the true nature of our civilization. We’ve developed any number of convenient rationalizations for disrespecting the dignity of all human life to the extent that killing, for whatever reason, has sadly become the accepted norm. Just consider the propaganda of justification for an untold body count of mostly innocent civilians caught up in power struggles. Killing is as common as living and we seldom see the true horror in it. We’ve been emotionally anesthetized to the tragic loss of human life by sanitized media scenes of detached reality that seldom affect us personally.

Despite our many advances that for the most part have been purely technological, the manner in which we treat each other is still in the dark ages. The wanton killing of one another is made even more egregious by the destruction of countries, cities, villages and displacement of millions of refugees who’ve barely managed to survive the bloodshed.

The cold reality we’ve so conveniently air brushed into acceptance is that war, in all its forms, is simply attrition by the greater body count or, to be more blunt, which side can kill more human beings (i.e. sons, fathers, daughters, mothers, brothers, sisters, babies, grandparents, families, etc.). Is this wanton destruction worth the objective? Is the quest for power more important than the permanent loss of another human being?

The sanctity of life is belied by the callous manner in which we so willingly allow it to be taken.

Or, is there no sanctity of life?

Is human life just another part of the environment for the advantageous taking to achieve other ends. Notwithstanding the propaganda of positive spins, history tells the horrifying facts that clearly show there is no sanctity of life. It’s purely a contrived morality issue that has evolved to control the masses by those who’ve assumed such power for the benefit it provides.

We are an extremely violent species who pretend otherwise. Although we continually pray for peace, it’s because peace is never sustained. The reality is that instead, we kill for peace; we kill to preserve; we kill to protect; we kill to punish; we kill to acquire; we kill over differences; we kill for power; we kill for money; we kill for control; we kill to retaliate; we kill for territory; we kill for retribution; we kill for religious ideals; we kill for democracy; we kill for resources; we kill by “collateral damage”; we kill for independence; we kill to defend against potential terrorists; we kill as a deterrent; we kill to gain; we kill again and again. “Might makes right”???

We’ve even developed clever words to mask the horrors of unrelenting slaughter such as ethnic cleansing, genocide, holocaust, conflict, police action, skirmish, hostilities, encounter, dispute, aggression, controlled engagement, military intervention, preemptive strike, overseas contingency operations and, that old standby, war. Killing, no matter the words or how you spin it, is still killing. The willful taking of human life cannot be sanitized.

Each death by purposely taken diminishes the rest of us as a humane civilization.

Like all other organisms on this planet, we have two basic functions that are intrinsically intertwined; (1) to perpetuate the species through procreation; and (2) to survive. What happens in between defines us. And, although we’ve made huge advances in technology, the real hallmark of our identity is the manner in how we respect all life including the life of our planet. The humanity of coexistence.

History has clearly shown us over and over again that a great majority of our species are fundamentally racists, bias, prejudice and intolerant of those who are different from us either by skin color, physical appearance, language, culture, religion, race, class distinction or country which gives rise to certain untoward behaviors. At best, we tolerate those differences to avoid being confrontational just to “get along” rather than the more ideal behavior of unequivocally embracing our mutual humanity. Unfortunately, our most common reaction to these differences is conflict that frequently regresses to aggression and violence.

One of the foremost causes of the atrocities we so frequently visit on each other with such “knee jerk” rapidity is that of power. An examination of power struggles throughout the ages invariably centers around the linked aspects of wealth, territory and authority over others. In its various forms, capitalism or the production, attainment and control of wealth, is at the root of power. Almost all aggression by our species has been fought for power by those in power or those seeking power. War for the most part has always been a tool of the ruling class in the furtherance of expanding or protecting their wealth interests, be it by control of resources, territory and/or people. It’s the lives of many for the benefit of the few. Yet, millions are sent off to die or be maimed not for democracy or freedom but rather, for power.

Power is the seduction of ego gratification. It’s the ultimate ego trip whether by a rapist, battering husband, school yard bully, dictatorial boss, political tyrant or oligarchical government. One could argue that it almost seems natural given the prominence of this behavior but that, unfortunately, is a great part of our delusion and consequently, acceptance of war for its many ostensible purposes. This type of myopic blindness that characterizes a society so accepting of aggression and war is also blind to the deleterious effect that capitalism has unquestionably, been the underlying cause of global tension and conflict.

Power needs capitalism. And to succeed, capitalism needs power structures to survive. Their means is either by control of market forces or, in the extreme, violent aggression either physical, economic, environmental or all three. It’s the three headed dragon of power, capitalism and aggression that has eaten up the lives of so many innocent species, human or otherwise.

Regardless of how it’s spun, capitalism and its engine, Wall Street, function solely for the production of infinite profit. Instead of simply fulfilling a subsistence need, capitalism depends upon a profit motive over and above basic needs and furthermore, manufactures an expansion of those needs into a proliferation of commodities that go well beyond subsistence as attested by the endless assault of advertisements for non-essential convenience products. It’s called “progress” to make living simpler and easier.

Mahatma Gandhi observed that, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”. Pure and simple, capitalism is driven by greed to continually produce more profit for the benefit of its stakeholders. Capitalism cannot exist without profit.

Aggression has been the strong arm of capitalism that feeds the power structure and although this paper has focused solely on the loss of life from wars, there’s a whole other loss from capitalistic ventures that have comprised health, environmental and infrastructure issues that dramatically affect the lives of untold millions.

Kings, queens, monarchs, emperors, presidents, and prime ministers have clearly shown that beyond any shadow of doubt, the greatest threat to life on this planet is the insatiable lust for power.

Contrary to our educational indoctrination of the government’s purpose being a representative democracy, it has instead evolved into a tool of the few to accumulate enormous wealth and power by controlling and exploiting the ignorance of the masses through the use of propaganda and fear.

We as a species inhabiting this planet in conjunction with all other species and organisms need to understand the reality of our existence and the effect we have on each other and the planet. It’s not so much a matter of what we’ve become but rather, what we haven’t ....


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