WERELD & DENKEN
 
 
Uit: Language in Thought and Action, door S.I. Hayakawa.

Chapter 1  Language and Survival

What Animals Shall We Imitate?

People who think of themselves as tough-minded and realistic, among them influential political leaders and businessmen as well as go-getters and hustlers of smaller caliber, tend to take it for granted that human nature is selfish and that life is a struggle in which only the fittest may survive. According to this philosophy, the basic law by which man must live, in spite of his surface veneer of civilization, is the law of the jungle. The "fittest" are those who can bring to the struggle superior force, superior cunning, and superior ruthlessness.
    The wide currency of this philosophy of the "survival of the fittest" enables people who act ruthlessly and selfishly, whether in personal rivalries, business competition, or international relations, to allay their consciences by telling themselves that they are only obeying a law of nature. But a disinterested observer is entitled to ask whether the ruthlessness of the tiger, the cunning of the' ape, and obedience to the law of the jungle are, in their human applications, actually evidences of human fitness to survive. If human beings are to pick up pointers on behavior from the lower animals, are there not animals other than beasts of prey from which we might learn lessons in survival?
    We might, for example, point to the rabbit or the deer and define fitness to survive as superior rapidity in running away from our enemies. We might point to the earthworm or the mole and define it as the ability to keep out of sight and out of the way. We might point to the oyster or the housefly and define it as the ability to propagate our kind faster than our enemies can eat us up. If we are looking to animals for models of behavior, there is also the pig, an animal which many human beings have tried to emulate since time immemorial. (It will be remembered that in the Odyssey Circe gave ingenious and practical encouragement to those inc1ined this way.) In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, we see a world designed by those who would model human beings after the social ants. The world, under the management of a super-brain-trust, might be made as well-integrated, smooth, and efficient as an ant colony and, as Huxley shows, just about as meaningless. If we simply look to animals in order to define what we mean by "fitness to survive," there is no limit to the subhuman systems of behavior that can be devised: we may emulate lobsters, dogs, sparrows, parakeets, giraffes, skunks, or the parasitical worms, because they have all obviously survived in one way or another. We are still entitled to ask, however, if human survival does not revolve around a different kind of fitness from that of the lower animals.
    Because of the wide prevalence of the dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest philosophy in our world (although the H-bomb has awakened some people to the need for a change in philosophy), it is worth while to look into the present scientific standing of the phrase "survival of the fittest." Biologists distinguish between two kinds of struggle for survival. First, there is the interspecific struggle, warfare between different species of animals, as between wolves and deer, or men and bacteria. Second, there is the intraspecific struggle, warfare among members of a single species, as when rats fight other rats, or men fight other men. A great deal of evidence in modem biology indicates that those species which have developed elaborate means of intraspecific competition often unfit themselves for interspecific competition, so that such species are either already extinct or are threatened with extinction at any time. The peacock's tail, although useful in sexual competition against other peacocks, is only a hindrance in coping with the environment or competing against other species. The peacock could therefore be wiped out overnight by a sudden change in ecological balance. There is evidence, too, that strength and fierceness in fighting and killing other animals, whether in interspecific or intraspecific competition, have never been enough of themselves to guarantee the survival of a species. Many a mammoth reptile, equipped with magnificent offensive and defensive armaments, ceased millions of years ago to walk the earth.
    If we are going to talk about human survival, one of the first things to do, even if we grant that men must fight to live, is to distinguish between those qualities that are useful to men in fighting the environment and other species (for example, floods, storms, wild animals, insects, or bacteria ) and those qualities (such as aggressiveness) that are useful in fighting other men.
    The principle that if we don't hang together we shall all hang separately was discovered by nature long before it was put into words by man. Cooperation within a species (and sometimes with other species) is essential to the survival of most living creatures. Man, moreover , is the talking animal-and any theory of human survival that leaves this fact out of account is no more scientific than would be a theory of beaver survival that failed to consider the interesting uses a beaver makes of its teeth and flat tail. Let us see what talking-human communication-means.


Toepassingen:
De neurologische onderbouwing aangaande het samenwerkende karakter van de mens staat hier uitleg of detail . Voorbeelden van een systematische vorm van bovenstaande beschreven soort van anti-sociaal denken zijn gegeven in de verzameling hier uitleg of detail , en de specifieke versie met daarin het gebruik van de term "de menselijke natuur" hier uitleg of detail . De bijbehorende sociologische beschrijving van dit "Ikke, ikke, ikke en de rest kan stikke"-denken is te volgen vanaf hier uitleg of detail .


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