With so much predation going on these days, I often think about a different place where humankind has evolved beyond its constant quests for power and control. The U.S. is in the throes of a struggle for its future. It’s possible that in 2023, the country could be completely unrecognizable, although many of us already find it so, but not in a direction that we want to be going.
So what would I like to see? I would like to live in a world where humans have stopped being a predatory species preying upon one another whether through physical violence, economic exploitation, or supremacist goals. In this world, humans will have realized that while we may have some superficial differences in customs, preferences, or even physical attributes, we really are all the same, and nobody is any better than anyone else. Humans will have come to realize that it helps us all if nobody has to suffer.
In this imagined world, humans will have reached some kind of steady state so that the population will have stopped increasing or decreasing by any appreciable amount. There would be far fewer people overall than we have today, but there would be sufficient resources so that nobody has to struggle for the essentials of life such as shelter, food, clothing, transportation, and healthcare. Our advances would be geared toward quality of life, not increasing our quantity of years, accumulation of wealth, or outdoing or controlling one another. We would have found a way to tap our skills to help one another, not because we have to, but because we want to.
Clearly this world is not one that any humans living today could inhabit. Our national barriers are too ingrained to fully trust and cooperate on a worldwide scale to this degree. In the U.S., we are trained from infancy to succeed by beating out the competition. Competition in itself isn’t necessarily bad, but instilling a win at all costs mindset is counterproductive and defeats the thing that humans need above all else – teamwork. Humans are a cooperative species not suited to survive in complete isolation from one another. We all benefit from our national infrastructure, but when it comes to academics, employment, and various essentials for life, competition often gets in the way.
I think back to my algebraic number theory class when I was in grad school. Our professor recognized that he had an eager group of students who just wanted to learn. It was a small class, and most of us got together every Saturday morning to debate the homework which consisted of extremely complicated proofs. We told the professor what we were doing, and he fully approved. Rather than the standard format of competing against one another for grades, he revamped the class and gave no tests. Instead, the homework became a group project that was not assigned a score of any kind but was used to ensure understanding. We each had to turn in our own homework, but we worked through the exercises together, each of us putting our own spin on the complex proofs that we tackled. We also shared an international potluck each Saturday as part of our study session. The class was quite diverse, and we established some great friendships along the way. That professor remains one of my most memorable from my grad school years. When it came to our allotted final exam time, we were required to attend, but our professor held it in the campus pub where we discussed mathematics from many perspectives. The goal of that class was to help one another master the material, not to beat one another.
I had several other classes along the way prior to grad school that were graded on a straight percentage, but the class participants helped one another in similar ways, and in the end everyone mastered the material at a high level. There was no quota to punish the “low performer.” Instead the goal was to make sure everyone got it, and they did.
Looking at the current state of the U.S., everything has been couched as a fight. Most of these fights are over some form of controlling others in ways that should not be legislated whether it’s deciding whether to procreate, how to worship, where to live, where to travel within the country, mandating who we can love, or even the most basic thing of all, legislating who we are.
I think that’s really the heart of our problems as a species. Will we ever stop trying to control one another and instead cooperate to help each other? Others having rights doesn’t mean we have less. It means we all have more because we can accomplish so much more together than by fighting amongst ourselves.