The Peace Deal

Entry by: GCLE

19th February 2015

A Symposium

The spirit of the mountain range in the west looked out towards the youthful group under the she-oaks with benign indifference. The spirit of the blue water in the bay paid no attention, and the dying waves shooting up the beach said, “Whoosh.”

“What hope for the latest peace deal Bruce?” said Jessica.
“Zero of course.”
“The old cynic again,” said Chris.
“But it’s still worth discussing,” Bert claimed, eager to have his say.
“Frankly I don’t give a damn,” said Mary Lou. “I’m going for another swim.” And she ran off down the beach.
“Probably looking for some big fellow who might protect her,” said Sharon.
“Why are you so sure about zero Bruce?”
“Well you must have heard about the selfish gene. We are all descendents of individuals that survived long enough to reproduce at least once. And we can assume they survived by ruthless competition with others for food and shelter. We can’t help being selfish and aggressive when our survival seems threatened.”
“Did I hear someone quoting Richard Dawkins,” asked Chris with mock surprise.
Bruce laughed. “Sneer away. He got a lot of things right.”
“His trouble was he overlooked compassion, and empathy,” said Chris, “the things that conflict with selfish aggression. Interestingly you won’t find the word ‘love’ in the index of his famous book. Please look for it, I can’t see it.”
“But how would empathy have evolved in a competitive environment,” asked Jessica.
“It probably evolved when individuals found advantage in surviving as a group. Each individual gave a little of itself to another and thus became part of another,” suggested Bruce.
“That’s very interesting,” said Bert. “So there might be hope for peace yet.”
“Trouble is that when things get serious enough, self preservation tends to override empathy,” Bruce answered.
“So if each peace deal that comes up fails, where is humanity headed?” asked Sharon.
“Downhill,” said Bruce. “And probably pretty soon.”
A frown wrinkled Sharon's forehead. “A little more detail please.”
“Well let’s look at current events. Refugees are pouring into safer countries and increasing the congestion in already overcrowded cities. They either obtain welfare support or take scarce jobs from the locals. This reduces the survival potential of the locals, some of whom react defensively and some of whom endure the discomfort out of compassion for the refugees (or for fear of complaining). This provides a good example of the conflict between the instinct for survival and the instinct for compassion. Do we let the refugees in or try keep them out?”
“Next you’ll be saying that the survivalists are the right wingers and the compassionates are among the rest, I expect.”
“Of course, and you will have noticed the right wingers numbers are increasing. When the situation gets bad enough more civil wars will break out and the religious extremists will move in to take advantage of the situation. Then the religious right of America will become involved and we can expect a replay of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“It seems over-population has a lot to do with the current situation,” said Chris.
“Yes but it’s far too late to do anything about that,” said Jessica. “ We should have started when the Chinese did, thirty years ago. And even with the one child policy their population has continued to grow somewhat.”
“How can that be?” asked Chris.
“I don’t know, but I suppose it’s something to do with the balance between the rate of births and deaths during the time when births were accelerating. The effect must carry through for a long time before settling down.
“So what can be done?”
“Ask Bruce.”