This started as a desire to understand money. One day in Quaker Meeting it came to me that money was how we measure our obligations to people we do not love, and my journey began.
DISCLAIMER: What follows is a point of view. Each of us is a body moving through time and space in a unique way. Human societies are a conversation through action, of the patterns we perceive in the world and how we should use those patterns to act in the future.
1 Apparently the earth has been absorbing (and reflecting) energy from the sun for 4.543 billion years. All living things, including you and I and the computer you rode in on, are the result of this energy transforming from chemicals, to plants, to animals, light and sound.
2. The function of the life force on this planet is to create as many variant reproducing life forms as possible to fill the constantly changing environment.
3. Because to live is to be in TIME, the key behaviour built into all life forms is the perception of patterns in the environment and the use of those patterns to predict future events for that individual. Successful predictions enhance food and increase reproductive opportunities.
4. Humans are mammals with the same evolved brain structures and behaviours as all other mammals. Mammals live in groups. Group status is the determinant of whether we feel and are seen as successful. Successful mammals get better food and more reproductive opportunities.
In pre-history most humans lived in small groups. In those groups we did not often meet strangers. Now we live in a world where meeting strangers is the norm and we have created social protocols (manners) and money to let us interact with strangers without violence. We still have our family & friends tribe, but it is geographically splintered.
Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD (Professor Emerita of Management at California State University, East Bay) has a web site (https://innermammalinstitute.org) and several books that explain this in much greater detail. Here's a short summary from her website:
“High-status animals get the best mating opportunities and foraging spots. Natural selection built the brain that causes our frustrations. Mammals seek status because it stimulates serotonin, which feels good. Happiness comes from dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphin. The brain releases Cortisol (bad-feelings) when an internal or external threat is perceived. Cortisol gets your attention and makes you feel like you will die if you don't make it stop. Your past cortisol spurts connected neurons that turn on your cortisol today. Thus, a brief delay or small disappointment can feel like an urgent survival threat. In the state of nature, this promotes survival by motivating a mammal to act fast when it sees signs of past threats to its safety, food, or reproductive success.”
Our "mammal brain" is non verbal, but does express itself through our emotions and behaviours, which are all about how the above named chemicals make us feel as our status constantly changes.
Other recent brain research has shown that when we are not engaged in a physical task, our (mammal) brains are constantly monitoring our status and plotting how to improve it with whatever group we find ourselves in. (Apparently this was one of those accidental discoveries. When people whose brains were being scanned while performing specific tasks completed the task, it was noticed that other parts of the brain immediately became very busy. When the people were asked what they were thinking about, they all were thinking about their relationships and what they were going to do next with those people. (This is the 3rd idea above – patterns and predictions) These books were helpful in providing insights on this: Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the adaptive Unconscious by Timothy D. Wilson, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
Money – Because we live in a society surrounded by strangers that is so different from the one our behaviour evolved in, we have invented money, first as a medium of exchange, but also as a way to display our status to strangers, through our status objects. This CBC Under the Influence episode was a good illustration of this. And because money is status and we can’t have enough status, we can’t have enough money. Money is a good medium of exchange but it is not a good store of value, and that’s where the trouble starts.
I think that our conscious minds are much like the CEO of a large corporation - They think they are in charge and in control, and that they know everything that is happening with the body-mind. But like the CEO, our consciousness really only has vague summaries of all the detailed processes managed by the reptile brain and mammal brains. These processes are manifested by the way we feel both physically and emotionally. Like the CEO, it is the function of the conscious mind to do medium and long range planning, and to 'spin' the story of our lives mostly in a status positive manner, to ourselves and others. I believe we are 'conscious' much less than our conscious minds think we are. It is my experience that my conscious mind is ALWAYS the last to know what's really happening and then it goes to work creating the ‘logical’ reasons to explain why I feel that way. Logical reasons have only a small influence on mammal brain produced ‘feelings’ created by dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphin and cortisol.
5. The life force is spirit, is the world and universe, both inanimate and animate. We need to make this the lens we view the world through. I have had some direct experience of this which I am happy to discuss but not type about right now.
Given the above I can see that there are no 'evil' people. There are just people in different situations acting as mammals do. Some of these behaviours result in terrible things happening to other people. Because there is a limit to how many people we can relate to (Dunbar’s number) our evolved mammal brain does not naturally see other people as all being equal. It sees them as strangers, competitors or people with higher or lower status. The spirit within us (which is rarely allowed to dominate our perception) knows that the earth and all living things are one thing. More reason for quaking.
So it occurs to me, given what Loretta Graziano Breuning, Graeber (Debt - the first 5000 years), Eisenstein (Sacred Economics-free PDF) and others cited in this document know about our behaviour, perhaps it might be useful to create a think tank or some group to discuss and investigate ways to modify how we organize ourselves to be more in line with what we now think are our behavioural tendencies, with all the psychological wounds we all carry.
In the end, I feel the suggested think tank would have to concentrate on subtly and slowly changing cultural values, starting with the young.
So plug these ideas into your "why" questions and see if one or more ideas answers them.