Monday, July 31, 2017

Wanna go down with me? (7/31/2017)

" I observe that there are two entirely different theories according to which men seek to get on, in the world," Elihu Root wrote.  "One theory leads a man to pull down everybody around him in order to climb up on them to get to a higher place.  The other leads a man to help everybody around him in order that he may go up with them."  Pretty deep isn't it; but who the heck was Elihu Root?

Root was Secretary of State and of War under President Theodore Roosevelt and McKinley.  He was a political "wise man", an adviser; he was an important lawyer; a U.S. Senator; and the recipient of the 1912 Nobel Peace Price.  Wow, and now I finally learned about the man.  Damn it, he was a republican.  But wait, that was a long time ago when we did not have that extreme political partisanship.

Why bring this up?  More and more am I getting this feeling somewhere in between bewilderment, confusion and sometimes being amused.  It sure is an interesting world we live in.  We see Root's theories playing out every day.  This past week it has been going on in our Nation's Capital, where civility seems to have taken a back seat, and people are pulling each other down in order to get ahead.  You must be living under a rock if you have not heard about Anthony Scaramucci's interview with the New Yorker.  Hopefully they are not pulling us all down with them, but it starts feeling that way.

Wow, here again I venture into politics and I shouldn't.   The minute I do this the hits from Russian internet sources to my blog increase exponentially.  I am not sure why, but somehow, somebody must either like or dislike it when I write about U.S. politics.  But regardless, it bothers me that humankind when confronted with these two pathways of getting ahead will still elect to choose to climb over others rather than work with others.  It is a dog eat dog world out there!

When I look in nature (let me remind you that I am a naturalist/biologist and not a political scientist or philosopher), the great societies are all based on cooperation rather than climbing over each other's back.  Bees and ants can only function in unison, not as individuals.  They don't climb over each other to get ahead.  Yet bee and ant colonies are among the most complex societies known to man, with strict social structures.  They tend to kill other species or intruders from other colonies, but their social organization is amazing.  Even a pack of wolves, macaque monkeys, chimpanzees, you name it, all have structure.  Yes there is competition and dominance or seniority, but I do not think that this is to the detriment of others in the group; maybe with the exception of the co-dominant in the group that gets pushed out.  That's a struggle for leadership of the group, not dominance at the cost of others.

This is not one of my better pictures (the bee is not in focus), but it shows our cup plant in bloom and a visiting bee.  Bees have a tremendous social structure that allows to function the way they do, to collect honey, from large distances.  Their communication is amazing as well.
Trees in the forest are the same; they all compete for light, water and nutrients.  Plants of the same species tend not to climb over each other, but they do compete.  In their competition they actually help each other grow faster, taller and more efficient.  What a novel idea.  Yes there are parasitic plants and vines that will strangle other plants, but as I have written before (for example in "Dog hairs in the woods") there is structure and a natural order to things.

As I tell the people in my classes, I am a master of over-simplification.  It is much more complex than this.  I just feel that currently as a society we are in a race for the bottom.  The way we are treating each other is horrible; the civility is gone; as is the empathy for our fellow human beings.  I am sorry, but after a week like last week I had to vent.  Hopefully next post will be positive again, and hopefully John McCain can come back to the Senate again to preach what seems his version of commonsense and bipartisanship.

Let me have it and rip me apart with you comments and critique!

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