The Veil of Society

If you don’t believe in Evolution, then the rest of this may not make much sense.

Have you ever wondered why people are such jerks?  That guy who cut you off on the freeway, the lady who yelled at you in the store.  Well, here’s one way to look at it…

As humans evolved, they relied on increasingly complex brains to interpret and interact with their world.  It’s the same for every other creature on the planet.  The parts of the human brain that govern sleep, breathing, and everything else, are the same parts that govern those things in other animals.  We share more with that growling dog than we might like to admit.  Humans are unique in one way, though.  We have a pre-frontal cortex.  That’s right, we have the ability to perform complex reasoning.  That part of our brain is the crowning achievement of evolution… on this planet, at least.  It’s what allows us to envision complex and esoteric things.  Most of the old parts of our brains are still there, though.

That leads to some irresolvable conflicts.  Our society is based on the concept that we’re all in competition with each other.  We’re not the first humans to organize ourselves this way.  It’s been that way since we started forming small tribes.  As our society evolved, we developed ever more complex ways of reinforcing our competitive natures.  Is that our true nature, though?  It’s certainly not the largest part of what humans are.  It’s not the best of what humans are, either.  It is in the thinking part of our brain that we come closest to that evolutionary pinnacle that has been given to us.

So, when you’re tailgating that slow driver, what part of your brain are you using?  The reasoning part of your brain would (rightly) say that this is an unnecessary and dangerous situation.  It’s the more primitive part of our brains that keeps the foot on the pedal and the hand on the horn.  Competition and aggression are ingrained in our society, after all.  It’s artificial, though.  Lying to your neighbor so you can keep his lawnmower for another weekend is easy because the reality-show contestants do it all the time.  That’s how you win, after all.  It’s not TV’s fault, really.  We hunger for competition.  That’s why watching someone getting hit in the Jewels is so universally funny.  That’s one guy who won’t be stealing my lawnmower today!

Which part of your brain dominates your thoughts each day?  Do you look at your fellow humans with compassion or derision?  It’s not easy to let go of our essential natures.  We’ve been competing with each other a lot longer than we’ve had the capacity to live together peacefully.  Dropping that mental barrier exposes you to any number of threats.  The only way you will ever encourage someone to see you as anything but a competitor is to drop that barrier, though.  A tricky proposition if I ever saw one.  We do have the luxury of reaching out.  We don’t have to compete for food, unless you count getting in the deli line before that pushy lady.  The ancient reasons for our conflicts don’t exist anymore, but we continue to play the part as best we can… a mental appendix, if you will.

No one will lift the veil, unless you do.  An old saying goes “The greatest love is self love.”  Does tailgating bring any pleasure?  Not to me.  So, I don’t tailgate.  I drive as if my life is precious to me, because it is.  I have no ego to soothe at the expense of that hapless driver in front of me, or even the lady at the deli counter.  Suppressing the urge to ride a slow driver, or race that lady to the counter is easy.  I just use the better part of my brain to keep the growling dog at bay.

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