2.b.27 – Culture is nowadays a problem or a resource?

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February 14, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

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Culture is nowadays a problem or a resource?

Cultural evolution is a natural phenomenon and may be benign or malignant as nature is; from the agricultural revolution it has been inserted into it a negative spiral path; now even in the rich and big cities, where the privileged of industrial economy live, those who have a right to see their progress in recent history, the overcrowding is in fact causing a number of psychological and social problems, crime is always growing, as well as stress, isolation and the alienation of the individual, depression and local pollution. Some call the current metropolis “asphalt jungles” to highlight some of its cruel aspects, others compare them to human ant hives, for their population density, but the famous zoologist and adviser Desmond Morris, who has long been the director of the zoo in London, has noted that animals in the jungle, which is their natural environment, do not suffer from nervousness, do not subject themselves to self mutilations, don’t have explosions of aggressiveness, let alone killing their own kind; when instead the same animals are forced into captivity and stored in surplus in the same cage, you found all these behaviors; in the case of animals that are forced into isolation instead we find depression, apathy and even sexual deviations. Coercion in an unnatural habitat leads in short animals to keep the same behavior found in human societies and this happens for the same cause: the reduction of living space or overcrowding and social isolation living in a city of strangers.
Therefore, to define a great city like a jungle of asphalt is definitely improper, it is much better to define it as a human zoo. We, the segregated of the human zoo, also added some aggravations: we close ourselves in a cage and often consider us free; we can improve our cage but instead we make it worst or devastate it, we are the cause of our problems, we are one the jailer of the other and do not realize this.
The modern zoo managers, knowing these phenomena, avoid to store too many animals in a small space or depriving them of social relationships; we do not have the same respect for ourselves, or rather it is our cultural evolution that doesn’t have it.
It is then possible to escape this downward spiral? With our number, our degree of specialization and our dependence on the community are also increased; citizens of today would not be able to survive if suddenly placed in a forest and even if someone taught them how to do, they would be too many, there aren’t as many forests to house them all; we can’t absolutely go backwards, we must go on making the most of our resources, including cooperation in a great community. Considering that the world is changing more rapidly than ever, for solving the problems of the future, including those related to cultural evolution, we have less and less time; it follows that the only hope of salvation, paradoxically, is a rapid cultural adaptation of both individuals and communities.
Culture is our only available resource in this situation of rapid changes, the source of all the major problems mentioned above, on the other hand, is a cultural evolution outside our control; from these two premises, we see that crux of the problem is not culture, but the lack of control of the evolutionary process, which proceeds abandoned to himself, only guided by pitiless laws of competition and natural selection. But we must remember that now there is a component of evolution which is under our control: it is the part due to our conscious and systematic study, led by science and reason, the one we defined as the artificial selection of culture that generally realizes the true progress for humanity. This component has already done much to mitigate the adverse effects of the vicious spiral in which we find ourselves, so that we confused it with the real progress, but is not yet strong enough to stop this spiral; the world continues to change at increasing speed and the negative aspects can no longer be ignored.
Fortunately for us, the progress of natural sciences, other fruit of cultural evolution, today allows us to understand the mechanisms of evolution itself and gives us the opportunity to be able to manage them to our benefit; today we have the opportunity to reinforce the positive part of evolution to block the negative aspects, we just have to learn to better manage our culture. Only when we succeed in this operation, having understood the mechanisms of evolution, this frenetic evolution will focus in the right direction and finally slow down.
In other words, noting that spontaneous progress is a myth, we must concluded that to achieve a better future we must work for it, deliberately and rationally caring for our interests, starting with the individual welfare. Again, culture comes as our main resource, as the view for the hawks and the smell for dogs, we cannot and must not do without it.

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