Man: An Unphilosophical Enquiry
The ability to talk or power of speech, offered its own strength and opportunities in mans development, much as it also had weaknesses and threats. Improper communication of thoughts, philosophies created misunderstanding and tensions that perhaps led on to the first human conflict and wars.
Nothing more mysterious, more unexplained remained in man, than his mind - and once the mind started acting - i.e. thinking, man grew conscious as to his immediate needs. What came first - man or his mind is as debatable as the hen or egg! Survival perhaps figured most prominently in mans first list of priorities. Man learnt to survive natural extremities - wild beast that preyed on man for food, illness, hunger and whatever else you want to add to that list. Survival meant fighting all odds so man learnt how to survive without a teacher, without a guideline. The survival instinct came naturally to man. Nature was his greatest teacher, his greatest friend and philosopher. He probably learnt how to fight from beasts as he did not consider himself any different than beasts, other than his ability to talk. He took lessons and passed it on to his fellow man, a simple process that over years created experts with skills. Expertise led on to collective replication, duplication and improvisations. Improvisation led to many ideas being condemned of being obsolete and discarded. New ideas evolved - man discovered competition. Man moved on. Creativity charged mans imagination and led on to inventions to make life a lot simpler and easier. Man became conscious that he is condemned to a life of hard labour - whether physical or mental. He wanted to change his environment, to make labour more easily, more pleasurable. The pursuit of pleasure has always been mans greatest vice. Man has never enjoyed a monopoly on virtues!
As man moved, he also learnt the skills of oppression - the continuation of that meant annihilation of other man - for material or other gains to himself and for others who relied on him or his imagination. Leaders were born - superior man who propelled themselves into position of power and authority. Weaknesses in one leader created other leaders. This was mans check on another beast: man ! This was his way of restricting another mans aspirations. War came naturally to man - as a survival instinct. War ensured trophies and bounties. The vanquished wealth and women became immediate possessions if a war was won. Man made his fellow man slaves and bound him in chain and shackles. The human mind also derived grotesque and perverted pleasure to see his once powerful enemy at his mercy - his slave. To see ones enemy capitulate was a great accomplishment, so man took it another step further. He played God, slaughtering his fellow man. The process of decapitating and torturing an enemy sometimes continued for days on end till he died. By watching misery an enemy endured at his death throes, man discovered a new trait in his imagination: cruelty. He also learnt about the power of human endurance, and learnt the differences between, painful and painless deaths. Inexplicably as a continuation of cruelty he also learnt collective carnage: genocide. Man also became the ultimate survivor against his fellow mans ignominy and insensitivity. The vanquished also had a voice and resurrected themselves over time. Man moved on.
On the flip side, man learnt about death without dying, so that it meant killing his fellow man to take that once step further to: knowledge. He ate his flesh and dissected his body to learn the intricacies of his bones, nerves and veins. The experience he thus gained taught him how pain was to be dealt with. He discovered among others a remedy to end human misery: medicine. Planet earth was and still is a biological laboratory and man will keep paying the ultimate price - himself - to ensure that his species does not go extinct. Man still had not learnt how to dissect the human imagination. It remains the most mysterious and potent unknown in his existence. Man aspired for peace, for freedom from the shackles of oppression. War was always a double-edged sword, it created opportunity for peace by annihilation for those that did not share one mans imagination, his thought process, his concept of right or wrong. It also created for those that survived a war - the victorious, a semblance of peace with all the bounty Mother Nature has to offer. For those that lost wars, man discovered humiliation that led on to tolerance. Tolerance is a trait for those that have suffered and lost most in life.
It was perhaps at this juncture that the third thought process evolved - the free thinkers. The free thinkers believed that mans greatest enemy was his mind, a mind that only saw two colours - black and white. He represented the grey segment of the natural canvas. He believed that only a combination of black and white would ensure that the human species did not go extinct. The first free thinker, were also the first liberals and had to pay a price, with their lives. The greatest tragedy of man has been that its free thinkers were discovered posthumously. What they had left behind for his fellow men were however gems. Genetic time capsules that faithfully encoded the basic human trait: goodness. Man among his many natural attributes has arguably goodness in the highest dosage. Yet given circumstances, man can commit evil more naturally than he would goodness. What makes him commit evil will forever remain mans investigation: for now there is no answer.
Man argued that peace couldn't be found if war is considered a solution - but that argument never ended wars. He therefore fine-tuned his thinking and communicative skill to invent a compromise philosophy to replace a subordinate philosophy - so that man can continue to live and let live. More colours were painted into the natural canvas. Nothing much happened. Man continued to argue that peace is not the absence of war, but the absence of the conditions that leads man to war. The foremost of those conditions were and still remain for man his greatest vice: suspicion. The proverbial 'keep the guard up' - is mans natural trait. Man is mans enemy, and there is no man on planet earth that does not have an individual, common or collective enemy.
Man cannot remain defensive without weapons. Tragically weapons of defense in mans history has more often been used, as weapons of offense - because man has believed that 'offense is the best defense'! So man continues to imperil the world by his basic instinct for survival. Mans greatest industry has been war industries, his military industrial complexes - which have traditionally supplied armament for mans war. Because wars never ended, the armaments industry only flourished. As the world got bigger and was divided over and over again, nations, countries, continents, sub continents, regions surfaced - and what he has inherited today is the collective result of that original human instinct: mans quest for freedom.
Guarantee of freedom for man however, comes at gunpoint, so mans war industry got more focused and organized in its singular obsession - the killing of fellow man. Weapons to kill millions at a time remains mans most sacred and secret possessions today, its bargaining chip, its symbol of freedom.
The problem with freedom is it cannot be had, if man does not have peace. The problem with peace is, man has not yet figured out how to make money out of it! If the military industrial complexes are dismantled today - if wars end, the next war will be fought by the unemployed millions from these very same industrial complexes? The fear of unemployment makes man desperate. Man demobilized from war, have found employment in other wars: mercenaries are mans oldest professional warmongers.
Man has thrived on chaos. Peace and chaos has never walked hand in hand. It has always been a tilted balance because of mans propensity for chaos is supreme, as he has not overcome his basic insecurity - translated to mean man made fear or fear of man. Fear again is the driving force behind mans energetic discoveries. Man has well realized that a peaceful planet earth would be, well quite boring. His imagination forces him to spends most of his money and energy in pursuit of real or imagined enemies within his own kind and outside. Man has set foot on the moon and has sent robots to Mars - many more planets are targeted for mans discovery.
Question: What is man trying to discover? Rocks and landscapes? The answer is man is looking for life, and when man says 'life' his intention is to discover - something resembling man. If by accident, life is discovered on any other planet, man with all its inclination for peace will actually be discovering a life form that he will construe to be his enemy. Do not expect man to go and shake hand with a green Martian and say 'Hi old chap - do you know we have been waiting to meet you guys for couple of million years?' - rather it would be natural for man, to shoot or capture such a creature, and find out what his chemistry is all about in a laboratory back home! The fear of the unknown propels man on.
When we say 'extra terrestrials' (ET) - mans mind conjures images of creatures with superior intelligence. Man has rarely accepted a superior man for far too long, its history being filled with stories of pickup and dumps - and therefore it would be a travesty to expect man to fall in love with the first ET it meets. If life is discovered on another planet - bad news for man. Man will mobilize all resources at its disposal to make war. If Hollywood movies are any indicator of mans collective visual imagination - I am sure readers will not miss the point. But is there any other intelligent life form in our solar system other than man? My twelve-year-old son believes that there is, but feels they will be discovered millions of years from today. The truth is no one knows. However mans imagination will create one, even if there is none, and man will drive himself into frenzy trying to kill or subdue the monsters. There are zillions of crackpots in the world that believe in ET's and perhaps billions more who believe in UFO's. Man has the capacity to live unto its beliefs, to the extent of creating a belief system - even if there may be no rationale. Man will ofcourse question and doubt, for that is also natural for man!
Modern man is as superstitious as his ancestors that walked planet earth millions of years ago. Superstition arose because of his basic survival instinct - when he failed to find logical answers to his question, he invented answers to suit his immediate needs. Myths were born to create and reinforce those superstitions and together with changing times man thought he found answers to many of his questions. Man discovered many more colors in his natural canvas from his first black, white and grey. His natural canvas looked more like a kaleidoscope. Mans imagination searched for answers to new questions. For man living on planet earth, it is a back and forth process. As he looked forward he also made painful enquiries into the past to find a clue as to his existence. He looked back at traditions - knowing fully well that tradition is something man has always left behind if not discarded. He looked back and picked up what he thought can lead him forward. He realized that his ancestors have left behind a value system, which has endured times because it was 'correct' and was destined to protect his, other basic instinct: goodness. Survival meant choosing the worst possible opportunities that the future - the unexplained future required him to choose. Man also learnt how to side step to dodge and weave - he learnt how to live with his enemy.
Mans experiment with death was also a back and forth process. He probably wanted to know life after death - for his survival instinct convinced him that even if his physical body died, his mind did not. He found proof of this in his sleep. As he woke each morning, he tried to investigate where his mind disappeared as he slept? Each waking morning was a invigorating experience, for his sleep took him somewhere he did not know nor did he have a clue. So he argued that when physical death occurs his mind will still be resurrected, somewhere down a vacant hollow - a tunnel at best. He believed in reincarnation and this belief led him on to search for God. The search for God perhaps became more intense when man took a step backward to find out 'where he has come from'? Man is sufficiently convinced of where he is going after death - but where he was before his birth, still remains a huge void in his imagination. Anthropologist have tracked back man to apes with scientific evidence - but exactly when man as we know him today first evolved is still unknown. There is a great 'missing link' between man and his ape ancestors!
The concept of a monotheistic God, as is mans belief system is modern. God as we know him today is approximately two thousand years old. Mans discovery of God has not been by chance or an invention. He found God when he knew that at some point he had to surrender. Man realized that his imagination was limited, and while his quest for knowledge is unending, physically man cannot survive long enough to have answers to all questions in his life. He for instance could predict the days and the nights, the winds and the fire, the volcanoes and the earthquakes, the storms and the tidal surges - but much as he tried he could not duplicate these phenomenon's on his own. Man or his imagination could not re -create nature - and it is not as if man has not tried hard enough? As he looked up at the stars at night he did not find answers to what all the darkness represents much as he did not find answers to where the blue dome ended - or who was the ultimate artist that painted the horizon with all colours known to man, in a consistently different exhibition each evening as the sun went down. Man learnt to be romantic.
Man looked at different sizes of things in his body, and this convinced him that his brain, the power house of his imagination is not designed to fuel his constant yearning. Man has many more questions, and actually fewer answers. As he procreated and created other man - his children, he learnt to calculate the months of pregnancy. The possible date and time of birth still remained outside his control, as also the possible time or death of man. Nature does not provide a definite answer - that has been natures nature.
Because mans imagination is so fertile, he has doubted the proof of his own existence. Though man believes that contradiction between existence and non existence is the greatest of all existence - yet he has wanted to know if this life, the one he has at any given moment, is not just another big spurt of the imagination - that this very existence is one big dream, and that he may wake up one morning to find himself in quite a different sphere of existence! The imagination of man has also the ability to twist his imagination.
Man burns out, man is born to die - death defies the imagination and as much as it gives food for thought, man has not been able to know much more about his ancestors than what they have left behind in records - written or otherwise. A complete and absolute record of what can be considered 'mans complete imagination' is however not available. Knowledge is the cumulative product of mans imagination - what we value as knowledge today will be rendered obsolete by our fellow man and this will happen much earlier than the time man has taken to discard the knowledge left behind by his ancestors.
Man has always questioned the accomplishment of his ancestors, whenever he has wanted clear proof, however many of the achievements in 'recent times' have left him baffled specially when he reasoned with civilization like the Mayans and the Incas - proof that modern man is never as superior as he wishes to be.
Science a man made invention provided some, if not all the answer to mans quest for rationale. Man discovered science to explain the law of nature - yet what is defined is also the hard work of mans imagination. The ultimate creator of nature has truly not been identified and man remains as baffled and frustrated than the ones that walked planet earth millions of years ago. Science's contribution has been one endless saga of good and evil for man. Science has dared man to experiment and seek new adventures, new discoveries. It has made communication a staying force - and like his ancestors, science has allowed man to miscommunicate. Mans basic nature and imagination has not gone through great changes. Although the backgrounds maybe different suspicion, fear and oppression are the mainstay of mans quest today. His basic survival instinct makes him commit the same evil as his ancestors and there is certainly nothing humane in man than what he thinks immediately as a necessary method of survival. Man takes great pride in differentiating himself from beasts - but his beastly nature is manifest in his interaction with his fellow man. That ultimately leads us to the most important question: Will man become extinct? If the social processes and philosophies that has guided man since his unknown inception continues, as it must, than mans future is suspect. The doomsday philosophy expounded by many religions is an early warning system invented by man to check that that one suicidal human instinct: fear. The progresses of science has made that fear all the more realistic - when we consider that mans armament industry has weapons of mass destruction with powers to completely alter the natural process. What a meteor did to change the earth's atmosphere and environment and led the dinosaurs to go extinct - man has now more power at its disposal with its stockpiling of nuclear and biological weapons. In the event of a nuclear war - man, will not have a winner? The complete History of The Dinosaurs has been written. Sadly, the complete History of Man will never be written simply because no man will be around to write or read it.
First Published 19th August 1997