November 19, 2018

Enlightenment Lost: A Faustian Exchange of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for Self Glorification and Material Convenience

Nellie Bowles
The New York Times
November 9, 2018

Franklin Foer
The Washington Post
September 8, 2017

Imagine observing a group of chimpanzees in the woodlands of western Tanzania. One day, an otherwise ordinary member of the group decides he will affix wildflowers to the hair on his head and rub a red ochre paste on his face. Imagine further that he, so adorned, then swaggers among his fellows gesturing to his new appearance and pointing at and laughing disdainfully at his group mates. Finally, imagine that this same chimp begins taking overt and deceitful actions to get what the others consider a disproportionate share of food that the group has hunted or found. 

Three Questions
1. What do you think Mr. Special’s group mates will think of him, and what consequences might he face for such behavior? His fellows might ignore his appearance or find it amusing. Then again, the ranking male and female might take umbrage if the lesser females start given Mr Fancy the attention and deference they normally give to the two leaders of the group. Eventually and more probably, his antics regarding food, if they continue for some time, will likely result in him being beaten and/or driven from the group. 

2. Now, imagine a corollary scenario among a group of modern humans. Think of a business office situation where someone adorns himself and behaves in a manner suggesting to others that he is superior to them. And that he begins stealing or bullying to obtain promotion, wealth or communal resources to a degree that degrades the wellbeing of his group mates? For example, a cologned, well-coiffed, well-dressed Wall Street financial manager becomes known in the office for his vanity and arrogance. In his work he frequently takes action to demolish low income housing that will put thousands of low income tenants on the street in order to make way for the construction of expensive, highly profitable townhouses on the same land. Does our Mr. Profit exemplify the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity in his individual and business behavior?

3. How has it come about that the maverick among chimpanzees scenario is an obvious affront to chimp individual and group morality, yet the corollary among humans is acceptable? 

I kindly ask that you not jump to a conclusion, in the currently popular mode of “gotcha, see, I can think faster and therefore better than you,” that I’m a socialist using an evolutionary biology analogy as a rationale. Also, this essay is neither a sophistic argument intent on demeaning all points of view other than mine, nor an attempt at rhetorically deceiving you or clobbering you and your ideas into submission to my way of thinking. I kindly ask that you stay with me a bit longer. I’m simply trying to expand thinking not win points of argumentation.

First, I am not a socialist. During thirty plus years of working and living in Africa, observing firsthand how various forms of national socialism fail, I found little in that social system to recommend to any large society. Now, consider the following.

November 7, 2018

FROM THE ARCHIVES: The United States Peace Corps and Social Development in Africa

(Peace Corps Logos, Old & New)
A paper read at the University of Ghana, Legon, Department of Sociology
April 29, 1990
James E. Lassiter