Systemic reflexions on the Mankind-Planet System in the Making

IFSR Newsletter 2006 Vol. 24 No. 1 November
Charles Francois, Argentina
Man has been once described as the “mad ape”. This reflects the incredulous horror felt by someone as a witness of the murderous follies recurrent through the whole history of mankind and especially generally worldwide during the last Century.
We should seek a real understanding of the deeper causes that madden that supposedly high intelligent primate.
As a first step we could at least advance some hypothesis about the psychology of man’s madness. Could it not be the knowledge that he must inevitably die … being it seems the only animal to have received the gift of consciousness about his inescapable destiny. To cover up his fright man has invented an astounding number of psychological placebos and make-beliefs in seemingly all and every past and present culture and under the most varied forms. One of the basic placebos is the idea that, if we behave well (according to some rational, pseudo- rational or irrational rules) we will merit immortality in some or another way, or maybe a sweet farewell to Nirvana.
Indeed there have always been prophets to describe exactly what should be such a good behaviour that would lead to salvation or eternal peace. However the great inspired prophets have been followed in their task by a vast number of lesser prophets with somewhat watered down or ideological version of these rules of good behaviour. As the prophets generally differ among themselves on that difficult subject, clashes between followers of different good behaviour textbooks have many times derived into horrendous massacres.
The appearance of an increasing number of growing sceptical or even cynical unbelievers did not lead to more peaceful ways. On the contrary they merely became just one more class of contenders: “unbelievers” who become ideological o pseudo-philosophical believers of some or another shade.
In prehistoric times clashers were merely using sticks and spears, and the number of fatal victims was minimal. The situation evolved with time until we came to the great worldwide hecatombs of the 20th Century and, unfortunately there is every reason to believe that the 21st Century could even be worse.
Admitting the deep and eternal psychological suffering of man, confronted with his inescapable future, there seems to be two basic problems that should be faced an, if possible, somehow managed:

  1. Can our innate fear be psychologically managed in such a way that it may be placated and not anymore lead us to madness and, in cases, inordinate cruelty?
  2. Why has human ferocity reached such apocalyptic dimension during the last decades, what could eventually be done to reduce it?

The first question mark is related to the search for psychical serenity, probably through understanding the “nature of nature” and accepting it with growing equanimity. This would at least be a much dignified placebo! The second question mark is why sticks and spears have been replaced by nuclear bombs, which could even be used by relatively unsophisticated terrorists. This last conundrum can seemingly be explained by a systemic view of mankind’s scientific and technical “progress” (or would we merely say “progression”) from, let us say, 1750 on.
The last 250 years witnessed an extraordinary explosion of mankind’s power over nature This was the result of the discovery of new ways to use nature’s resources in general. But most significant has been the use of fossil energy sources (coal, oil, gas), which has obviously been the force behind the emergence of our evermore powerful and complex technical way of life. It has been in fact a neat and extraordinary example of Prigogine’s model of structures emergence through dissipation of energy on a gigantic scale.
However our psychological and ethical level of understanding is trailing far away behind our scientific and technical prowess. On the other hand, we are squandering our geological treasure chest at such a rate that it will probably be exhausted before the end of the 21st Century. Altogether we are also in great danger to become asphyxiated worldwide in our waste. Accordingly we will have to face a huge global reordering and reaccomodation of our mankind-planet system in the making.
This issue is of course a typical systemic-cybernetic one, if however on an enormous scale.
It could be from our part a crucial contribution for better understanding and management. Let us hope (and prepare) to be able to meet this challenge to the very survival of the human race.