Of Mice, Men and Power

Mariner came across the following text while skimming through emails from his sources:

In Nairobi National Park, a succession of concrete piers rises over the heads of rhinos and giraffes, part of a $13.8 billion rail project that will link Kenya’s capital with the Indian Ocean. It’s a project with the ambition and scale of global leadership, and the site safety posters are in the language of its engineers and builders: Chinese.

Four hundred miles farther north, in one of Kenya’s city-sized refugee camps, there’s another sign of what global leadership used to look like: sacks of split peas, stamped USAID; a handful of young, quiet Americans working on idealistic development projects. The author saw both this month, but one already looks like a relic of the past. The baton of global leadership is being passed from the U.S. to China.[1]

Mariner disagrees with the author’s perception. Mariner feels the US effort is the result of 240 years of democracy and social justice knowing and promoting the value of human beings. Human beings should not be the source of creating wealth and power for others but should be participating in validation and purpose with fellow human beings – the distraction of profit and power is a troublesome overhead.

Since the beginning Homo sapiens has used a phalanx of money, militia and political dominance to shape its cultural values. In the mariner’s lexicon (see previous posts), the gorilla side still dominates but the American experiment – despite all its flaws – has insights into what true human value requires. It isn’t money; it isn’t political influence; it isn’t threat of violence – it is civility and compassion.

Mariner has alluded in the past to the difference between Bonobos (essentially the same as chimpanzees) and chimpanzees. Chimpanzees have some aggressive genes because during their evolutionary era food and space were an issue in northern Africa but the Bonobos lived in southern Africa during an era of plentiful food and space. Bonobos chill; chimpanzees find reasons to be contentious.

In the grand evolution identified by Darwin, the human brain truly is an aberration, a shift in in evolution toward reasoning that is constrained by the primate branch of evolution. The human brain sees beyond physical reality. If the brain had its way, gorilla might well be assigned to the garbage dump. But evolution is slow, very slow. Still, as we live our lives our brain knows the true value of existence. We may not want to commit to the ethical life but we know that value: empathy. It is a magical formula that gorillas find hard to accept – after all our ancestors were chimpanzees not bonobos. Empathy is a genuine political force except that it does not take advantage of human society, it reinforces it. Profit is not the primary energy in life; it is how well every human experiences life. Three cheers for the handful of young, quiet Americans working on idealistic development projects.

Ancient Mariner


[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/08/americas-global-influence-is-declining/568708/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=politics-daily-newsletter&utm_content=20180828&silverid-ref=NDkwMjIzMjA1Mjg2S0

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