There's hope for the rules based order if we trust in the rules, not the rulers.

Extract from Death & I Are Too Close, by Robby Miller

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My final thought on the role of animals in helping us understand how close we are to death hinges on the knowledge that humans (Homo sapiens) are just another animal species. Although we owe thanks to Darwin for figuring out how evolution accounts for the vast array of life on the planet, there is a common misconception that humans rest at the top of a pyramid of compounding improvements. However, this is only true for the traits that place us at the top of the food chain. I greatly respect the parasites that live within us and therefore are arguably higher up on the food chain. Each of those have been evolving for just as long as humans. So too have the bacteria that line our stomachs and make digestion, and therefore survival, possible. Even the mitochondria that symbiotically live in each of our cells—which we regard as ‘human’ because we inherit them through our mother’s egg—are just another organism that has been evolving for the same four billion years that life has been around on this planet. Each of them are specialists within the environmental niche on which their survival depends. Those that have not changed dramatically in millions of years only demonstrate that they found a niche in their food chain long before we did ours, a mere 300,000 years ago when we invented weapons to augment our otherwise limited hunting skills.

If you accept that we humans are just another animal and that our speciality is designing tools to get what we want (in excess of what we could get naturally) then please consider that all animal DNA is designed to propagate. Resource use is simply part of the propagation equation. And social cohesion on a vast scale is just part of the litany of tools we have invented to enable greater propagation of our species. We are not alone—bees and their like are also genetically designed for teamwork. It is intrinsic to all animals to exploit their environment and our speciality is to exploit it as a team with sophisticated tools. The greatest question of our time is whether we can master the social tools we have invented, like capitalism, or whether we will go extinct because they have got out of control. There will be an unfathomable amount of death and grieving if we degrade the environment to the point where it cannot sustain the population level we have become accustomed to. 

Rebelling against extinction is a political movement, another social tool, aiming to reign in our excesses so that we don’t end up like the dinosaurs. Incidentally, dinosaurs are not extinct, existing today in birds, who were forced to conserve weight to enable liftoff, which in turn restricted their resource use. Flight then enabled the birds to move away from disasters and famines. Likewise, Homo sapiens may not go extinct but grand-scale social cohesion could be extinguished if we do not control the array of resource-hungry tools that make our lifestyle possible. No one would start a chainsaw and throw it into the air, hoping it would cut down the right trees; yet some people are loath to regulate the free market to prevent climate change. Nor can we recycle ourselves out of the effects of rampant consumerism. The economy will not collapse because we buy or replace things less often. Making things ‘repairable’ rather than replaceable could be a marketing pitch— just another way of returning service and maintenance to the industrial sector. However, you may commit to living lightly, conserving resources and saving energy. Or here’s a radical idea, reduce the population by having fewer children to swallow up the world’s resources, as we did.

You could argue further that inequality through wage slavery is evidence that we have yet to reach true social cohesion. Exploitation of others enables advanced societies to reap benefits that our fellow humans cannot even dream of. Social stratification is a tool to bolster one tribe at the expense of another—just ask the Palestinians, Rohingyas, Uyghurs or indigenous populations of the world. Putin the Putrid spewing death to kill grandmas and babies in the sovereign state of Ukraine is another example that the human race has not finished evolving. War is the most extreme example of our genome’s unrestrained appetites. Smarter parasites than Putin have learned to exploit their hosts without destroying them and therefore themselves. For example, the National Rifle Association of America is funded by shareholders of the firearms trade. In perverse symbiosis with the political system, the NRA then seeks to benefit those shareholders by injecting money into campaign budgets, despite the annual number of gun deaths in the USA being in the same order of magnitude as Putin’s ‘murder by warfare’ in Ukraine.

All those examples are aberrations of social intelligence, yet they exist because DNA seeks to propagate through tribes (societies) competing for resources. However, the thing that makes human evolution superior to our co-evolving animals is our most valuable tool: social cooperation. It has enabled us to achieve things with hundreds of millions of tax paying participants, compared to about 500 members in a Palaeolithic tribe. The next step up is global cooperation—mutual democratic governance at a level above the current UN mandate for peacekeeping between independent states. Global democratic governance is the natural competitor to autocrats who are, by design, paranoid about being held to account for mismanagement within their nation. Autocrats crave territorial expansion, conflicting with neighbouring nations, in order to acquire additional resources to compensate for internal incompetence. I know it is in human nature to cooperate—we are, after all, descended from herd animals. If the super organism of civil society can exist on a national scale, there is nothing stopping it being possible globally. Please humour me while I propose mending the world—it is what your mind does when your own world has been broken.

World government is feared by many religious faiths, partly because of the biblical prophecy of a world dictator, an antichrist. Historically that referred to the Roman Empire, ‘666’ being the gematria code for Nero. Religious adherents have long been persecuted and killed for being different, so the fear is understandable. However, there is a fundamental difference between democratic world governance and a world dictator: Autocrats/dictators/tyrants are fundamentally exploitative. The idea of a benevolent dictator is an oxymoron because humans’ innate greed and paranoia ensure power will always corrupt them. Exploiting others makes autocracies a direct contradiction to the key tenet of the scriptures—that God will create a kingdom based on kindness, compassion and equality. Global, democratically accountable, governance that has inbuilt anti-corruption regulation would actually be compatible with the reason the Holy Spirit was sent: that is, to create the kingdom of God based on the divine principles of mercy and justice. For this to become a reality though, we would need humble leadership from democratic countries to admit to the mistakes of their colonial past—with generous reparations through aid—so they can offer a sincere countermodel to autocratic countries that are currently trying to expand their sphere of influence through neocolonialism. 

Other social tools required for international cooperation include a global police force. Interpol already partly fills this function, but democratic governments could invite it to apolitically investigate crimes against the environment, political corruption and military/paramilitary abuse. Governments must also cooperate internationally to crush organised crime, which is essentially weaponised anarchy and therefore terrorism without a cause, since it regularly corrupts politicians—nudging them towards despotism. 

In addition, we need global accountability. The free press and whistleblowers already fulfil this role but their right to expose corruption and to disseminate that uncensored through the internet into all parts of the globe (at least where access is allowed) must be protected. Freedom of speech needs to be enshrined in a Global Constitution. Also, market leaders and political elites must be convinced by peer-reviewed research that the triple bottom line (profit, people and the planet) is the best foundation for all economic decisions and the ethical sourcing of products and services. 

Creating global consensus is essential to the survival of Homo sapiens but does not require a new overarching government. The heads of each democratically elected government could vote as equals on matters affecting the whole world—even though decisions would not be globally enforceable. We already have forums like the G19. A forum comprised of heads of states (who were themselves elected by the people of their countries) would be the beginning of global democracy, create a strong voice against autocrats, and encourage alliances (like those that already exist between like-minded countries). Of course, there would need to be clear guidelines on what constitutes free and fair elections. Membership of this G-Dem federation would not be permanent because the forum must vote out any head of state who resorts to manipulating election results. This would be guided by an unbiased and transparent list similar to the EIU Democracy Index. ‘Full democracies’ (21) would receive three votes, ‘flawed democracies’ (53) would receive two votes and the top half of the ‘hybrid democracies’ (17) would get one vote each (i.e., 91 countries; 186 votes; representing 54% of the world’s population). That way even poorly performing democracies would have an incentive to become more representative of their people. Mid-range democracies likewise would have reason to become better, so they have a greater input into the world’s decisions. It could be done sustainably online. Unlike the UN Security Council, there would be no power of veto. And unlike the General Assembly, votes would be restricted if there was a conflict of interest. 

Finally, the chairperson of this group should not be a president or spokesperson but the three heads of state at the top of the list who must vote between themselves on any procedural decisions this tripartite chair makes. In the event of a serious disagreement, each should have the power of veto over the other two, at which point the vote would go to the group of ‘Full democracies.’ Killing off the ‘cult of the figurehead’ would similarly benefit the democratic process in many countries.

Yet, although votes talk, money shouts. A Faustian bargain has been struck between democracies and the authoritarian states that supply cheap labour to fuel the lifestyles of voters. In return, the autocracies gain legitimacy as trading partners and get income to spend on weapons. Amoral globalisation has resulted in industrialised countries’ dependence on ‘out-of-sight’ labour after they abandoned their manufacturing sectors. Moreover, this diabolus-deal emasculates democracies of credibility when trying to promote human rights. However, these issues could be redressed by imposing G-Dem-agreed global trade tariffs that increase incrementally the further-down countries’ rank on the Democracy Index. This is the ‘stick’ for the above G-Dem ‘carrot.’ It would disincentivise transnationals that exploit labour and incentivise manufacturing in countries that allow unionisation. Escher’s Hierarchy of Needs also applies to sovereign states but progress from state-repressed labour to freedom of expression and human rights requires autocracies being motivated to improve. 

One day, I hope we will comprehend that xenophobia and all the other bigotries based in tribalism are genetic nonsense and socially self-destructive. Discrimination and exploitation of other humans (either with weapons or words) results in environmental and economic regression and pessimism, which also undermines youth mental health. I fear also that we are headed for global upheaval, near extinction, through untamed climate change, where nation states scavenge over depleting resources before the Homo sapiens species will look past their genetic predisposition to possess and create a greater tool: that is Global Cooperation that would allow all to flourish equally within the limits of sustainability. I say ‘limits’ because the privileged western lifestyle I enjoy cannot be expanded globally without a dramatic and unconscionable depopulation. A far more humane solution would be to reduce above-average lifestyles (let’s say, those who can afford to buy this book) to enable the underprivileged to have liveable lifestyles. Yet could you imagine the furore if the government wanted to raise taxes by 10% to give that money to overseas aid and development?! Ten per cent is just a starting point; research suggests much more is needed. Yet the likelihood of 51% of voters agreeing to reduce their lifestyle is close to zero (but not impossible) because most people compare their personal wealth upwards, not downwards. Yet, inevitably, human self-preservation will require lowered lifestyles to ensure survival of the species. So, the question is not ‘if,’ or even ‘when,’ we will face reality but rather ‘How many people will die? How many loved ones left grieving, before we act decisively to undo the current industrialised vandalism of our environmental life support system?’ ‘How many animals will die, too?’ is an equally sad question. 

Any goal to raise developing countries up to first world standards without reducing first world living standards is, in my estimation, like trying to digest fool’s gold. I do not know any another animal that eats it (fool’s gold/death) so enthusiastically. Let’s remember it was the large, resource-hungry dinosaurs that went extinct, not the birds. Be a bird. Live lightly.

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The memoir, Death & I Are Too Close, by Robby Miller is available from Smashwords - - or

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