‘FREEDOM’—Chapter 1 Summary of the contents of FREEDOM
Chapter 1:2 What exactly is the human condition?
Here on Earth some of the most complex arrangements of matter in the known universe have come into existence. Life, in all its incredible diversity and richness, developed. And, by virtue of our mind, the human species must surely represent the culmination of this grand experiment of nature we call life—for, as far as we can detect, we are the first organism to have developed the fully conscious ability to sufficiently understand and thus manage the relationship between cause and effect to wrest management of our lives from our instincts, and to even reflect upon our existence. It is easy to lose sight of the utter magnificence of what we are, but the human mind must surely be nature’s most astonishing creation. Indeed, it must be one of the wonders of the universe! Consider, for example, the intellectual brilliance involved in sending three of our kind to the Moon and back.
AND YET, despite our species’ magnificent mental capabilities, and undeniable capacity for immense sensitivity and love, behind every wondrous scientific achievement, sensitive artistic expression and compassionate act lies the shadow of humanity’s darker side—an unspeakable history of greed, hatred, rape, torture, murder and war; a propensity for deeds of shocking violence, depravity, indifference and cruelty. As the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, ‘man is the only animal which causes pain to others with no other object than causing pain…No animal ever torments another for the sake of tormenting: but man does so, and it is this which constitutes the diabolical nature which is far worse than the merely bestial’ (Essays and Aphorisms, tr. R.J. Hollingdale, 1970, p.139 of 237). Yes, undermining all our marvellous accomplishments and sensibilities is the fact that we humans have also been the most ferocious and malicious creatures to have ever lived on Earth!
And it is precisely this dual capacity for what has historically been referred to as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ that has troubled the human mind since we first became fully conscious, thinking beings: are we essentially ‘good’ and, if so, what is the cause of our destructive, insensitive and cruel, so-called ‘evil’ side? Why do we thinking, reasoning, rational, immensely clever, supposedly sensible beings behave so abominably and cause so much suffering and devastation? Yes, the eternal question has been why ‘evil’? What is the origin of the dark, volcanic forces that undeniably exist within us humans? What is it deep within us humans that troubles us so terribly? What is it that makes us such a combative, ruthless, hateful, retaliatory, violent, in-truth-psychologically-disturbed creature? In metaphysical religious terms, what is ‘the origin of sin’? More generally, if the universally accepted ideals of life are to be cooperative, loving and selfless—ideals that have been accepted by modern civilisations as the foundations for constitutions and laws and by the founders of all the great religions as the basis of their teachings—why are humans competitive, aggressive and selfish? Indeed, so ruthlessly competitive, selfish and brutal that life has become all but unbearable and we have nearly destroyed our own planet? Does our inconsistency with the ideals mean we are essentially bad, a flawed species, an evolutionary mistake, a blight on Earth, a cancer in the universe—or could we possibly be divine beings? And, more to the point, is the human race faced with having to live forever in this tormented state of uncertainty and insecurity about the fundamental worth and meaning of our lives? Is it our species’ destiny to have to live in a state of permanent damnation?!
The agony of being unable to truthfully answer the fundamental question of why we are the way we are—divisively instead of cooperatively behaved—has been the particular burden of human life. It has been our species’ particular affliction or condition—our ‘human condition’. Good or bad, loving or hateful, angels or devils, constructive or destructive, sensitive or insensitive: WHAT ARE WE? Throughout history we have struggled to find meaning in the awesome contradiction of our human condition. Our endeavours in philosophy, psychology and biology have failed, until now, to provide a truthful, real, psychosis-addressing-and-solving, not-the-patently-false-animals-are-competitive-and-aggressive-and-that’s-why-we-are, fully accountable, genuinely clarifying explanation. And for their part, while religious assurances such as ‘God loves you’ may have provided temporary comfort, they too failed to explain WHY we are lovable. So, yes, WHY are we lovable? How could we be good when all the evidence seems to unequivocally indicate that we are a deeply flawed, bad, even evil species? What is the answer to this question of questions, this problem of ‘good and evil’ in the human make-up, this greatest of all paradoxes and dilemmas of the human condition? What caused humans to become divisively behaved and, more importantly, how is this divisive behaviour ever going to be brought to an end? THIS, the issue of the human condition, is the REAL question facing the human race.
And with every day bringing with it more alarming evidence of the turmoil of the human situation, the issue of the human condition is the ONLY question confronting the human race, because its solution has become a matter of critical urgency. Conflict between individuals, ‘races’, cultures, religions and countries abounds (and by ‘races’ I mean groups of people whose members have mostly been together a long time and are thus relatively closely related genetically—people who have a shared history). There is genocide, terrorism, mass displacement of peoples, starvation, runaway diseases, environmental devastation, gross inequality, ‘racial’ and gender oppression, polarised politics, rampant corruption and other crimes, drug abuse, family breakdown, and epidemic levels of obesity, chronic anxiety, depression, unhappiness and loneliness—all of which are being rapidly exacerbated by the exploding world population and exponential rise everywhere in anger, egocentricity and alienation (what I refer to as ‘upset’). Improved forms of management, such as better laws, better politics and better economics—and better self-management, such as new ways of disciplining, suppressing, organising, motivating or even transcending our troubled natures—have all failed to end the march towards ever greater levels of alienation, devastation and unhappiness. In short, the situation is now so grim the human race IS, in fact, entering end play or end game, where the Earth cannot absorb any further devastation from the effects of our upset behaviour, nor the human body cope with any more debilitating stress, or, most particularly, our mind endure any more psychological distress, any more alienated psychosis and neurosis. The journalist Richard Neville was frighteningly accurate when, in summarising the desperate state of our species’ situation, he wrote that ‘the world is hurtling to catastrophe: from nuclear horrors, a wrecked eco-system, 20 million dead each year from malnutrition, 600 million chronically hungry…All these crises are man made, their causes are psychological. The cures must come from this same source; which means the planet needs psychological maturity fast. We are locked in a race between self destruction and self discovery’ (Good Weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 Oct. 1986; see <www.wtmsources.com/167>). Yes, our species has come to the critical juncture where ONLY ‘self discovery’—reconciling, ameliorating, ‘psychological[ly]’ healing understanding of ourselves—could save us from ‘self destruction’.
The Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig has been contributing cartoons and articles to Australian newspapers since 1965 and in that time has produced innumerable brilliantly insightful, revealing and therapeutically honest cartoons about all aspects of our species’ troubled condition—five more of which appear later in this book. This cartoon, in which he truthfully depicts all the horrors of the human condition, is, in my view, one of his best. It is certainly not a picture of a lovely ordered city park where people peacefully and happily enjoy themselves, as we all too easily prefer to delude ourselves that the world we have created is like. Rather, it shows a mother and child approaching the ‘Gardens of the Human Condition’ with an expression of bewildered dread on the face of the mother, and in the case of the child, wide-eyed shock. Yes, as Leunig cleverly intimates, our world is no longer an innocent Garden of Eden, but a devastated realm of human-condition-stricken, psychologically distressed humans where ‘inhumanity’ reigns. With this masterpiece, Leunig has boldly revealed the truth that we humans are a brutally angry, hateful, destructive, arrogant, egocentric, selfish, mad, lonely, unhappy and psychologically depressed species. He has people fighting, beating and strangling each other, drunk out of their minds, depressed, lonely, crying, hiding and suiciding, going mad, and egocentrically holding forth—reflecting, in effect, every aspect of the human condition. Yes, as the main character in the 2005 film The White Countess noted, ‘What we see out there [in the world] is chaos; mistrust, deception, hatred, viciousness—chaos—there’s no broader canvas out there, nothing that man can go and compose a pretty picture on.’ The polymath Blaise Pascal was even more damning in his depiction of the human condition, when, centuries earlier, he spelled out the full horror of our contradictory nature, writing, ‘What a chimera then is man! What a novelty, what a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth, repository of truth, a sewer of uncertainty and error, the glory and the scum of the universe!’ (Pensées, 1669). William Shakespeare was equally revealing of the paradoxical true nature of the human condition when he wrote, ‘What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty!…In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? [Brutal and barbaric] Man delights not me’ (Hamlet, 1603)!!
So the 17 goals of ‘The [United Nations’] Global Goals’ ‘Movement’ that each ‘global citizen’ and ‘every school’ is currently being told to ‘tell everyone about’ and ‘make famous’ (namely to address ‘poverty, hunger, well-being, education, gender equality, clean water, clean energy, decent work, infrastructure, inequality, sustainability, responsible consumption, climate action, life in water, life on land, peace and justice, partnerships for the goals’) hugely trivialise our species’ plight—because all these goals focus only on the symptoms of the human condition. To stop the destruction of our world and the disintegration of society that is happening everywhere we look we have to fix the cause of the problems at its source, which is us humans, our psychosis. WE are the problem; our out-of-control egocentric, selfish, competitive and ferociously vicious, mean and aggressive behaviour. The cartoonist Walt Kelly spoke the truth when he had Pogo, his comic strip hero, say, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us’ (1971). Yes, the underlying, REAL question that had to be answered if we were ever to find relieving, redeeming, psychologically healing understanding of ourselves was WHY ARE WE HUMANS the most brilliantly clever of creatures, the ones who are ‘god’-‘like’ in our ‘infinite’ ‘faculty’ of ‘reason’ and ‘apprehension’, a ‘glor[ious]’, ‘angel’-‘like’ ‘prodigy’ capable of being a ‘judge of all things’ and a ‘repository of truth’, also the meanest, most vicious, most capable of inflicting pain, cruelty, suffering and degradation? Why are humans so choked full of volcanic frustration, anger and hatred—the species that behaves so appallingly that we seem to be ‘monster[s]’, ‘imbecile[s]’, ‘a sewer of uncertainty and error’ and ‘chaos’, the ‘essence’ of ‘dust’, ‘the scum of the universe’? That is what the issue of the human condition really is: ‘WHY ARE WE THE WAY WE ARE, COMPETITIVE AND AGGRESSIVE, RATHER THAN COOPERATIVE AND LOVING?’—AND BENEATH THAT, THE DEEPER QUESTION OF, ‘WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF ALL THIS PSYCHOLOGICAL FRUSTRATION AND PAIN INSIDE OF US HUMANS?’
Clearly, it is of incalculable importance to finally be able to answer this question of questions of the origin of the human condition. In fact, the great hope, faith and trust of the human race has been that one day the redeeming and psychologically rehabilitating understanding of our ‘good and evil’-afflicted human condition would be found. And since this all-important issue of the human condition—the underlying issue in all human affairs—is biological in nature, its resolution has been the most important task assigned to biologists; indeed, it has been described as the ‘holy grail’ of biology. AND, as incredible as it may seem, it is this breakthrough of breakthroughs—this all-important, world-saving, psychosis-addressing-and-relieving, real biological explanation of the human condition—that is presented in this book! As stated earlier, the effect of finally knowing and understanding and living with this explanation is that it transforms humans from their psychologically insecure, human-condition-afflicted existence to a psychologically secure and mature, human-condition-free state. This is the explanation that lifts the so-called burden of guilt from the shoulders of the human race. This is the explanation that ends the condemnation that we humans have had to endure for so long. And the reason you will know this is the real, true explanation is because, unlike earlier excuses, it will prove so accountable it will make all of our egocentric, arrogant, inspired, depressed, deluded, etc, psychologically distressed behaviour transparent. Understanding and absorbing this explanation will end all the bewilderment, confusion and uncertainty—all the insecurity—about human behaviour. It will unravel the whole mess we humans have been living in; as the leading Australian journalist, broadcaster and commentator, Brian Carlton, said in one of the introductory videos I will shortly be recommending you view, ‘It’s an intellectual epiphany…It’s a revelation…the clarity of it is euphoric…when you get it, it is an event. You remember the day, you remember the section of the book, you remember when it happened, it stays with you…Don’t underestimate the extent to which your work has impacted me in terms of how I think about what I’m seeing, how I interpret behaviour. I worked up this ability to be able to work out what a person was like in the first five or six seconds of a conversation [as the host of a talkback radio program].’
So, in a world fast going crazy from the effects of the human condition, this is the now desperately needed reconciling understanding that brings about a new world for humans FREE of the agony of the human condition. In short, this is the understanding that ends human suffering and unites the human race.