When I matter most but you matter more

When I matter most but you matter more

When I matter most but you matter more

If you find yourself in front of a runaway bus you get out of the way. If you don’t, you die.
A specie always puts its survival ahead of other considerations. ‘Self-preservation’ is why species survive.

A few species, notably humans but some animals too, will sacrifice themselves for others. Those who fight to defend their families and friends risk their lives to ensure their loved ones continue living. It is the supreme sacrifice. It is counter to our instinct to survive individually.

Parents know what sacrifice is about, so do children when they get older. Employees regularly sacrifice to ensure the successful running of the business they work in and so do employers when they toil through the night to preserve jobs and give people a decent chance in life. In fact sacrifice is experienced more widely than we acknowledge, mainly because we observe selfishness more easily. Admitting that someone else has made a sacrifice for you is not easy.

Brain size apart, what distinguishes humans from animals? Intellect, creativity, the ability to invent and use tools all contribute to our success. The manifestation of this is cooperation. We work together for the common good. As Steinbeck put it in The Grapes of Wrath “…muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need, this is mankind”. ‘Beyond the single need’ is the relevant phrase. And beyond the single need is society.

Society is sharing. We use the word sharing a lot these days. Often, I fear, it means dumping one person’s ideas on another. True sharing began with the abolition of slavery. By that act we started to share freedom. Democracy was another big step – ‘one person, one vote’ predicated a level of fairness many at the time couldn’t envisage. Those who had been told that they were superior assumed the right to rule those they regarded as inferior. In many parts of the world, including Charlottesville, there are plenty of people who still believe that.

Democracy and equality are crude tools. However generously we laud people about their skills and virtues we know that some will be cleverer than others. Character, innate mental ability, background, education, upbringing all shape who we are and what we can do. It is a massive plaudit for those who educate that we have come so far notwithstanding that all education exacerbates the differences between the bright and the dim.

The current world debate swirling around an unacceptable leader is about society. It does not deny the primacy of survival but it recognises that society cannot be undone, it is here to stay. It may disintegrate into warring factions, could even wipe out the human species. But if anyone is left after the next holocaust they will immediately reconstruct society. We know it is the only human way to live.

Perhaps the worst miscalculation we are now making in our societal building is to think that hierarchy is the only model – someone at the top, the rest of us at the bottom. For reasons of communication this was true for thousands of years. Suddenly, it isn’t. Now we do not need a communications chain – we’ve got Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and a myriad of other connectors. They put us on a par with each other. The irony of D Trump is that he doesn’t see that. He thinks he is still cock of a dung heap – but he’s just another beetle on it.

With such advanced communication comes a heavy responsibility to everyone who uses it. What we share is as important as how we share it. Now we have opportunity to share the best and eliminate the worst. That will not be done by regulator, law-maker, policeman or hangman. It will only be done by us.

We only succeed in doing it when we behave as though….

I matter most but you matter more.