The Philosopher Thomas Hobbes said “life outside society would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’.”
Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapien persuades me that living outside society may not be possible – even while society’s “imagined order is always in danger of collapse, because it depends upon myths, and myths vanish once people stop believing in them.”
Harari asks, “How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order? Christianity, democracy or capitalism?” First – we get people to believe in this “imagined order” by never admitting “that the order is imagined.”
“You also educate people thoroughly. From the moment they are born you constantly remind them of the principles of the imagined order which are incorporated into anything and everything.”
We build our prison walls; our imagined order:
- “.. embedded in the material world” – as with today’s individualism; our homes, personal space and privacy.
- “.. it shapes our desires” – the “romantic, nationalist, capitalist and humanist myths” whisking us away on holiday, following our hearts, listening to the quiet voice within.
- “.. is inter-subjective” – “I am just one person” … I must need a job, money, car, an education – because we agreed this is what is. Right?
“There is no way out of an imagined order. When we break down our prison walls and run toward freedom, we are in fact running into a more spacious exercise yard of a bigger prison.”
It’s a catch-22! We want science, logic and laws. We want faith, grace and freedom. We want to be individuals, but are bound together in the tapestry of our times.
What’s a Homo Sapien to do?
What does THIS Homo Sapien do?
Really! What choices do I have? Do I have a choice?
I’m part of the collective whole – no way around that. Propelled by primary “universal orders” like money, empire and religion; belief drilled into my brain and psyche. Harari calls these three the great unifiers of humankind:
- Money: a “psychological construct” allowing us to cooperate with strangers. No doubt, many of my life choices are based on economics.
- Empire: they came, they conquered … and “the process of assimilation was often painful and traumatic.” No kidding! National or Global – not likely to go away.
- Religion: our “system of human norms and values” – “founded on a belief in a superhuman order.” Then there’s the history of universal and missionary monotheism which led to repeated and violent extermination of “all competition.” Oy vey.
History is harsh. No wonder denial is a thing.
… to be continued (again!)