My purpose in creating this blog is to bring about the creation of A World of Honour, a world of equals living under A Code of Honour. But before I can dig deeper into what such a world might look like I feel the need to awaken us to the two institutions that we humans participate in each day. One is the institution of government and the other is the institution of commerce. Come and explore these with me.
We can’t look back in time and see when these institutions came into existence. They are both by-products of human evolution and emerged over millennia of day by day transformation. We have other institutions but these two will do for what I wish to illustrate. They are the two fundamental ones, ones that we cannot imagine not existing.
Both institutions evolved as our language evolved, as our culture evolved, as our societies evolved, as our powers of thought evolved.
Consider that government evolved from a human trait that began before the first human appeared. This trait is that of the alpha male, the dominant member of early simian clans who got what he wanted because he was the biggest and strongest. What he wanted was sex and food and he got the best and the most of both through the use of his might. We still see this trait in some of our closest cousins, gorillas and chimpanzees. Might is right.
If we had a slow-motion camera that captured the evolution of ape to man, we would be unable to pick the moment when we became human. It didn’t happen in that digital way of clicking from ape to human. It came much slower and with no evidence. What is it that makes us different from our chimpanzee cousins? Our reasoning mind. All the rest of the differences are superficial and unimportant. Slowly but surely our evolution delivered a being that could reason at a high or significant level.
The earliest evidence of our evolving humanity was language and culture. We began to speak to each other and we began to create things. We invented nouns and baskets, verbs and arrowheads. The creative human began. There were a few early strands of our species that disappeared, like the Neanderthals, but from archaeological evidence, they reasoned well, they had technologies and buried their dead. And they left behind some of their DNA that’s found in most of us.
As our humanity evolved, our alpha male didn’t disappear. No, I would propose that the trait of might is right evolved into what we now call government. The alpha males, and females, that formed these governments shared the language and culture of the rest of the tribe. Eventually, the concept of inheritance was invented, where the head of the clan passed on the headship to his son or daughter. Democracy was many millennia away. But even with the transition from inheritance to democracy, what were we passing on to the next generation? Whatever was there, unexamined and unquestioned, was passed on. Look behind the many facets of modern governments and you will arrive at the alpha male, the dominance of might is right.
Democracy was many millennia away. But even with the transition from inheritance to democracy, what we were passing on to the next generation, unexamined and unquestioned, was the notion that members of the tribe could be forced to do things that were not their choice. Look behind the many facets of modern governments and you will arrive at the alpha – the unspoken belief that might is right.
While the alpha male continued in this new expression and was expressed in this new being, other aspects of the evolving reasoning mind were evidenced. We created language. We created music. We created literature. We created technologies. These were products of human thought, not human might. The king of the day did not turn to the Beethoven of the day and demand a tune be composed. Some other force was at work, one that didn’t involve violence or its threat, but instead human ingenuity. This was the beginning of human commerce, the creation of inventions, the creation of art.
I’ll use a couple of examples from my life to illustrate what I’m talking about.
Nothing captures the alpha male side of our humanity better than the recent Game of Thrones tv series. None of the brutal excesses that go on between the warring factions happen in fiction only. The tortures, the slaughters, the decapitations all have happened and continue to happen in our real world. Replace the fire-breathing dragons with napalm-dropping jet planes and we see the omnipotent flying-beasts side of the show. The story depicts us at our worst, as a species that slaughters its brethren. It depicts us as back-stabbing, conniving, cheating and betraying beings who will stop at nothing to win over our rivals. It demonstrates too well the dark side of humanity, the world of might is right.
On the other hand, a perfect example of the creative and cooperative side of our humanity would be our local Blackhead Markets. On the first Sunday of the month, dozens of stalls are set up at nearby Blackhead Beach on a strip of park land between the town and the beach. From early morning until noon, hundreds of locals gather to shop, to socialize and to sell. In my eleven years of participation there as one of the shoppers and socializers, I have never heard so much as a raised voice. Most of what is on display are local crafts and produce, bananas and papayas, quilts and wooden cutting boards, local beef and cappuccinos, Scottish bagpipers and solo guitar buskers, used book stalls and tables of hand-made children’s wear. This is the creative side of the evolving human being, the side that we could call Game of Markets.
The muscle or the markets. This is what faces us day by day. Do we get what we want through bullying or through cooperation? It’s time to face this choice.
And yes, I’m well aware that there is a blurring of the spaces between the two games. As we move from the fictional world of Game of Thrones to the governing of our societies we seldom see murder and mayhem. Mostly we see civil servants pursuing their careers, performing useful work. When we move from the Blackhead Markets to the international world of commerce we don’t have to look hard to see bribery and corruption. Our real world is not divided into neat packets of good and evil, right and wrong.
I think that it’s time for humanity to choose to weed out the bullying that is the expression of the alpha male. And in our mirrors we can see the one person who can take unilateral action on participating in my proposed game: A Game of Honour.
This will be the purpose of the rest of my story. How to play a game of honour in a world deeply embedded in a game of thrones. We need a new game, one that each of us can begin playing immediately and without permission, one that captures what it is to be humanity at its best, one that will be a vital part in bringing about A World of Honour.