The other day, a good friend of mine showed me the video “The Mouse Utopia Experiments | Down the Rabbit Hole” on YouTube. The video talks about the change of human values due to cramped spaces in city life wherein mice were used to predict the end of the human world with the death of societal values and deformity of human interaction. He later related the degeneration of societal values such as family as a cornerstone accompanied with the rise of victim culture as well as the usage of law or governmental intervention to protect children- the future humans. At some point, we engaged in a discussion wherein I maintained that animals can not be compared to humans because of the element of true choice vis-a-vis the element of instinct only for animals. And because we resolved to compare our findings at a better time, I decided to write this article.
There are many articles and studies citing animals as experiments while relating us humans as thinking animals. To begin with I am not an ethologist, a behaviorist, an anthropologist, or a psychologist. In fact, I am someone who comes from a legal background yet happens to have had some psychology classes along with philosophy. However, as an impressionist writer, I will share my view of the world regarding this matter.
To begin with, we all know that we are born into the world from families who bring us up in societies. Somewhere along the way, we transition to form our selves and engage in social interaction while going on with our lives. To me, the world from where I come from unveils itself as I stand like a fabric spreading itself for me to clothe myself with ergo creating the end product I call my personality, myself- me. Like everything else, the world has an anatomy. In this line, the world where I live in, like the fabric I mentioned, has a:
- selvage comprised of environment and circumstance
- right side yin-yang of expectation and reliance
- wrong side two way traffic of emotions and tendencies
- cross grain of elasticity pulled at opposite ends by justice and morality
- Bias 45 Degree angled acutely on creativity, obtusely on resilience, and straightly on adaptation.
Based on my world’s anatomy, instinct is one’s naked self but choice is a call to cut and size the said fabric aka the world. Normally, families are manikins we start with when we are fixing fabric to prepare it for sizing and cutting. In the end when we make the transition from child to adult, we make a choice that reveals our true selves wherein we wear the cut out and sewn fabric we decided to stick with such that the way we carry it reflects our true choice that sets out how we socially interact and proceed to have or not have families, or to be compliant or rebellious, etc.
From the above analogy, one can easily see that the idea of crowded cities is just one aspect of the human interaction in the society. Why? Because, as humans, we don’t only absorb or react to what we see or live with. We actually make choices that are not just carnal or aimed at gratification or fulfilling needs. It is key to know that when we make choices while interacting with others through a society or a societal unit such as friends, colleagues, or families; we are actively applying the matrix of choice. So what makes choice and true choice so important when compared to instinct and social morality? The answer lies in the fact that choice is a goal-directed, decision making process1. Who sets the goals? How do we map out the decision making process? Why do we choose to make one decision over the other? All these things are legitimate questions that help us distinguish our fates’ orbits from the so called animal experiments.
Animals experience life through struggle for survival, societal sympathy, and social instinct. We differ from them through moral sense that helps us qualify judgments and make decisions2. So how does moral sense when put together with the choice process manifest? How do values and choices of one person bounce off like signals across societal units and eventually propagate throughout the society beaming its flourish or eminent decline? To answer this dilemma, we need to understand how we solve issues that require decisions using our moral sense. Generally, we solve issues or problems by making decisions that entail us making a choice of what we know or believe is best. We qualify choices for situations amidst embodied or active interference. And when we do so it is based on a belief that these choices minimize the differences between a probability of outcomes that can be reached from those that should be reached. In other words, the best choice, is dependent on the maker of the choice with respect to the circumtances and interferring elements of the environment that eventually reflect on the end result of the said choice as it unveils its consequential manifestation. So what kind of embodied or active interference are we talking about? Well, humans live in modern states that fall under the rule of law and their public policies.
Goodbye Wesphalia marked the end of tribal law and the rise of modern law as instruments of a sovereign3. We moved from “He who rules a land dictates its religion” with religion being the law of a state, to a state interfering and influencing human behavior and decisions while interacting in a society in the name of common or public good. We moved from equality between men and women and the right of women to control their bodies post neolibralism and feminism to the worry about the dissolution of families because the state decided we as humans are not capable of exercising moral sense when we make decisions regarding family and offspring. In short, we maintained our liberties but those liberties were afifxed to align with what is known as the general public policy on common good morals that serve to safeguard the continuity of our community. Sadly, even with the systems in place from laws to courts to social workers, we still managed to hire other humans to circumvent these laws to abuse the system through its faults. The truth is, the laws were set via a group of humans with policies vested in values that also are as flawed as the humans that put them. We heavily relied on upholding the law as it is the guarantee of being equal by having our right to a day in court and exercising our right to bring claims and defend our positions or interests. In the process, what is truly achieved is an observance of a desired outcome as adjusted to what is ideally acceptable not what is truly just and moral. As legalists who work for, with, and through the system, we know that elements such as res judicata that doesn’t allow a case to be retried, statute limitations, and other procedural laws, strip laws and decisions that uphold them from their humane quality and moral reach. The reason lies in an inherent deficiency. Law provides stability, clarity, predictability, and practicality. It doesn’t furnish for the needs of humanity on a humane and moral level, at least when it comes to the humans that have no say in the equation such as children.
It is easy to go court and pay a lawyer to argue your case to get visitation rights, alimony, child custody, divorce, segregation and division of assets but in the end of the day one is left with many questions. Did the outcome serve the people involved on the long term? Did the outcome preserve the familial bond? Did the outcome promote amicability and continuity of social interaction or did it just keep people entrenched in their compromises, biases, and interests?
Choices as true choices are very tricky. We all make choices because of a set of beliefs and interests. They may be influenced, distorted, misguided, misapplies, or even abused. In the end, no one can influence how we choose to maintain social interaction in a societal unit such as family or friends except us. We are the ones that reach down to our core to make choices that are not just about us, our desires and aspirations, our fears and complications, our interests and compromises; but also about empathy, sympathy, and humanity.
Not everything is about the struggle to survive or the instinct of feeding, dominance, and breeding. Many will argue that we are thinking animals but for me, we are humans. As humans, everything is relevant and dependent on us case by case on a daily basis. What seems right to a group of people in a similarly given situation isn’t always ideal for another group of people. Comparison doesn’t help with achieving truly humane and moral solutions; understanding does that. When we understand, we are able to see beyond what serves us or aligns with our policies and morals. When we understand, we are able to lend a hand and contribute to solutions that are not limited to a set of boxes we tick to select a solution from a menu of prechosen solutions.
Negotiation is a great example of means to really achieve humane and moral solutions. However, as a device utilized and developed by humans, it too has its limitations and misapplications for we can not control or change peoples’ approaches. Approaches can be biased, lead, or even influenced. The good news is, once we anchor understanding on its two legs: individuality and relativity we can achieve workable solutions that run long term while serving the continuity of relationships for the sake of humanity. It is easy to qualify something such as a choice on face value as good or bad because of the material turn over. But it is quite difficult to predict how perverse a choice can be on the development of the subjects involved in the situation but were given no opportunity to have a say or make their own choice.
Devising systems to be either pro women’s or men’s rights or even children’s rights is not the answer. The answer lies in balancing the interests of the vulnerable as per given situation and the heart of a society which is advocating societal units interaction via maintaining relationships. If there should be a penalty to force someone to perform reasonably besides commercial matters, it should be in matters of negotiating and understanding when it comes to families and children. It might sound classic to say the children weren’t asked to be born and one is responsible for their offspring but the truth is, being responsible is proving to be a novel and yet perplexing requirement.
Being there, being understanding doesn’t only comprise of providing basic needs or giving quality time. Being there and being understanding, means making it one’s business to make sure that everyone receives what he or she needs, wants, and longs for. In the end of the day, how we interact, how we come out as complete individuals, is a result of that said understanding of the choice process and the ambits of moral sense. We may not walk around with barcoded foreheads that indicate our environmental and circumstantial selvage. We may manage to hide our right side yin-yang of expectation and reliance. We may lose track of our wrong side two way traffic of emotions and tendencies. We may forcefully try to apply our cross grain of elasticity forgetting that it is pulled at opposite ends by justice and morality. We may exercise our own sense of bias 45 degrees, but understanding can surely angle that bias acutely on creativity, obtusely on resilience, and straightly on adaptation. It is up to us to truly embrace the pessimism of the animal kingdom experiments as an evitable scenario of modern society and degeneration of values in humanity. It is up to us to make true choices that dignify our species as humans with a moral sense capable of balancing what is fair with what is just and moral not just through procedures that we can’t circumvent under the sanction of the law but also because we have others in mind not just our children but our kind. Let us consider ourselves capable of being better than the courts that only uphold the law and only provide relative truth as well as processed justice. Let us practice universal human values that consecrate the value of human life in its fullest form and to its truest call; preserving the spirit of humanity.
Special thanks to E.E. for sharing the video and launching the discussion that lead to writing this article.
1Friston, Karl et al. “The anatomy of choice: dopamine and decision-making.” Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences vol. 369,1655 (2014): 20130481, via: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4186234/
2Eve-Marie Engles, The Roots of Human Morals and Culture in Pre-Human Sympathy,Mohr Siebeck GmbH and Co Kg, accessed online via Jstor Online Database link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2250vc6.17
3 Frank Chiang, in The One-China Policy: State, Sovereignty, and Taiwan’s International Legal Status, 2018, available online via: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/peace-of-westphalia/pdf
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