The Human Psyche and Short Term Gains: A tale of evolutionary biology and the Trump win.
Why do we struggle to pay attention to global warming? Why is it not natural for us to see the value in anti-trust laws, Wall Street reform and consumer protection?
This era in our history is completely new to our biological system. Natural selection would historically favor a short-term gain mentality in many instances because we were cooperating in small, tribal-sized communities.
Throughout most of our history, the worst we could do is wipe out a competing tribe for resources. Not to be taken lightly, but our actions never caused global decimation. Before the 20th century, the planet itself was never at risk from our decisions. Our psyche formed to help us survive as individuals. The social partnerships we made were personal, and we could see and feel the gain in security from those partnerships. The attention and fight that gears one toward short-term gain yields high rewards for the winners. It is a very temping strategy.
Alienation from the industrial era on has made it increasingly difficult for humans to survive in the context of the long-game. It takes a very specific upbringing to get a human mind to be oriented past the minimal sphere of self- and immediate surroundings. This statement is not meant as a judgement; it is just the nature of mammalian survival from which we grew out of.
The rate of change in the last 200 years is speeding away at exponential levels, and our greatest potential demise will likely be: that our psyche is incapable of making decisions accordingly.
The outcome of this election in the U.S. speaks clearly to this. So many who voted for Trump were upset and dejected regarding their immediate surroundings. When your immediate survival (both literally and culturally) looks dim, why would you worry about global warming? We might say: because it it the ‘right thing to do’ … and maybe it is ‘right’ — but our minds did not evolve to put morality over our personal survival.
We might say: Yes, but this choice did not actually increase the immediate survival for this very same coalition. I agree, but the panic that ensues when you feel at risk means you will likely choose the options that sounds like it is more personally speaking to you. It will occur as the less risky option.
Let’s look at the apparent voter apathy of the left. The voter turnout was low among Democrats this year. Perhaps that voter block — for now — was still ‘surviving’ comfortably enough.
“Democratic voters didn’t bother to go vote, while white Republican voters in rural areas of swing states did. …Based on initial vote tallies, turnout for the 2016 election will be the lowest since then, when Al Gore won the popular contest, but lost the Electoral College, 271 to 266.”
Most shocking: the indifference of the college-educated white vote: Not feeling disparaged, as is the rust-belt coalition, but, rather comfortable… their vote is for their own tax break. Most disheartening was: how can so many people go through the awakening that is a liberal arts education, and still not care for the impact on the world? The environment? Your sisters and brothers of different color, orientation and creed?
Trump won whites with a college degree 49% to 45%.
I can only again make sense of this from my original argument. The human psyche is not built or evolved to think or care at this level.
We simply may not get the opportunity to evolve our way out of this one.