Most of us will recognize this picture from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. In this scene, one of our distant ancestors or another, encouraged or enlightened courtesy of the seemingly inscrutable monolith, has discovered that a bone may be used as a tool. As a killing tool in particular. After killing a tapir and one of his own kind from a different group or tribe, the new prototypical Homo Faber (Man the Tool Maker) celebrates his discovery by tossing the bone into the air, and it becomes through Kubrick's inspiration a tool of a different kind--a space vessel. So, after that violent beginning, we humans progressed and came to create far more sophisticated tools, according to the movie.
And so we did, and do. But more than making tools, we have managed now to be "tools" as that word is defined in slang, or in the invaluable Urban Dictionary. We've become, in other words, jackasses. We've devolved from being Homo Sapiens. As it seems our devolution is continuing, we're more properly considered Homo Degeneratus.
What is remarkable is that not only do we devolve, we seem to have no interest in progressing, in being more than we are or better than we are, in thought or deed. We want to have more than we do and have better than we do, however. It's a significant distinction. More money, more and better possessions are desired. We take that selfishness for granted. Thinking better and doing better aren't among our goals, though. Indeed, judging from what we say and do it isn't clear we think we can or should think or do better than we do now. We resent anything or anyone suggesting we're lacking in any respect when it comes to what we believe or what we want. We reject anything suggesting that what we believe or want is untrue or unworthy.
How else do we explain what seems to be the widespread belief in absurd conspiracy theories and election fraud which abounds at this time, despite that there is no legitimate evidence supporting that belief? How do we understand claims being made that fraud must be disproven rather than proven? Why do so many of us simply assume that claims made are true; particularly, it seems, those made by people who are proven liars?
A possible explanation is that we've become Homo Degeneratus, and are increasingly stupid, dull and bovine as a rule. So, we're easily led--herded as it were. We're changing into the stereotypical caveman as portrayed in cartoons. Maybe we're regressing, rapidly, for some reason.
Another is that we've reached the limits of our ability and/or desire to think and the world around us, indifferent to our incapacity, grows more and more complex and dangerous. Because we cannot or will not think more than we have, we turn to thoughtless answers and solutions to our problems, in the hope we'll hit on something that works. The worse things become the more our urge to grasp at even the most idiotic response, provided only that it satisfies our need not to think about what is happening and seems right.
Perhaps we're witnessing denial, as defined in psychology, but on a mass scale. We simply refuse to acknowledge what takes place if we find it objectionable, unpleasant or threatening. Certainly we're witness to a particularly gross form of denial at this time in the form of the rejection of the results of the recent election. Is denial catching? It might be, in the sense that hysteria is catching and can overcome groups of people, who come to accept an alternate version of reality and, unfortunately, put their delusions into action.
This all raises questions about the fate of representative government in these dark times of instantaneous communication and instantaneous acceptance of whatever is communicated if it is satisfying. It's been known for sometime that we're all subject to manipulation. Those in sales and marketing have known this, at least, and profited by it. Add to it what seems to be a positive revulsion to critical thinking of the kind that infests so many of us, and a legitimate fear of what will become of representative government arises.
If we've become or are becoming a kind of herd, then we may be led. We may even be led to the slaughter, as are other herds. Then government becomes a matter of despotism, by one or by a group. In that case, our best hope lies with the possibility of a benign, knowledgeable despot of the kind longed for by even such as J.S. Mill in his more Coleridge-inspired moments. Or perhaps an intellectual elite of the kind envisioned by Plato, by which we'll be marched in dull, regulated ranks towards perceived perfection.
Will we come to provide proof for the dreams of elitists, tyrants, autocrats and despots throughout history? Proof, that is to say, that we're incapable of governing ourselves and must be prodded, even compelled, to accept what those who consider themselves our betters, or divinely inspired, or otherwise destined, think are goals to be reached? Stay tuned.