Survival of the Fittest

Our merit system is set up to be a game. The institutions in place designed to decide our fate are orchestrated around the concept of game play. The justice system is a great example. In a court of law, both the defense and the prosecution must make their case regarding the guilt or liability of a person or institution. This process is not designed to elucidate the truth—this process is designed to evaluate fitness. While the parameters of this process are worded in a way that suggests that the final outcome should be based on justice, in reality the final outcome is based on resourcefulness. Which side will be clever enough to persuade a jury? Which side has the tools to convince the other to plead guilty or admit defeat? This thinking has permeated every paradigm we hold dear with regards to meritorious efforts, rewards, and punishments.

Obtaining basic necessities like food, water, and shelter are part of this game. Someone must prove their fitness in order to confirm they are worthy of these basics of life. They must go on job interviews where even if they are qualified they can lose points through the slightest of missteps. Once someone has obtained a job, maintaining it is daily game play. Which errors will cause the employee to lose points? Which triumphs will help them gain? We often become unconscious of the stress generated through the constant need to be at the top of our game in order to prove we are fit enough to deserve food, water, and shelter.

War is the mother of all tournaments in this game of life. Which civilization is fit enough to live? Which community? Which ethnicity? This system of game play makes it natural for this question to be posed regularly. Violence is the ultimate “game over” for those not fit enough to win. A police officer that conducts a routine traffic stop may demand that the motorist prove their fitness through the enactment of complete and perfect compliance. In this game, any error proves the motorist unfit to live.

We’ve become indoctrinated not to see this game for what it is. There is an unconscious acceptance of cruelty based on an inability to process an alternative. The idea that we can build a society that does not demand that others prove their fitness to live is almost unthinkable for some. They abhor the thought of allowing the weak, incompetent, or the undesirables the same privileges as those that have, through selective parameters, proved their fitness.

There is another line of thought however. Some people believe that this game concept is wrong. Some believe that one’s “fitness” is proven through birth. Every person who is born has a right to justice. They should not have to prove they are fit enough for it by having the means to hire the most competent defense. Every person who is born should have a right to food, water, and shelter—even if they or their parents cannot perform infallibly in their profession. One’s ability to obtain certain basics of life should not be based on a point system, it should be based on common sense.

The Ayn Rand school of thought is one that assumes that the most educated, competent, and ruthless are indeed deserving of the earth’s spoils—they are the individuals that have proven they are fit enough to survive. Famous policy makers like former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Alan Greenspan were disciples of Rand[1]. She validated what masses of people wanted to hear in their heart of hearts. Despite her criticism of all forms of welfare, when Ayn Rand fell on hard times she relied on Social Security and Medicaid to survive[2]. It appeared that her disciples would remain unflappable in their beliefs.

The wealthy elite she had entertained with her writings and musings were nowhere to be found when her fortunes turned. They were taught well by her that losing too many points meant game over for everyone—no exceptions. The only people she had to depend on were the faceless taxpayers that remembered the hardship of the depression and funded a welfare system designed to provide a safe haven for those without other means of support.

Altruism is common sense. Understanding our inherent vulnerability must coincide with an increase in systemic forms of support, not a rigid adherence to the point system. Anyone can find their fortunes turning—to think otherwise is simply hubris. It is no small thing to acknowledge our frailty and demand changes to protect ourselves and those around us from the inevitability of adversity. Creating more game systems to prove our “fitness” in such events only perpetuates the cycle of dog eat dog.

There is an increasing reliance on technicality in order to assess another’s fitness. Its truly becoming absurd. Illegal immigration is being criminalized in such a way that some have deemed it egregious enough to facilitate the separation of families, despite data reporting immigrants to be less likely to otherwise commit crimes[3]. Not complying with an officer’s orders can simply be a miscommunication yet ending that individual’s life is sanctioned by the law—and in effect society at large. Individuals are driven from their jobs, their homes, and their social circles for having the wrong political views. Offending someone, anyone… is becoming a societal death sentence.

All of this is very Darwinian in its effects. It must be understood however that Darwin’s theory wasn’t simply “survival of the fittest”, but it was survival of the fittest for that particular environment[4]. Meaning, if the environment is such that the most hostile species or individual survives, then the most hostile will be those that remain as survivors of the species. Conversely, if the environment is one where the most conciliatory survive, the more hostile of that species will go extinct.

As mankind evolves, the meek become increasingly closer to inheriting the earth. It is not too late for adaptation as the phrase “survival of the fittest” is taking on an evolution in its meaning. It is the search for one’s place in this evolution that must be the task of all who seek to make a conscious contribution to the future of humanity.

References

[1] Rubin, H., 2007. Ayn Rand’s literature of capitalism. New York Times, 15.

[2] McConnell, Scott (2010). 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand. New York: New American Library. ISBN 978-0-451-23130-7. OCLC 555642813

[3] Rumbaut, R.G., Ewing, W. and Martinez, D., 2015. The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States.

[4] Sapolsky, R.M., 2017. Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst. Penguin.

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