needed to understand how we, as a species, came to be ‘wired’ in a way
that leads, inevitably, toward extinction, hoping against all hope that
“if we could understand the ‘mechanism’, then we’d have some chance at
The specifics are detailed in a book I wrote titled ‘Learning to Love’, but here are the central ideas:
We need to Collaborate to Survive
Most of us collaborate with other people to ensure that we have food, shelter and everything else necessary for survival.
We need to Conform to Belong
With the exception of a few particularly-rugged individuals (who are almost completely self-sufficient), getting our needs met requires a degree of social integration, conformity, and acceptance. In other words, BELONGING.
We need to Be Acceptable to Belong
Attitudes, behaviors, attributes (like a desired skin tone, level of education, wealth or status) that increase our ACCEPTANCE within a particular society, reinforce Belonging.
Otherwise we're In Deep Trouble
Individuals whose attitudes, behaviors and attributes do not conform to societal norms are driven toward the edges of society. They struggle to get their needs met and their lives are perceived to have less value than those who belong.
Constant Pressure to Prove Acceptance-Worthiness
Since Degree of Belonging is relative, there’s a constant pressure not only to conform, but to exaggerate the attitudes, behaviors and attributes that are favored.
Viewed through this lens, it makes perfect sense that most people struggle to VOLUNTARILY shift their lifestyles in ways that, for example, would completely eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power.
There is one important caveat, however: The moment that it becomes ‘broadly socially acceptable’ or desirable for behavior to shift, the transition can occur very rapidly, because failure to maintain one’s place within the shifting consensus will result in loss-of-belonging.
In Canada, for example, we witnessed the initial resistance to face masks for Covid, but as soon as the imposed, new consensus was broadly accepted, businesses raced to compete for recognition as mask and disinfectant manufacturers, and solutions to the shortage of respirators flooded the internet and mainstream media.