The tragedy of the commons

She is eight years old and she is drawing a picture of a whale in a tumultuous ocean. You smile at her and she returns the favour. “That’s a nice whale” you say. She responds “there aren’t many left”. She talks about oil exploration in the arctic regions, the rights of indigenous people and climate change. “She’s a precocious one” you think.

Sitting side by side watching the other kids play, she lets out a sigh, “why can’t everyone just be nice to each other”. You don’t know how to answer that. You know the answer, but you don’t want to break her innocence, you want to let her have a few more years believing there is a solution to every problem, that zero sum games do not exist, that love can conquer all.

You walk out of the room and have a cup of tea, you chat with the lady in the hall about one of the boys and his tendency to try and remove his clothes.

You hear crying and run back into the children’s room. That precocious child has her teeth firmly embedded in another boy’s hand. Her eyes flash with primitive rage.

“Why did you do that?” you ask the girl when she has calmed down.

“He tried to take my crayons” she said.

“They’re not your crayons” you tell her “they belong to the school”.

She looks ashamed, then turns back to colour her whale, with the crayons, while the boy tends to his wounds.

In sickness and in health

She tells you that she thinks she has some terrible disease. She worries out loud about maybe having been cursed or being attacked by some invisible entity.

You respond, but you cannot really respond. You’ve been here before, you know nothing you say will get through.

So you give one word answers and hope she gives up. You know the terror she feels cannot be reasoned with. Tell her to take her meds, and then leave her alone, because even when you are there with her, she is alone.

You are sure there has to be a better way, but you don’t have any clue what that way might be.

The selfish gene

All that is really required is the self replicating molecule. It is without intent but it is intent. It is without will but it is will. What will is it? The will to “go forth and multiply” – the end consequence, the whole universe by some horror of exponents, becomes the molecule.

But that is not how this will unfolds, how this will unfold. There is the other and against the other the molecule requires advantage, defences and capabilities. Instead of one making everything itself, unity in stability, there are two, violence and dynamism, competition, evolution – the multiplication of all the fantastic and terrible forms.

All that is really required is the individual. It has intent and is intent, has will and is will. It is no other will than the will of the self replicating molecule it carries inside every cell. Each secreting it’s dreams of conquest into the bloodstream, messages tenderly crafted by the ribosomes. To have everything, to be everything. To always be striving for the impossible unity of totality.

And around this nucleus, the self replicating machine built around the nucleus of the self replicating molecule – defences, advantage, capabilities – all the myriad forms, families, clans, villages, cities, tribes, nation states, technologies mechanical and social, terrible and wonderful creations of power.

All for that little molecule – a creator with no care or love for it’s creations, a creator that would sacrifice all beauty and goodness to advance itself, that has sacrificed trillions on the altar of it’s selfishness.

The creator that has no will, but is will. He who created us in His image.