We have to understand that there’s multiple types of morality and if you’re mistreated a child and you’re let cry, your stress response systems, the various kinds, are going to be much more threat reactive and when you’re in social situations you’re going to go into a self-protective mode which either means you’re going to want to be dominate or you’re going to withdraw, depending on how you sense things in that moment. In that case, that’s morality but is a very self-protective and it’s an abnormal kind of a morality for human nature, is my point. But we think it’s normal now because it’s all over the place. And then the other option is to disassociate.
I use Paul McClain’s “Triune Brain Theory” as an inspiration. I know people complain about it although the critiques weren’t that bad. It was just minor details but people somehow dismiss it in the neuroscience field which, unfortunately. But anyway offers a nice view into the different modes that we have so that the very self-protective mode is that all those more primitive survival systems activating and kind of drawing the blood flow away from other options and your thinking just deteriorates in those situations. It’s all about self-protection. And then we have the mammalian and limbic system area, the very pro-social kind of socially oriented part of the brain that must have good early supportive experience to develop well. You know this from various researchers like Allan Schore’s work. The third area is the imaginative aspect so that’s the prefrontal cortex, the neo-cortex, the ability to imagine alternatives to the present moment, to have some foresight about the future and imagine possibility. That part also develops but it also requires, to develop well, a good supportive environment, not only in early life but through age 30 or so, or even probably beyond because we can all shift back into this, what’s called sometimes, the reptilian mode of self-protection.
What happens I think in the rest of society now is that we raise children without what they need and so they’re easily stressed and going into the self-protective mode. We put them in schools though and we tell them you need to know this information and if they can survive there and do well, they develop sort of a detached imagination. We say “don’t feel.” We put them in rooms where we don’t want them to feel, don’t want them to sense their bodies because they’re just sitting in a chair, so they learn to disassociate in this way of intellect, what we call intellect, and that then becomes dominant. So I think adults who succeed in our culture these days shift between the self-protective mode and then this detached imagination, or, if they’re self-protected and imaginative they’ll be vicious--they’ll want to impose their will on someone else by their only ideology, or even if they think like a missionary, or others, “we’re going to help those people ‘over there’.” Those poor Africans you know, they need my help and I’m going to go in and impose my view of what’s good on them. And I think that’s a vicious thing to do. It’s disrespectful.
So that’s sort of where we are. We flip between those modes. But what a hunter-gather society shows us is that there’s an alternative way to be and it’s quite different. Its being present in the moment with others and then using your imagination to imagine yourself connected to everything in the universe, everything on Earth is part of your relational context. You are in a web of relationships. And we know that’s true from physics depending on which element of science you’re looking at. We share DNA with all these creatures and plants. We are connected. The hunter-gather spends most of their time in this mode of being, being connected and present and they’re very ‘there,’ and they’re not imposing themselves on others and they have just a different kind of morality.
So that’s what I would take as a baseline for human nature. That we are meant to be imaginative, in the globe, in the planet, with the plants and animals and we can see from Native Americans that they include the mountain, the air, the water, the river as a self. It’s an agent. They are agents. What happens when we deteriorate the early life experience of children we undermine their ability here to hear the mountain, the tree, the wind, understand them as agents.
Humans aren’t the only agents. Human are not the only ones that communicate. All these other entities do as well. The hunter-gatherers, the Native Americans especially, have a sense that they are agents and they are responsible to be in relationship, respectful of the relationship, with all those other entities. So that’s another aspect that we’re missing now that’s led to the demise of our understanding of the Earth and how we are now destroying our habitat.