The Jungle

You all know of the great ancient civilisations, such as the Mayan or the Cambodian, that fell into ruin and were reclaimed by the jungle. You probably also know Shelley’s famous sonnet Ozymandias, about an empire fallen into ruin and reclaimed by the desert.

Our own civilisation is also being reclaimed by Nature, but in subtle ways that are seldom recognised except in such sayings as “the rat race” or “the law of the jungle”. “It’s a jungle out there”, we say about the workaday world, and there is more truth in this than you might imagine.

There’s a certain irony in all this — perhaps enantiodromia in action; that is to say, reversal of fortune or reversal at the extremity, for having set out to “conquer” and master, or domesticate and civilise Nature by methods rational and brutal and violent, we have despite ourselves ended up being invaded and overcome by Nature once again. The more we attempt to impose our rule upon Nature and govern it and “civilise” it, the more feral we become ourselves, and the more we succumb to the so-called “law of the jungle”.

I was reminded of that this early morning upon reading an article posted on the CBC website: “What election rules?” Nature “red in tooth and claw”, of predator and prey, of “the struggle for survival” and “the survival of the fittest” has become incorporated into the very structure of contemporary civilisation and culture, only we don’t recognise these matters as being symptomatic of our being overwhelmed by Nature just as much as the ancient civilisations were reclaimed by the jungle or the desert.

We are not becoming “natural” so much as “feral”, however. Our Mr. Hyde is overtaking our Dr. Jekyll, as it were. Robert Louis Stevenson’s simian “Mr. Hyde” predates by almost a century our own “discovery” that the human is nothing but “a naked ape” (or, as Nietzsche wryly remarked earlier “more ape than any ape”), and with “the death of God”, “Nature” and Nature’s law became our model of what we should become.

But to tell someone that something they did was “only natural” is now to say that they weren’t responsible for it, and that they aren’t accountable or answerable for it. But to suggest as much is to provide licence for impulsiveness, licentiousness, and libertinism — free rein to the lizard brain.

This is, in fact, plainly evident in our contemporary politics and economics, where “the natural order of things” has become the rationalisation for all kinds of incivility, exploitation, rapine, and predation because “it’s only natural”. Politics has become absolutely feral while capitalism has become utterly predatory.

It was probably none of the intention of evolutionary biologists or physics to provide a rationale for our re-invasion by Nature in those terms. It was perhaps an example of “perverse outcome” or “unintended consequence” that they provided a rationale for a “natural” irresponsibility and licence to Mr. Hyde. That’s the consequence of a totally lop-sided understanding of evolution and the wish to eliminate “subjective values” and internal factors from evolutionary theory and scientific description. And to that extent, science bears a great deal of responsibility for our re-invasion by Nature and the return of the law of the jungle and the rat race. But, it is certainly ironic that a form of consciousness that set out to “master Nature” has ended up succumbing to it once again. That’s “enantiodromia“.

Ironies abound indeed at our “end of history”.

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4 responses to “The Jungle”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    When nature is detached from its managing creator, that is its liveliness and turned into machine that has no feeling, insensitivity pervades. It is frightening to notice how insensitive our world has become., how our disintegrating thinking is destroying our beautiful universe. It is a question of faith that this universe has rules and that our humanity should abide by that rules or will falter, as all previous perverted civilizations had faltered.

  2. Dwig says :

    Aldous Huxley also commented on this point via his story “Ape and Essence”. (Surely it’s evident… The ends are ape-chosen; only the means are man’s.)

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    Here are two extremely important quotes from the article “What election rules?” you linked to:

    “”That’s really the worst of all worlds to have both unlimited fundraising and spending with no record, no information for voters on where the money is coming from, who’s bankrolling these efforts,” she says.”

    “”Studies have shown that outside interest groups run ads that are far more negative, far more deceptive, and that’s a concern because in some cases, the public doesn’t have any information about who’s behind the group, who’s running it.””

    Exactly.

    This is what I was referring to in the past when I was saying that public money stolen from the Middle East due to very poor to non-existent treasury, taxation, tariff, and import-export rules ends up in banks overseas only to be spent on every kind of menace imaginable around the world.

    For example, every time I hear Sheldon Adelson has pledged another $1 billion dollar to support this or that presidential candidate in America, I know some of the $100’s of billions of dollars that the so called puppet “Supreme Leader” or “president” personalities in the Middle East have stashed in their accounts overseas has been transferred to Adelson’s possession so he can do whatever with it. This is not Adelson’s hard earned money that he dispenses with in such massive fashion. This is a global network that is determined to send the entire planet back to a feudal system of government.

    Plutocracy is our ticket back to “The Jungle.”

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