Cooperation vs competition

The competitive aspects of globalization are emphasized in the press – the job losses, the skirmishing wars, the profiteering, the despair. While not glossing over those ‘disease states’ within the body politic, the increasing cooperation goes largely unreported.

Every great biological revolution in the history of life has involved a period of competition followed by an act of unprecedented cooperation. The original prokaryotic bacteria – simple, tiny, self-replicating eating machines in the archaeozoic sea, were all in fierce competition with each other, but combined a membrane, mitochondria, flagellae, centrioles, kinetomeres, and an RNA-run nucleus cooperatively to form the now-common DNA-governed eukaryotic cell of which you, o my sister, o my brother, consist.

These blue-green spirulina then hatched a million variations that turned the sea green and changed the very atmosphere of this planet beyond all recognition, nearly setting it on fire. These algae and protists, in fierce competition, nevertheless cooperated to form multi-cellular organisms. You are one such outcome – your cells so totally cooperate as to produce the consciousness called ‘you’ – so singular in nature that you are unaware of the life and death of each individual cell within your tens of trillions – millions of them being born and millions more dying within you on any given day.

Such a cooperative event is even now taking place beneath the old news of competition among countries, ideologies, and individuals. As we approach 10 billion souls, the possibility for an underlying cooperative organism exists – a ‘body human’, we could call it. The internet is its nascent nervous system – about at the level of a sea anenome currently, but organizing itself quickly into a more centralized form, in spite of or totally without government intervention. Its fascial net is the cultural fabric, weaving itself together event by event. It’s circulatory system is the flow of raw materials and goods, roughly similar to an embryo sucking on the placenta, or more properly, a chicken growing from the white using the yolk as food.

As with the chick, success is not assured – we could use the yolk (oil, gas, etc) too profligately and inefficiently, and end up as rotten egg before we ‘hatch’ into income energy independence (solar, wind, renewables). I am not spouting some communistic ‘New World Order’, but an organic process that utilizes the free will and free movement of the constituent ‘cells’ (us) to form a new and unknown being, like a school of human fish with a new and unknown purpose. How exciting! How weird.

But the increasing cooperative nature of the new world and the new generation – let’s share music, let’s share movies, let’s share blogs, we’re all connected – parallel to the DNA/RNA sharing in bacteria – is a sure sign of the coming cooperative element essential to this new level of organization. War, surely, is becoming obsolete as a strategy; the temporal discrapncy between event and its knowledge across the ‘organism’ is becoming a matter of seconds, and the differences between thee and me a matter of triviality, to be celebrated in art, but not, o you devout of whatever faith, fought to the death.

For such death-dealing is now to be seen as a disease process within the body of humanity. History tells us cooperation will win, however dismal the prospect seems today. Look beneath the news on CNN, a grand new being is not slouching toward Bethlehem to be born, but arising unnoticed from our very midst – a pilobolus at the moment, ebbing and flowing from cooperative venture to individual competition, but it is due to start building more permanent structures, systems that will have the ‘fairness’, like it or not, of the biological processes within our own bodies and cells, for that is the pattern it is following.

We humans could fail, and subside back into the mud. If we do, it will take a few eons, but another set of beings will rise to this place on the earth – to dominater, compete, and cooperate and co-evolve / epigeneticize into a meta-organism. I am committed to the success of this human experiment, but it is by no means a sure thing. What is seemingly more sure is the dream of the earth to form something larger than ourselves and our petty and selfish concerns.

(Sorry – middle of the night rambling on the day of the march on Washington, from a sleep-deprived pilgrim on the other side of the globe.)


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