It’s not that all humans are simply equal. It’s that, compared to the rest of the Universe, we are equal.
It starts with understanding the ability to form ad hoc teams has a massive evolutionary advantage. This eusocial ability is not present fully in most mammals or creatures, but those that exhibit it (ants, bees, humans and a dozen or so other species) tend to dominate their environment.
So, when you think of your town, your state, your country, your political party, and the way these organizational units make you feel good, you are experiencing the great human trick of abstracting the Other and putting it into the internal space of meaningful connections.
These groups are granfalloons, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t immensely powerful. We are evolved to respond internally to these grouping. Because our ancestors that didn’t respond got outflanked and killed.
Another trick we have is that when we are faced with an adversarial situation, for instance when your group is facing off against another group, it tends to intensify and strengthen the bonds of your group.
So we have Democrats versus Republicans, race versus race, nation versus nation.
Arguing that these confrontations are wrong is arguing against the practical power of adversarial relationships. The real question is, what is an Other that would bond us all together?
Sci-fi and fantasy have answered this question of course. A nasty alien invasion. A zombie virus. Inter-dimensional monsters. The Borg.
But how do we answer this question for real, to provide a feeling of union that lasts longer than it takes you to walk to your car in the movie theater parking lot?
It’s not us versus us. It’s us versus the rest of the Universe.
This thing is trying to kill us.
What if it’s simply existence versus non existence. The Existentialists saw this clearly, but for them it was more about how to answer the question of individual meaning and experience. I am suggesting “us vs. the Universe” is a way, the only moral way, to bond our entire species together.
If you are actually scared of other people taking your jobs and changing your culture, and not scared of asteroids, famine, and climate change, then you just haven’t thought this thing through. And you know what you should really fear?
It will freeze you, suffocate you, explode you and irradiate you. And it’s almost all of the Universe. Astronomers believe that only 4% of the universe is made up of matter. And most of that, the vast majority, is stars and dust.
We are all in the 1%.
Absence of matter is the great defining aspect of the universe. The amount of non-existence in the universe is staggering. Forget about planets we can’t live on, we can’t exist in the universe anywhere but this planet, and only on certain habitable land massess. And we are rapidly screwing that up.
The history of man, and all living things, is catastrophic. Death and suffering on scales unimaginable. Extinction and non existence defines most creatures who ever existed.
Ok, so still with me? What if the bad guy in this story wasn’t aliens, it was Space itself — the black stuff with nothing in it — how would that change the story of man? And not just men, but all life.
Space is the thing that makes all humans equal, and by extension all life equal. Because the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the laws of gravity, the difficulties of maintaining stable systems on this planet and elsewhere, make it imperative that we overcome the bonds of lesser granfalloons.
There is some great sci-fi out there that captures this notion much better than this simple blog post. Seveneves. The Expanse books. But what we need is not just great sci-fi, it’s leaders who see the longer term vision of bonding our entire species together by pitting us against the entirety of Universe. Because there is no way, no way at all, that we win this fight.
The Universe is going to eat us alive.
And that, my friends, is exactly the kind of attitude we need to bring us all together.