Western culture brings us up with the notion that “being original” is the most successful strategy as much for individuals as for a community or company. To innovate or not is not a question of contemporary progressivism: innovate or die! We are constantly bombarded with messages about how fast the environment changes and that we should be even faster if we do not want to lag.
But what is the natural evolutionary stable strategy (ESS)?
The answer goes against innovation obsession: copying is the strategy that wins! I started to write this post after reading the Science Magazine article Why copy others? Insights from the Social Learning Strategies Tournament. But there is no need to read this article to understand its logic. Evolutionary theory, genetics, and neuroscience provide ample examples and proof that originality is overvalued.
Being original is an evolutionary deadlock written in western culture. It is strongly supported by the myth of “author” as a sort of “creative god,”; by the myth of a subject-agent, as the unity that controls a human body, by the myth of consciousness that is “in charge” and is located somewhere in human brains as a kind of cartesian theatre that reflects and controls reality. It is reinforced by all sorts of claims about how we should take control over climate, for instance.
Let’s take evolutionary theory, especially genetics, seriously. We should know that evolution rests on repetitions that are not only fecund and live long but are at the same time as accurate copies as possible. Mutations happen. Mutations are not a result of any kind of conscious action. Evolution stops if too many mutations occur; species with too many mutations get extinct, and bodies with too many mutations are carcinogenic.
Originality against identity
There is no need for originality – it (mutation) will inevitably become a mistake after many repetitions. Eastern cultures accept this simple ESS. Tradition is their keyword, and preserving identity is their primary activity.
If this is true (and it is true), then it is not hard to see that western culture is quite close to extinction. Being original is not an evolutionarily stable strategy. Current migrations might be the first visible signs of western decline. We tend to understand non-western cultures as non-scientific, irrational, less developed, and backward. But remember that they include casts from India, which is much more stable than the western »anything-goes-democracy. «
Free economy and traditional values
But how to reconcile such an explanation of ESS with the fact that a free economy of western democracies visibly advanced societies where it emerged? How to understand the fact that a free economy and free trade lowered poverty dramatically in India and in all countries that jumped on the free economy train? Is it not true that India started to develop after they abandoned the caste system?
That caste system has nothing to do with social prosperity can be deduced from Ghandi’s fight against castes as a symbol of exploitation and backwardness.
Let me pose a bold statement: it is not the caste system that prevents development but the lack of a free economy.
But the one that can also be supported from another angle. A free economy without values is as destructive as traditional values without a free economy. That economy can produce beneficial results without the value system behind it is as misleading a concept as a concept of formal democracy. Democracy, as much as the economy, can produce results only if founded on solid value systems/ideologies. And since it is proven that stable evolutionary strategies rest on traditional values and identities as sacred heredity, it follows that the merger of a free economy and traditional values are not only possible but necessary to prevent western culture from extinction.
Another bold statement: it is easier for a solid traditional culture to accept a free economy than for valueless democracy to accept any values.
Homonism is an ideology that connects a free economy and free responsible individuals with solid traditional, conservative values. It explains that what is original at any cost sooner or later perishes while minor »stupid« adjustments avoid making fatal, irreversible mistakes.
(First published on May 11th 2013; the fourth revision)