Karl Marx’s big mistake about human nature

The_Soviet_Union_1968_CPA_3627_stamp_(Karl_Marx)(Read it here in Spanish)

Australian philosopher Peter Singer, main exponent of a transhumanist ethics with books such as Animal Liberation and Practical Ethics, gets it right in his recent article Is Marx still relevant? (coinciding with 200th birthday anniversary of German thinker): The biggest mistake of marxism was a false view of human nature, blaming capitalist system for our vices and believing that some day, with socialism and the advent of a communist society with no classes, a new man free from greed, selfishness, lust for power, and desire of ostentation would be born. Because the fabric men and women are made of is the same, whether under slavery, feudalism, capitalism, or socialism. And communist utopia is as much absurd as unreachable.

In denying human nature we will bump again and again into reality and end up frustrated, seeing that scourges such as sexist violence, organized crime, bullying, or child abuse will never be eradicated. Of course, we have come a long way in this regard, specially in most developed countries, but only with the most childish naivety or out of ignorance about how we really are (partly by estimating that science is not applicable to the study of human behavior) we can come to believe that one day there will be no abuse, rape, murder (sexist or not) or any other barbaric act. And no need of police or prisons, as in leftists’ dreams.

Let us agree once and for all that there will always be psychopaths, sadistic, and evil people among us. And also, fortunately, good and compassionate ones. We are cooperative, but also predators. It’s human variability, for the best and the worst! No matter how good education and laws we lay on the grill, the worst of our nature will never be deleted; if anything, it can be minimized, as in most civilized societies (that’s why I’m afraid that in Spain the number of women murdered by their partners will never be lower than 40 or 50; in places such as Africa, Latin America, India, and the Islamic world, where the situation is much worse, there is a considerably wider margin of improvement).

Not even social engineering can alter the stuff we have been made of by evolution. As long as we remain Sapiens, our motives, impulses, fears, and desires will be the same (taking into account, of course, variability in behaviour). During Cold War, East Germans were not essentially different to West Germans. And nowadays Russians are not substantially different from those of 1960 or 1915. The human movie is always the same, with only minor adaptations in the script, despite cultural changes. Although, as Steven Pinker insists on remarking, humanity has never been better off: there is an undeniable progress, attributable to the strengthening of democracy (lately threatened by a national-populist wave), the growing interdependence between countries and the spread of education and cosmopolitanism.


Hooligans, multi-inculturalism, and ‘siniestrona’

Written in August 2011, coinciding with riots in England.

(Read it here in Spanish)

Recent events in England have portrayed not only a ruthless hordes of young people raised in the shadow of some irresponsible parents and a social protection system too generous to them, but also a political left the most simplistic, extreme, and intolerant (the siniestrona), pretending that those violent attacks by mindless rioters are the rising of a noble people against injustice.

Violence in the English suburbs is due, in my opinion, to the combination of four elements: 1) A wild consumerism fueled for decades by mass media (from advertising to TV series for teenagers going through pure junk TV), who has firmly stuck this idea in the minds of many people: “the more you own (at any price), the more you are”, 2) A serious deterioration of education and traditional values ​​of honesty, respect, and discipline (which was guaranteed more or less when religion was not something in retreat- fortunately, I must say! – as now in the West), 3) A sense of humiliation and inferiority of some poor natives, losers of globalization and prone to xenophobic parties like the British National Party (BNP) in England or the Front National in France, 4) A sense of humiliation and inferiority of some immigrants (or people with immigration background) that have not been fully integrated (or accepted) in European societies,  internally torn by the conflict between laws and customs of their host countries and traditions of their origin countries (that often chain them to the emasculating yoke of patriarchy and religion), who in turn are prone to extremist identitarian movements.

It goes without saying that poor natives prone to xenophobia and humiliated immigrants inclined to identitarian extremism are called to collide sooner or later: the natural tendency of what some people call multiculturalism (a term so dear to the siniestrona), that I prefer to label as multi-inculturalism to be more accurate. Even the various immigrant misfit groups tend to collide one to another. Continue reading “Hooligans, multi-inculturalism, and ‘siniestrona’”

Left, nationalism, and religion


(Read it here in Spanish)

On top of being crude and simplistic, nationalism is a toxic ideology for its very exclusionary nature that inevitably leads peoples to confront one another. The same can be said of religion, with which it is often twinned (in turn, this is a deformer of the child’s mind, a creator of phobias, fears and traumas, an executioner of knowledge and own and others’ happiness). It’s not then surprising the nationalcatolicism (official ideology of Franco’s regime) of some of our bishops, which except for the flag raised does not differ too much from that cultivated in the churches of Catalonia (where prelates and priests advocate the raising of new frontiers, embracing independence movement as an extension of the fourth commandment), the Basque Country (where quite a few religious people sympathize with nationalists and even with ETA), Ireland (idem, but substituting ETA for IRA), and Croatia (where some monks devoted themselves to cold blood slaughter of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies during the Second World War). And let’s not forget Russia, Christian but not Catholic, where Orthodox hierarchy has become a firm ally of the autocrat Putin for defending the great Slavic nation from homosexuals, freethinkers, and bitches.

If it wants to be faithful to its progressive label, twenty-first century’s democratic left should not be ever aligned -or flirt- with nationalists. Nor, of course, with enemies of secularism (this is compatible with tolerating them within the limits of a civilized democracy), be from our own native religion or from any other allegedly religion of peace. Left-wing nationalism is an oxymoron, as well as confessional leftism. A populist caudillo such as Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, who prohibits abortion to raped girls even when their lives are in risk in order to ingratiate himself with the rancid Catholic hierarchy of his country, is not a leftist. Neither are political parties such as ERC -by the way, its leader Oriol Junqueras is a practicing Catholic- or Bildu, that put alleged sacred rights of territories above the rights of the people (it wasn’t long ago that Bildu’s followers would cheer those who shot political enemies in the neck and made car-bombs explode). And if at all they were considered so, and even if an extremist party -in the worst sense of the word- as the CUP could fit the definition, then maybe we should try and look for another suitable tag for the democratic, tolerant, secular, sensible, and internationalist left in the third millennium.

Notes for foreigners:

Leftist ERC, conservative PDeCAT and anti-system CUP make up the independentist front in Catalonia.

Leftist Bildu is the new brand of the former ETA’s political wing (remember: ETA was a terrorist organization).

Stupidity and cultures


(Read it here in Spanish)

Evolutionary biologist David Krakauer, researcher and president of Santa Fe Institute (multidisciplinary center devoted to the study of complexity), gives us a definition of stupidity related to resolution of tasks or problems: a stupid solution would make us reach a goal or result – if at all!- at least as long as if we entrusted ourselves to pure chance. Let’s take the example of a Rubik’s Cube. Smart solutions would lead us to solve the cube in a relatively short time, which could be minutes or hours, following rational rules or guidelines. It’s true that if we had an infinite amount of time we would end up solving the cube sooner or later (perhaps in two million or in thirty thousand million years’ time), manipulating it at our will without any reasoning or pattern. But a manifestly stupid solution, such as simply rotating the cube without altering the layout of its 27 components, wouldn’t be effective even throughout eternity. A stupid person tends to do stupid things like that, but not all stupidity is committed by strictly stupid individuals (deprived of the use of reason): there are also blinded, ignorant, ill-informed and fanatics (who place their poisonous ideology before reason). Continue reading “Stupidity and cultures”

Humans are to blame, not Europeans

Slave prison in Alexandria, Virginia, ca. 1836 (from Wikipedia)

(in response to Robbie Shilliam. You can read complete interaction with him)

I agree with you, Robbie, that there is a kind of European citizen “ensconced in his/her own culture, taking his/her particulars for mystical universals, and unable to look at him/herself in the mirror”. Indeed, I do know quiet a few! But change “a kind of European” for “a kind of African”, “a kind of Asian” or “a kind of American” and you would also be right. What I mean is that this is a human (not a European) feature. All humans are basically the same: exactly the same hardware, with only cultural software making the difference (and not that big!).

You seem to put the blame only on Europe. Take into account that European or Western cultural stance must somehow be different because since 1492 Europe (namely, the West) has been calling the shots in the world and, obviously, views and collective imageries cannot be the same: it’s absurd to expect slave owners/colonialists (and their descendants) and slaves/colonized (and their descendants) to share the same ideological and cultural imagery. Those narratives from both sides have been passing on through generations (memory of slavery and colonization is not that old: southern USA was an apartheid regime until mid sixties!). Indeed, there is a dominant, conceited and dismissive Western cultural “sensibility” (nurtured by its very own “success” and hegemony, not very different –I suppose- to that of old Incas, Romans, Persians or Arabs), but at the same time there is a strong self-critical one (born in the political left, out of a feeling of guilt for the crimes comitted by forefathers). Continue reading “Humans are to blame, not Europeans”

European Union: Yes, please!


(Read it here in Spanish)

The European Union (EU) has come under fire from the less informed citizens in the old continent, manipulated by demagogues and populists of various kinds committed to convincing them that their problems (unemployment, economic stagnation, loss of social rights, etc.) are attributable to the Community institutions. When the truth is that the EU is not the problem but the way to the solution: to face the current crisis and try to reformulate our model of life with intelligence and wisdom – for the sake of environmental and territorial balance, social welfare and peace – it is necessary to act at Community level. We must make a leap in the European construction to move towards a full political union, a federation with legislative and executive powers comparable to those of any democratic state. Then, the Union will be what its dwellers want it to be, expressing themselves not only at the polls but also at the time of consuming or protesting: we cannot pretend that its quality, like in any other human institution, be better than that of the citizens from which is composed. Continue reading “European Union: Yes, please!”