What is the matter with Homo sapiens?

I am impressed by the advances in technology and the sciences that make it possible. It is an incredible collective success of sapiens, our species, to make life more comfortable and with less suffering. I would certainly not want to go back to the living conditions of just 200 years ago: no vaccines, antibiotics, anesthesia, bicycles, cars or trains; no matches, electric light, refrigerators, elevators, telephone or radio. I would not even want to return to 1995, when the internet was unavailable and totally unknown to me.

But at this point I begin to wonder. I would not miss the internet if I had not known it –as it happens with things that are most “necessary”. I believe that I could even do without it if those with whom I live and collaborate did not have it either. The same could be said of many innovations which make our lives easier and…. more complicated. Conclusion: I need the internet because others have it. Is that because I want to be more useful to others, or because I do not want to fall backwards? Is that because I want them to win or because I do not want to lose? I do not really know what ultimately motivates me, or, perhaps, I do not dare to know. The most noble reasons cannot hide the most obscure motivations: the eagerness to be more, to have more, to do more. These are my shadows and my chains, and, more or less, those of anybody else.

Who can free me from this condition? I ask myself like Paul of Tarsus did, and like did all “the others” who made me be what I am, all “the others” whom I made them be what they are, with their bright and dark sides. We are interbeings, interweaved in a network, for better or worse. All in all, and more so every time. Every advancement in science and technology is a thicket of conflicting interests, the most noble and the most obscure ones. Every success becomes a menace, a loss; every advancement becomes a step backwards. What will be the final balance? Terrible question.

For example. It is now possible to make meat from stem cells, up to 20.000 tons of meat from a single cell. A mere 150 cows, maintained in great luxury, never to be sacrificed, would be enough for all humanity to eat as much meat each person pleases. And foie-gras, and cured ham, and all those cruel delicatesen. Lab meat will abolish killing of animals. I love this news. But it does not come alone: dozens and dozens of newly starting companies are already in a crazy race to fabricate meat. Will producers and consumers increasingly become like poor vegetarian farm animals to be serially sacrificed on the capital conveyor belt?

Another example of today. The pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced its anti-Covid-19 vaccine, the disease caused by that minuscule virus which is keeping humanity on the edge of its seat. We were relieved! But then, we learned that on the following day, Pfizer’s CEO sold most of his shares of the company which had increased in value tremendously, thus, making millions at once. Pfizer’s vaccine will be safe, I believe in the scientists, but its CEO does not look trustworthy to me. And I am afraid the same may happen in many of the hundred or so companies competing in this race for the vaccine and the money, that some of the vaccines may not be safe in spite of the scientists because between health and money the latter may win. In this world driven by personal greed and the capitalist system, speculation is worse than the worst pandemia. Damned shares and stock markets, more harmful than Covid-19 for our health and welfare, our collective and individual happiness which is one and the same!

The questions are many: what is the matter with us humans, who easily fall prey to our emotions and our most disturbing and misleading ideas? Why do we insist on knowing, having more power or things than the rest of us, when all of us have the same origin and destiny? Why, being one all of us, are we incapable of enjoying and celebrating the good of others just as we do enjoy and celebrate our own good? Why is progress maintained at this dizzying pace which will end up choking us, because the more things we invent to live better, the faster we are forced to run to win, until we run out of breath? Why do we sustain this absurd competition that underlies our civilization from its beginnings and ultimately digs our graves as species?

It is not the consequence of any original sin. It is because we are an incomplete creation, an unfinished product of the evolution of life, of the Earth, of the cosmos. At times I think we are an error of evolution, but actually evolution, as science, is a permanent process of trial and error. Some 2.5 million years ago, in a subtribe of hominid primates some individuals were born with a more developed brain, the first Homo. And a lot later, about 300.000 years ago, our species sapiens appeared with a much larger brain, with more imagination and fears, more capable of collaboration and of wars, of communion and of hatred, of happiness and unahappiness, of peace and anguish, of awareness of Being and of being blinded by its ego. Both sides go together, and thus, we continue our lives, not being able to do all the good we would like to do and doing all the evil we do not want to do. We are unbalanced beings, divided, with no stable interior harmony. We are unfinished beings.

What can we hope for? To hope for is to promote, with a deep vital breath, the best we can dream of. I have a dream that one day we will advance abruptly again, as individuals and as species. I dream about sciences being able to identify those neurons and genes which make us what we are, without them being manipulated by managers, inhumane interests and systems. I have a dream that sciences, education and politics, inspired by spiritual traditions, religious or not, will find the way to correct the serious disfunctions that we suffer and to potentiate the marvellous capacities we are endowed with, and thus, we will become more human, transhuman or posthuman.

Will we be able to convert this dream into hope, so that it will finally emerge and materialize that vital breath which is deep within us, and within all that is?

Aizarna, 20th of November, 2020

Translated by Mertxe de Renobales Scheifler