Do you watch Survivor, American Idol, Big Brother, and The Bachelor/Bachelorette?
If you said, “Yes,” to anyone of these shows and others like them are you becoming a fan of Social Darwinism?
What is social-Darwinism?
According to BusinessDictionary.com it is;
Theory of social selection that attempts to explain the success of certain social groups. Based on the laissez fairedoctrine with heavily racial bias, it interprets ‘survival of the fittest’ concept to mean that only the best adapted (those already well off) survive the ‘natural conflict’ between social groups and thereby enhance the survival capacity of the remaining society. Popular in the 19th and 20th century Europe and USA and embraced by the Nazis, it has nothing to do with the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-82) or his theory of natural selection, and precedes the publication of his book ‘Origin Of Species.’
The philosophy that was soon defined as Social Darwinism was initally dicussed by Herbert Spencer, a 19th century philosopher who loosely tied his theory discussed in Progress: Its Law and Cause to Darwin’s Origin of the Species, although Spencer published three years before Darwin, but in no way can the two terms be described as similar. The two terms explain very different theories in very different fields of study. Darwin’s theory explains the processes of the natural world–while Spencer’s theory of social behavior is relegated to the philosophies of the world’s societies. Spencer was not described as a Social Darwinian until after his death–his publication only discussed theories of social practices that would create superior human beings. Other originators of the theory were Thomas Malthus and Francis Galton.
Darwin did not abdicate the purification of the races or humanity in The Descent of Man when he wrote, “Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil. … We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage, though this is more to be hoped for than expected.”
One doesn’t have to look too far back in time for historical examples of Social Darwinism. The Dutch Boers of South Africa took it upon their own understanding of the Reformed Dutch Bible to separate the races of black, brown, yellow and white to obey man-made laws of “apartheid;” laws of apartness or separation during the 20th century, which the Afrikaner Boers attributed to being “God-breathed.” Many religious sects and denominations still practice this sort of racial separateness, but in the end find very difficult judgment calls and few, if any, cases of civil, and moral, examples of generosity, charity, hope, or humanity.
Another experiment of Social Darwinism was performed with Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The delineation of German white/superhuman purity versus the “impure” races of Semitic, Asian, African, or “mongrels” to quote historical claims.
We have seen genocidal acts in Rwanda, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan, and America over the course of the last two hundred years–and sadly, in very recent decades–all relating to the structure or structures of Social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest, richest, whitest or darkest, or faithful versus handicapped, poor, uneducated, “unbeliever,” or simply, different from “us.”
Nietzsche, the German philosopher, had a little to say of weakness and strength. He was not of the opinion that only the strong should survive.
“Wherever progress is to ensue, deviating natures are of greatest importance. Every progress of the whole must be preceded by a partial weakening. The strongest natures retain the type, the weaker ones help to advance it. Something similar also happens in the individual. There is rarely a degeneration, a truncation, or even a vice or any physical or moral loss without an advantage somewhere else. In a warlike and restless clan, for example, the sicklier man may have occasion to be alone, and may therefore become quieter and wiser; the one-eyed man will have one eye the stronger; the blind man will see deeper inwardly, and certainly hear better. To this extent, the famous theory of the survival of the fittest does not seem to me to be the only viewpoint from which to explain the progress of strengthening of a man or of a race.”
Nietzsche’s claim of strength coming from human physical weaknesses, or handicaps, should be well taken. Immunity can be created by overcoming a viral flu, or illness, making the host stronger and more able to fight sickness by creating a stronger immune system. A man like Stephen Hawking, with severe physical disabilities, has been able to dedicate his life to trying to understand the creation of everything by thinking, postulating, theorizing and discovering from within.
“Outlast. Outwit. Outplay,” is the survival of the fittest motto of the popular game show, Survivor. This may be wonderful for a game show in finding the one person that can make it to the end of a difficult survival odyssey, however, when the rules of society become a blueprint for everyday people, with everyday problems, can we see a weakness in logic: A problem with the final outcome of humankind’s future societal structures?
In the last 25 years of global economic policies we have seen a transfer of wealth from the poor to the wealthy occurring at an alarming rate. The rich are becoming richer, and fewer, as the poor become more in number and poorer.
This has occurred through policies of trickle-down economics, de-regulation and survival of the fattest, (in this case, survival of the most intellectual financiers) or wealthiest. Money means power and influence—and these powerful players, existing at the top of the Social Darwinism construct have created rules, policies and procedures to make them richer—and to hold on to their wealth through less taxation of the wealthy, an increase of interest rates to the needy and less access to social programs, education and healthy lifestyles and dietary routines.
The results of these social and societal experiments in the last forty years have created the world we live in. Michael Moore, the film-making documentarian, evidences these changes as the creation of a “plutarchy” in America. The creation of unregulated credit, and then the increased interest rates of credit card companies and mortgage holders have created a whole new class of working poor, middle-class Americans with no homes, no employment, no health insurance and little hope.
This type of plutarchy in America has eliminated the existence of the American Dream. The new American Nightmare has created global crises and a very uncertain future for the planet unless we step back from the abyss of Social Darwinism.
If it is the goal of the few to destroy the masses through starvation, poverty, poor health and a dark future for all but the very elect of wealth and health; this evil concept has succeeded. Unless the masses, accompanied by those with generosity, humanity, goodwill and kindness turn the tsunami created by the comet splash of survival of the fittest back into the oceanic abyss where it belongs—humanity’s future may very well be at great risk.