3.6 The Moral Ideals of Inter-Group Competition


Some dependence on less-than-exact methods on reaching the choice of within-group moral standards in any one group can be risked by mankind as a whole. For after the individual group's gamble on its own within-group values there always remains the self-corrective mechanism available in the realm of inter-group competition. The general problems in this inter-group realm so different from those in inter-individual moral behavior will be introduced in the present section but expanded upon more thoroughly in a whole chapter (Chapter 5). (Just as the last section introduced us to the basis of within-group morality, to be expanded upon in Chapter 4.) But whereas the within-group moral values from Beyondism (at least in the survival rather than the specific progress area) turn out (though reached by a different method) to be reassuringly similar to the brotherly love of traditional religions, the between-group directives could be very different.

For the obvious first tenet of inter-group behavior, from the premise that evolution rests mainly on inter-group natural selection, is that failing groups should either be allowed to go to the wall, or be radically reconstituted, possibly by outside intervention. By contrast, successful groups, by simple expansion or budding, should increase their power, influence and size of population.

This is the logic of the situation, but it leads to conclusions that run counter to the habits of thought of the majority of people today. The result will be that for them emotion will add its lurid touches, and convert what has just been said into an alleged advocacy of a nightmare of ambitious group self-seeking. Finally, it will be dramatized that all this must end in a nuclear holocaust. Actually this conclusion is logically, politically and emotionally false.

It is logically false because the greater part of relative survival, among human groups as among animal species, hinges on "competition against nature" rather than against other groups. As already pointed out, that species survives which makes best use of its food supply, or is better protected against the climate, or which has inhibitions against eating its own young, and so on. The precise relative importance of what we have called above "E-selection" (against pressures of the physical environment) and "I-selection (direct interaction with other groups) remains to be evaluated, for different human situations and historical periods, but there is little doubt that the human love of the dramatic has overstated the latter. Furthermore, nations themselves prefer to believe their decline is due to a lost war rather than the more banal effect of poor economic and moral habits. (Indeed, they may be indignant, as France and Britain were after World War II, on seeing the defeated more prosperous than themselves.)

It is politically false because, war being, as Clausewitz (1943) said, "only an extension of policy by other means," the fact remains that political competition has more primary means. War is often a sign of failure in normally expressed competition, and an avenue that a good competitor will avoid. A far-sighted nation realizes that war calls for a lop-sided development, lamed by the weight of armaments, which, though supplying the capacity for a sudden blow, takes away normal political and economic long term development.

It is emotionally false because the concept of cooperative competition implies a brotherhood in a common religion of progress, in which real competition and objective comparison are an indispensable reality, but no cause for rancor. Indeed, cooperative competition, as Chapters 5 and 9 bring out more explicitly, is emotionally a very complicated balance, involving mutual assistance and shared hopes and strivings, along with inexorable regard for realities. It calls for pressures toward redirection not unlike those in a parent bringing up a child, or in true friendship. However, in the greater space of Chapter 5 this proposition, on the question of risk of war, and the proposition that freer competition might actually reduce war, are more fully considered.

War is actually not the only threat to a widespread sympathetic adoption of the ideals of cooperative competition, or the chief obstacle to their working out most auspiciously in practice. A second danger is the tendency of competitors to fall into the "horse race" stereotype, i.e., to assume, under the hypnotic influence of concentrated effort, that there is only one direction that competition can take. In life, as distinct from the racetrack and the school examination room, there are many quite different directions in which one may succeed in surpassing the competition. But the hypnotic effect of the "tape" in the ordinary race, and a lack of courage in all people to diverge from the goal of the crowd does tend to cause conscious competition to increase rigidity. It takes some emotional maturity to buy railroads on the stock exchange when all one's competitors are caught up in "the rage" of buying industrials.

Actually, the forms of competition which decide relative group survival are diverse indeed. In order to get an informed overview we must, in Chapter 5, consider the mode of action and the efficiency as an instrument of evolution of each of such diverse inter-group activities as economic competition, political pressure, propagandist influence, migration and racial interpenetration, relative colonial expansion, cultural and moral advance, and much else.

In attempting to work out what the most effective rules will be in inter-group competition in these areas, to ensure productive evolution, one must constantly bear in mind that natural selection will act both on genetic make-up (race) and on culture (the totality of acquired habits and values). Social scientists are going to have to find out much more about both of these before inter-group moral rules can be reliably developed. Some complex mechanisms are certainly going to be found here, and about one such possible effect indeed a high probability effect we should take notice immediately. This effect we may call culturally originated genetic selection. It hypothesizes that the spread of a culture may virtually amount to the equivalent of a spread of a genetic group, even though there is no actual movement of people (and genes) from one culture to another. It supposes that a culture tends to favor relatively greater survival of those whose genetic endowment fits the culture better. For example, a complex scientific culture, begotten of an intelligent people, will tend to favor, in another people which adopts it, a biological selection of the more intelligent. Hard-headed animal geneticists may think this fanciful and admittedly its action must be slow and hard to prove but human genetic evolution certainly has social features and this is one of them which the biological study of species as such never encounters. The concept will be developed further in a later chapter[9].

In order to keep perspective at this point let us remind ourselves that our main synoptic argument is that:

(a) A group which discerns the best internal moral values, and fosters them, has a greater likelihood of survival and success as a group in inter-group natural selection (which depends on both E and I competition);

(b) The laws of inter-group competition most suitable for ensuring this relative survival are quite different from those of inter-individual competition. They call for a detachment from attempts to shore up the falling walls of an essentially evil or ill-built culture that may be mistaken for ruthlessness or indifference. But it may be said straight away that this inter-group ethics does not condone resort to war and that it is anything but a license to rampant group individualism or ignoring the purpose of the community of groups.

(c) Though inter-group natural selection success will depend partly on the level of internal, inter-citizen morality in (a), it will depend additionally on (1) fortune in genetic and natural resource endowments, and on (2) the specific ethical values espoused by a group over and above these basic "group maintenance" moral values to which all groups must aspire. Mathematically we are saying that group survival is a function of three main classes of variables, issues of the soundness of internal morality with which we are here centrally concerned covering only one class[10].

No one steeped in revealed universalistic religions or brought up in the kind of education that underlies the studies often miscalled branches of "liberal thought" will expect freedom of natural selection among groups to be understood at first glance as a "moral idea." Our Great Experimenter, with his overview of a factorial design of genetic and cultural variation will not, however, let "competition" operate in crude and hectic, diseased forms, e.g., in parasitic decadence and treacherous military or economic onslaughts. Nevertheless, as the following section argues, conclusions are often popularly drawn on the other hand from universalistic religious teachings in the realm of inter-group morality that are quite dangerously wrong from a Beyondist standpoint.















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