King of Anglers

Most animals, down to the single-celled level, are looking for an angle – an advantage on surviving and thriving. It works differently at different levels. A protozoan with a light sensing organelle uses some kind of chemical binary decision making to guide it to food or away from danger. A more complex animal gets more options – up down left right open or close your mouth. Nurturing animals angle to give their offspring advantages, laying those eggs in a caterpillar, whatever.

Why are humans so useless at doing the right thing on a mass level? At helping the flourishing of the entire species? It’s only natural to look for an angle, and we’re all doing it. But our behavior is so complex we might not even notice what we’re doing. There are those who convince themselves it’s cool to do obviously malevolent things. But the rest of us have our angles too.

In government and business, we diffuse responsibility so no one person can be blamed. Then we get that little leg up. We don’t have to be told by a mastermind or sinister cabal. We just have to want to do well for ourselves in our jobs. If that means harming someone to make your performance metrics look better, eh, it’s just one person, one time.

Just one little law bent or rewritten to help out your cousin’s business. It can be selfless – just do one person a favor and put two million at risk of lead poisoning. Maybe nothing will happen. You could get lucky. That contractor who was trying to do well for his business told you as much. The supposed high quality components are overpriced, the cheap stuff could last fifty years, you never know.

Animal instincts are killing us all. But we’ve never been able to stop. Maybe at an individual level, but en masse? It might not be possible. Ian Malcolm annoyed me as much as he annoyed John Hammond. “This level of control you’re attempting, it’s impossible.” I don’t like to believe that. Chaos seems like nonsense, like magic.

And yet. Global ecological collapse is out of the bottle, on a rampage. Nobody who was in a position to do anything about it could bring themselves to fight that instinct. They angled. Will they change their stripes now? Doesn’t seem like it. Even if they did, will it make a difference?

Humanity is the King of Anglers. But you can only steal so many advantages before you’re stealing them from yourself. Capitalism is a man eating his own legs and not noticing it until he’s almost dead. It’s a shame being a skin cell on this demented man, unable to affect the grisly scene. Being human is a real trip.