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January 12, 2014

Column: No, we can't just 'get along'


Maybe we need to go back farther, to the Garden of Eden, no one around but God and two people. Eve wanted to do something, Adam didn’t argue, they shared an apple and whoops, they were no longer getting along with God. Then they had two kids -- just four people on earth -- and one of them murdered the other. Humans tell stories to deal with this reality: We don’t get along.

Once while walking on the Left Bank in Paris, I came upon a shop selling paintings by an artist named Rosario. I fell in love with the brilliant colors and the theme: various animals posing together in peace. Glad I couldn’t afford one; I’d feel silly now, having hauled a large painting home, with a theme that doesn’t make sense. Watch the National Geographic channel; animals, including our closest relatives, mostly don’t get along.

There have been theories about some primates living in peace, but Jane Goodall has disproved much of this fantasy with her chimpanzees. However, the relative success of the great apes generally avoiding warlike behavior among themselves could explain why they haven’t evolved further. What if the dynamic challenges of not getting along lead to evolutionary progress, creating long-term good to balance the sometimes bloody consequences of disagreement? It’s not always the physically fittest that survive: sometimes the smarter brains prevail.

George Bernard Shaw said: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Which brings us to the debate over the federal budget, about which Shaw, a socialist, and I might reasonably disagree. Though perhaps not. It’s one point of view to want to spread the wealth around, and another to pretend there is wealth to spread, while borrowing trillions from future generations who don’t have a voice and may never get around to actually creating that wealth. How will mankind survive if hard work and superior intelligence aren’t rewarded?

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