On Politics and Nature

Present-era politics are fascinating because the left-right spectrum seems to be a reflection of human reasoning about our relationship to nature.

Right-wing politics are rooted in tradition, duty, and authority. On the right, life’s purpose is obeying the hierarchies that one was born into. Conscious of our cognitive and emotional stamina, people—and other living organisms alike—find comfort in a framework of rules and traditions because they offer us an escape from having to make an overwhelming amount of increasingly risky decisions during each of our waking moments.

Doing something “the way it has always been” allows us to build on the practices of our ancestors and increase survivability. This is one of the cornerstones of evolution on this planet.

Left-wing politics are based on the idea that we are endowed with a capacity to re-evaluate “the way it has always been.” On the left, people find purpose in celebrating each other’s own expression. Instead of hierarchies, the left believes in equality; in place of regulations, the left emphasizes the idea of freedom.

In nature, “freedom” is a peculiar, if entirely fictional concept. Life was never free of the endless cycle of birth and decay. Our “fundamental freedom” is forever subject to our overwhelming limitations, the biggest of which being our mortal shell and the eternal hunger that comes with it.

And yet, freedom is strangely seductive. It’s almost as if just by believing in it, we have accomplished progress in ways that were unthinkable to start with. Perhaps our sense of freedom is indicative of a different kind of hunger: one that yearns for exploration and finding out “what could be” instead of “the way it has always been”.

Whilst in a womb, an embryo goes through seemingly all stages of our evolution. It might be that life’s best bet of replicating itself is starting with a single cell and replaying the same story in the way it has always been, from billions of years ago up until the present time, albeit at a considerably accelerated pace. However, only when we exit the womb is when a fascinating part of our life starts, because from then on we have the potential to ask ourselves “what could be”, to change, and to pass on most of what we have learned.

Our potential for growth might very well have been another cornerstone of our evolution, because without it we would all still be single-cell organisms swimming around in a primordial ocean. Multicellular organisms could only have possibly formed when life started prioritizing what is best for a species over that what is best for an individual.

I’ve met a person at a party and I’ve asked her whether she believed that humans are part of “nature”, since the corollary of that would be that everything we do is also nature—that parking garages and skyscrapers are as natural as an anthill or a beaver dam, and that our imminent extinction would also be natural. She thought about it for a minute and she answered that even though she believed that we are nature, she said that framing “human” as being separate from “nature” is useful when crafting policies around preserving our environment, which gives us a fighting chance.

In the end, “the way it has always been” is a myth. There is no one way in which everything has “always been”, as the only constant in the universe seems to be change. Our interpretation of the events so far will always be limited by our perception and by dominant narratives. However, even if we observe and respect our heritage, and even though the start of our story was already written for us, there’s nothing wrong with wrapping up your story in your own creative way. After all, it’s only natural.