Give Up Stone Age Mentality, Evil and Violence
THE recent disturbances at the National Mosque saw the re-emergence of the stone as a form of missile to attack law enforcement officers.
This, in its own crude way, is a manifestation of the adage “you can take man out of the Stone Age but you cannot take the Stone Age out of man”.
According to evolutionary psychology although human beings today boast of a thoroughly modern world, otherwise known as the Information Age, ingrained within them is essentially the mentality of Stone Age hunter-gatherers.
The earliest Homo sapiens were believed to have dwelt in Africa’s vast Savannah Plain some 200,000 years ago.
Although they had to constantly fight over whatever food and other resources available at the time with other species, they invariably triumphed partly due to their larger and more powerful brain.
However, about 10,000 years ago agriculture was introduced. This gave the opportunity for man to acquire wealth and live in communities and permanent settlements.
Driven primarily by advances in science and technology, the agricultural period was transformed into a modern civilisation that incidentally brought wide-ranging social changes.
Despite these remarkable changes, environmental psychologists argue that they have failed to induce significant improvements in human conduct.
The thoughts and emotions of the Stone Age man that best served them in an environment full of natural life-threatening hazards appeared to have been programmed into their psyches.
These continue to dictate many aspects of human behaviour today.
An example is emotions before reason, or to act based on our personal radar, otherwise known as the instinct.
Understandably, the Stone Age man being at the mercy of wild predators or impending natural disasters came to rely foremost on his instinct.
Thus for human beings, emotions become the first screen to all information received. And because of the primacy of emotions, people hear bad news loudest and imbibe negative messages fastest.
This is the reason why positive messages do not necessarily balance negative ones.
The negatives have by far the greater power and can wipe out in one stroke all the built-up credit of positive messages.
A further example of man’s instinct is the predisposition towards avoiding losses or averting risks when comfortable, and scrambling madly when threatened.
This rule-of-thumb has actually enabled him to survive the harsh elements of the Stone Age.
Such behaviour can be easily seen today. As stocks start to fall, traders tend to double up their positions, an indication of the frantic fight to survive.
Similarly, when the stocks are rising, instincts will tell them to sell to avert risk.
But many realise how damaging these can be. More often than not, the old but rational saying “cut your losses and let your profits run” ends up as mere rhetoric.
The third example of human instinct presumably developed and perfected during the Stone Age is confidence before realism.
In the unpredictable and often terrifying conditions of the Stone Age, those who survived would surely need to have self-confidence above all else.
The propensity to put confidence before realism in fact compels man to work hard to shield him from any evidence that would undermine or expose his mind games.
The fifth element of Stone Age virtues is gossiping. During the old days, it was not easy to anticipate who would have enough food to eat, let alone who would survive the battle for power from one season to the next.
Heads of clans, who in turn controlled resources, were always changing. Survivors were those who were savvy enough to predict power shifts and quickly adjust for them, as well as those who could manipulate them.
Savvy people are those who engaged in and likely showed a skill for gossip. Even in today’s world gossip or rather rumour is ingrained into human nature and endemic in every society.
These examples have led evolutionary psychologists to suggest that our primitive psycho-rationality so well adapted to the precarious life of the Stone Age hunter-gatherers will continue to call the tune whenever it is free to do so.
This is despite the fact that since the dawn of human life on this planet right up to about 1,500 years ago messengers after messengers of the Creator were sent to guide man onto the right path.
In a sense, thus far man has not been totally successful in dealing with the dark forces within his own self, sometimes referred to as the evil gathered previously from the Stone Age.
What is evil? What drives people to perpetrate evil? More importantly, how do they manage to reconcile their actions by portraying an evil-free self-image?
According to Professor Roy F. Baumeister, the author of a book entitled Evil _ Inside Human Violence and Cruelty, evil is actually the anti-thesis of order, peace and stability. The most common and familiar form of human evil is violence.
Evil is also anti-religion. The great thinker St Thomas Aquinas wrote that the existence of evil in the world is the single greatest obstacle to Christian faith and doctrine.
Nothing undermines the Christian belief in God more than the existence of evil.
According to Baumeister, people are normally driven towards evil by several factors.
Firstly, the desire for material gains, such as money or power.
Although these ends are not necessarily disallowed, the means that incorporate evil must be condemned.
The second root of evil is threatened egotism. Contrary to popular belief, evildoers generally have high self-esteem.
They resort to violence when their favourable image of self is questioned or impugned by someone else.
The people most prone to violence are those most susceptible to ego threats, especially those who have inflated, exalted opinions of themselves or whose normally high self-esteem suddenly takes a nosedive.
In the final analysis, even though long after the demise of the Stone Age man has not been able to give up totally the evil that is in him, Muslims must attempt to derive from the Holy Quran and practices of Prophet Muhammad inspired guidance on morality.