It bothers me to hear the word “survivor” used as a compliment. I don’t understand why we talk about strength so much, in different variations. If you’re “a survivor,” it means things are trying to hurt you, but you’re able to withstand them. That is excellent, for obvious reasons. But if we’re praising strength, it means we’re disappointed by weakness. And I don’t understand why we can’t admire weakness, too. Why are we so in awe of the ability to not let things affect you? Why don’t we admire a person who experiences something hurtful and is hurt by it? This preference is so deeply ingrained that I can’t get to the bottom of it; I can see from my own instinctive response that I’m too much in it, can’t tell what the shape of it is. But in my head, with my words, I think there are many contexts in which strength is not objectively better than weakness. Somehow and for some reason we have decided that it’s better. But I think this is a social construct—
No, I’m wrong. It’s the other way around.
Because as far as evolution is concerned, survival is the ultimate objective good.
And that’s what the problem is. How funny that I didn’t see it immediately! The problem is that we are humans: we are mammals.
We like to think about how different we are from other animals, but we’re congratulating ourselves preemptively; we have many more centuries to go before we evolve into anything really different. Most of our problems arise from the animalness that is inherent in our nature. Territorialism—fear that other animals will invade our homes. Shunning members of the group that won’t conform. Glorifying strength and violence. Shaming or exploiting vulnerability. Fighting for dominance over competitors. We attempt to distinguish ourselves from animals with almost entirely superficial flourishes: smoothing and painting and decorating our bodies, collecting objects to surround ourselves with, creating industries to facilitate our decorating and collecting. And we focus so hard on those surface behaviors, we don’t notice the instinctiveness of it all, the way we operate on auto-pilot. Until we start questioning our behaviors, questioning our motivations and all the social structures we’ve built up arbitrarily, we’ll still just be another kind of animal.