Chapter XXI

FIGHTING VERSUS COOPERATION


As we look at animal evolution, we see one striking factor that has contributed to the survival of species. That is cooperation. Species which have survived longest are the most cooperative species. Bees and ants lived on the earth, in the period before man began, in practically the same form as they are today. Man may reach his apogee of perfection, and may disappear from the earth, all within what is but a brief period in the life history of the bees and ants. These little animals set up their society on the basis of mutual helpfulness. Among them, internecine war, such as characterizes man, does not prevail. They have every conceivable device for helping one another. Their practices are cooperative. I do not mean that man would want to live like these animals. Their lives are adapted only to their species. The important thing for us to know is that man has, to a large degree, adopted practices of extinct noncooperative animals.

A character of Shakespeare's remarked: "I marvel how the fishes live in the sea," and was answered: "Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones." But among men the great ones destroy also the great ones. Two groups of similar quality and interests attempt the destruction of each other in order to get something that each wants, or to take something away from the other, when the costs of the conflict are greater than the value of the advantage sought. Brother kills brother among humankind. The races of animals that did this on the scale practiced by man have not survived.

Peter Kropotkin, in his "Mutual Aid," shows the natural tendency of animals to cooperate. Indeed, as they advance in intelligence, they cease to fight one another. They find that their best interest lies in mutual help. Man's intelligence has taught him the same lesson, and he applies it in his noncompetitive activities.

Man finds satisfaction in using his cooperative and humanitarian heritage. He unites for mutual action. He has community hospitals, social clubs, insurance societies, and cooperative organizations. He goes out to help his neighbor. He even goes to war in the spirit of mutual aid so far as his own group is concerned. War is his consummate expression of inconsistency, for in it he employs mutual aid for the purpose of mutual destruction. War is the anachronism in which man's virtues are used to promote his vices.

The contention of militarists that man has attained his high position in the animal scale through combat, and that survival of the fittest means fittest fighters, is not borne out by the facts of biology or history. People who have fought one another have killed off the strong, and suffered the damaging consequences of making heroes of warriors. Their wars have undermined their moral as well as their physical fiber. Glory that once belonged to Persia, to Greece, to Rome, to Portugal, to Spain, and to Germany, has been sacrificed by the demoralizing and impoverishing results of wars. Along with these wars has gone cooperative and social action which has saved something and made some kind of survival possible.

These costs of war are beyond calculation. The losses go on developing for generations to come. Men who were killed, who were wounded or disabled and noncombatants who died as a result of war are but a part of the human loss. Thousands of these wrecks occupy the hospitals. They are the price of noncooperation.

Among the 45,000,000 underfed, undernourished, and inadequately housed in the United States, the death rate is 300 percent higher than among the adequately fed and housed. Most of this poverty could have been avoided had the country kept the peace. This human wreckage can be seen in public parks slumping in the shadows of monuments of the men who made the wars.

Militarists who believe that these wars did the people good and brought out the noble qualities of heroism, self-sacrifice, and comradeship have been impressed by the exceptional examples. They have not noted the cowardice that possessed every intelligent soldier. Self-sacrifice is scarcely a virtue when one is trying to kill somebody by fair means or foul. As to comradeship, the soldier is found seeking preference to somebody else in the camp; and when he goes home he again engages in competition to get his comrade's job or his customer. Comradeship is something more than roistering together or uniting to gain political preferment.

Biology and history show how man has attained his high position. Where man has been kind, sympathetic, and helpful to his fellow men, society has tended to advance. Where the belligerent, brutal, and ruthless have dominated society, man has decayed. These results can be observed throughout history and across the world today. Were conflict and destruction, instead of cooperation, the program of society the end of the human race might be predicted.

There is an erroneous idea that cooperation between peoples of different races is impossible. Pigmentation of the skin is held to be a barrier to such cooperation. Existing hostilities go deeper than that. They spring from fear, from a desire to exploit another race, from ancient and conflicting superstitions, and from the consciousness of one race having done another race wrong. With these animosities eliminated, cooperation can be made possible; and by immediate application of cooperation as a means, cooperation as an end can be attained. Fear and hostilities are least prevalent among people whose needs are satisfied. Such people can cooperate and maintain a brotherly attitude toward alien races whose needs also are satisfied. Unsatisfied hungers create racial hostilities. All this can be changed by an economic method which has as its basic purpose supplying the essential needs. The change is being wrought by the expanding use of the cooperative method. Man is adopting new ways. He is changing from competitive man to cooperative man. By the cooperative method he has means whereby advances of science may be used, not for promotion of scarcity and increasing of profits, but for production of plenty for all. Means are not only available but are in operation whereby the abundance of the earth and its riches may be unlocked. Each nation with abundance need not covet the belongings of another nation nor find profit in enslavement of other people. The fruits of the earth, electric energy, and atomic power are today available to provide abundance for life, for leisure, for culture, for friendship, and for peace.

Albert Einstein has said: "A new type of thinking is necessary if man is to survive and move to higher levels. In previous ages a nation's life and culture could be protected to some extent by the growth of armies in national competition. Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster. Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars." This is from the world's outstanding scientist.

This cooperative principle can be seen illustrated in homely ways. When a farmer needs hands to put up the frame of his new barn, or when a crop is threatened by storm, the neighbors come to give assistance. Here is friendship in the community. It represents the finest expression of ethics as an economic affair. These farmers come to the task gladly. They believe the same help would be rendered to them. Cooperative societies of forty countries are doing something more than this. They are rendering aid to one another without making sacrifices. They are practicing mutual aid. Each that renders assistance to the other is a part of an organized system which provides that the others also shall render assistance in return.

Cooperation is not a way to get something for nothing, nor a way to the exploitation of any. It is a system of mutual aid whereby moral precepts are introduced in business life.

An economic authority has recently said: "After the First World War the economic problem was no longer one of production but of finding markets. After the Second World War the capacity of production was greatly increased and the fight for markets again began on a greater scale." Why "fight for markets"? Why not supply people's needs instead? Why ship goods across the seas with the purpose of "fighting for markets," for customers? Why should not the producers and handlers of goods in one country be members of the same cooperative organization as the consumers in another country and transport goods to the places where they are wanted to supply the consumers' needs? When a member of a family goes with a basket of vegetables from the garden where they are plentiful to the kitchen where they are wanted, he is not "fighting for markets." The cooperative method translates this simple domestic economy into world economy. It is not a dream, it is not theory, it is being done. Why not expand this method for the sake of peace? Why go on "fighting for markets"?

Cooperation is a kind of commerce which has the power to exclude from the economic world causes of hostility. It is a nonpolitical method which automatically takes the profits out of war and makes war just so much less profitable. That means just so much less possible. Cooperation avoids human hostilities by observing a law of neutrality toward questions in which men are divided. Its fundamental nature makes for peace.


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The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.