The Ultimate Survival Kit

Scientists (The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins 1987, et altri) have been able to discover and evidence base a particular gene which commonly is referred to as the selfish gene. The negative connotation of the word causes a stir, since most of us wish to appear unselfish and caring. And sometimes we are. But without the gene which conditions the survival of all species we would not exist.

The Agape governing people in different forms and content is a hereditary set up to ensure compassion, comfort, generosity and mercy based primarily on the selfish agent to safeguard the species´ reproduction and survival in a biological and social context. It guarantees the instinct and capacity to struggle or cooperate to survive. It will, as far as the conditions allow it, take command when a species is on the verge of extinction or facing an imminent threat. As a social and behavioral phenomenon it is referred to as the survival instinct or self defense. Regretfully this noble nomenclature allows us to attack our neighbors or distant peoples (i.e. the Monroe and Putin Doctrines) to legalize extralegal measures to ensure advantages which are morally questionable.

The selfish gene must be understood in a Freudian context. It rests on Dr Freud´s theory of a self, which differs from the ego and the super ego.

I believe that most of us have heard violent aggressors explaining brutal attacks and violations including massmurder or genocide, as self defense, which was used by the nazis to ”pacify” adversaries. The Nazi pretext to occupy Poland was to defend the German minority settled in the country and I am suspicious of the previous Soviet and current Nato intervention in Afghanistan…What American and European exclusive rights are being threatened in this remote area? Do we fear a Taliban take over of the globe? Or do we have an interest in all the minerals hidden under the seemingly barren desert grounds of Afghanistan?

The Middle East perpetual conflicts since the era of the Patriarch Abraham have been resting on the semantically distorted use of ”self defense” on all sides and continue to do so. In the name of Allah, Christ, Socialism or Democracy, holy wars have been legalised as self protection but may also have been an excuse to expand territorially and ideologically, as a means of preventive protection. The political and religious devaluation of the word is apparent to most of us. Some regard these kind of interventions for what it is: selfishness more than humanitarian acts of compassion.

The art of preserving a reproductive unit, such as a family, a clan or a village commonly expand to encompass nations and regions. Our need to combat hostility and aggression, no matter how distant or confusing, allows us to take control over the means of production even if they are not ours to exploit. As long as we are gentically coded to put up resistance and to protect our flock we sanction and even encourage the right to kill although it is forbidden in all creeds without exception.

The Jihad , as far as I know, literally means a holy commission and not a holy war. The Crusaders will find no instructions in the New Testament to go to war even if in defense of Christianity. Jesus of Nazareth never encouraged warfare, as we understand it, no matter the reason.

Peace promoting people, which are as common, thank Goodness, as military hawks, basically act on the provisions of the selfish gene in order to survive, to accumulate and to control whether it enfathoms a strive for stability and a harmonious coexisting with the outside world for the common ”good” and survival, or deliberate force such as the annectation of new territory or peoples in order to safeguard a community, the prevailing mindset of how to protect the family and the individual.

We all know that the spoken or written word takes control over the mind. To label our survival kit as selfish will upset many of us. The mild agape of peaceful people is a survival agent we cannot live without, emotionally nor   biologically. Thus the "infamous" gene propels us to do “good” deeds in order to contribute to stability and avoid conflict by generating ideas such as distributing the means of survival or a surplus as evenly as possible, inventing legal systems of justice and agreements of all kinds and substance on almost every subject matter. To this purpose agreements in forms of paramount conventions, resolutions or allying reflect a necessity more than a gradually developing psychological or emotional maturity of mankind.

To read of the horrifying scenario when the means of survival litterally are being wiped out in the anthropologist Colin Turnbull´s study “ The Mountain People”, in which he dryly watches an African village collapsing because of starvation and develop survival strategies of incomprehensible cruelty such as fratricide and cannibalism even within a family unit, goes to prove that human kindness is at work only when the conditions allow it and that we all may become monsters if sufficiently threatened or running the risk of extinction. All moral and ethical codes are set aside in a short period of time. The social construction governed by a superstructure with moral codes and normative sets is collapsing within a couple of months and the behavioral pattern of the individual dramatically changed into a cruelty beyond limits.

Does this, in fact, mean that agape is but an illusion and love only a reproductive instrument? No. Thanks to the selfish gene, which is at work on all levels, the human species, is biologically encouraged also to combat injustice, abuse, the unequal distribution of the means of survival and propel us to develop moral, ethical, religious and pragmatic skills in order to survive individually, as a group or as a political system in order not to become extinct..

Love your Neigbour as yourself (Marcus 12:28) was completely incomprehensible to me for many, many years. Love for oneself was strictly reprimanded and, if possible, corrected and, furthermore, virtually unknown or regarded as absurd or irrational in collective oriented societies such as in Hunting and Gathering socities or in nomadic tribes and onwards to the highly stratified societies where loyalty with your social class was vital, gradually extending to loyalty to a nation or an alliance of nations, arenas in which self interest is not tolerated on the surface but perpetually going on behind the screens. The Withney Huston hit ” The Greatest Love of All” seemed equally confusing to me, since the concept of the optimal love was to be reserved for God, not for yourself.

We cannot survive without the selfish gene, nor can any other species. This works to ways: Violence and aggression when someone or conglomerates of different sizes and groupations are seriously threatened and collaboration and peaceful coexisting when it serves a common purpose: the survival of all

In order to keep the hawks at bay we are, for selfish reasons, obliged to find means of pacifying adversaries by sharing, by charity, by kindness and compassion as an alternative to aggression. To act upon the selfish gene in the latter context is, semantically understood, not to act egoistically. And, in conslusion: it is only a word…

Douglas Modig


(painting by Anders Zorn, Sweden)