Monday, 21 February 2011

On Celebrity Salaries

In response to an article, “Today presenters to take pay cuts”, in last Saturday's Telegraph:
There’s so much confusion and hypocrisy surrounding this issue – which is hardly surprising, because it goes to the very core of human “prime ape”, i.e. Darwinian, nature, which, having always denied or demonised it, we are compelled to rationalise.
Notwithstanding all the other attractions of as large an income as possible – and all assertions to the contrary -, psychologically and socially it is by far the most important measure of social rank and personal worth. Nothing is more important to a tribal “prime ape” like ourselves than that.
I imagine that most – certainly anyone who has any knowledge of evolutionary anthropology or psychology – will agree with me, nod, maybe smile, but then move on, without really taking it seriously, or appreciating just how important it is: the fact that we, and society at large, are still so completely dominated by emotions and behaviours which evolved long before the advent of civilisation, and are thus inappropriate (ill-adapted to long-term survival) in our present, very different, situation.
We fail to recognise this, because man is not so much a “rational animal”, as a “rationalising animal”, our brain having evolved to “interpret”, maintain or modify reality (its environment) in accordance with preconceived ideas, social norms, as well as narrow and short-sighted self-interests (such as drawing a very large income).
There is hope for us, however, because evolution has indeed produced a rational side to our nature. It’s just far less developed than we think it is. If we were to recognise this (the fact that we currently rationalise more than we recognise reality), our rational nature might slowly get on top of our inclination to rationalise, and thus guide us towards a more rational, just, humane and sustainable future.

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