Hm? Well, are we? I mean, you know what I’m on about, right? Because you’ve been following the thread of my thoughts and you know exactly what I mean here. So – are we?
Hmm… feeling a bit like Ross here, when he’s supposed to have read Rachel’s nine-and-a-half pages – front and back!
Well, you should have come to Drink and Think last night, where we discussed the question ‘Are we an Arrogant Species?’ Chris introduced the topic very ably, breaking it down into sections so that the discussion was more structured than it otherwise might have been. We started by defining arrogance and decided that ‘an assumption of undue importance’ was as good as it got – and went on to evaluate what our actual importance might be in the scheme of things: Mark expressed the somewhat unorthodox view that we are more important than giant pandas but less important than bacteria. Resisting the temptation to tell him to speak for himself, I moved the discussion on to defining arrogant behaviour. The list here included:
feeling that you have a right to use resources
a refusal to account for your behaviour
valuing yourself or your group more highly than other groups (connection with racism and discrimination here)
the ‘humble’ can often be arrogant – some deaf people assume superiority over hearing people
We then imagined what the world might be like without our species: would the world be better off without us? Or do we exaggerate the negative effects we have, just as our forefathers exaggerated the positive?
Inevitably we came on to religion where the group was quite sharply divided between those who thought religion teaches arrogance and those who believed it taught humility. We came to the question, ‘What are humans for?’ Contrasts were made between human-centred faiths and paganism where we are on an equal footing with all life-forms. Some of us raised the modern tendency to narcissism in public life and wondered whether there was a connection between this and secularism. Darting back to ancient Rome for a while, we talked about ‘practical’ faiths such as theirs, where they didn’t appear to believe in their gods so much as to use the ideas for practical purposes. We ended on the subject of thought and whether thought is equivalent to action (Blake’s ‘sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires’ was quoted)
and whether thoughts can be directed or controlled.
And that was Drink and Think. Thanks very much to Chris for introducing the topic so ably and to me for facilitating.
Next month: Political Correctness. 25th March, Ale Wagon, 8 pm