Eliminate the bad, extend the good. This could be said to be the mantra of humanity. It’s an understandable outlook, of course, given that it is in our biological nature. Problem is, people take it to the furthest extent possible, such that in doing away with all the bad (temporarily), we also end up eradicating the good things which originally and naturally kept the bad in check. We upset balances in favor of an idealistic and unachievable victory.
The problem is not simply that we are attempting to eliminate the bad—it is that we are attempting to address immediate symptoms instead of looking at the root causes. We do this in everything from agriculture to health care, from scientific research to judicial systems. Examples are:
1) In the attempt to eliminate all harmful insects from our food bearing crops, we blanket them with pesticides. We kill not only all bad insects, but also the good insects which prey upon them.
2) We attempt to eliminate all malevolent microbes by making everything as sterile as possible with toxic chemical solutions and through the flippant use of antibiotics. We destroy most of the microbes, for a short amount of time, until they mutate resistance, and then they come back even stronger than before.
3) We lock up poor adolescents who are selling drugs in the attempt to find means (as businessmen with little other option) of escaping the ghetto. We render all narcotic substances illegal, even if some narcotics have a proven medicinal use, or are simply relatively benign on their effects on society in comparison to accepted substances like tobacco and alcohol.
4) We incarcerate and marginalize prostitutes and people who are addicted to illegal substances, rendering their lives incredibly dangerous, as well as encouraging the spread of disease.
5) We go to doctors mainly to treat extreme sicknesses or injuries. They barely attempt to address underlying behavioral issues, diet change, and preventative care through education and a holistic approach. Rather, they have a tendency to be mere pill-pushers and organ vultures, as their main function is to treat immediate symptoms and then send you on your way.
6) We reduce and fight forest fires, upsetting natural cycles and balances, and creating extensive brush and fuel, such that we have generated a future of increasingly apocalyptic wildfires.
These are just a few examples of what the conventional outlook of “eliminate the bad, extend the good” results in. One could extend the idea yet further into issues such as rampant hydrocarbon use or conventional sewage systems.
This perspective is extremely childish, selfish, and short-sighted when seen for what it is. In taking a whole-systems, holistic approach to these issues, one begins to see that the simple treatment of immediate symptoms, and the attempt to eradicate all immediately manifested outbreaks of all things “bad”, only leads to deeper and broader problems. What must be done is to take a step back and look at the root causes, and seek a means to realign structures into a harmonized cyclical and balanced system.
Such an approach, of course, takes time and patience, and that is one thing most of us these days are in dire lack of. We want problems to be solved immediately. We are also overconfident in technology and man’s ability to eventually overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles through breakthroughs in technological ingenuity and innovation. But no matter how many immediate problems we may solve through such means, the fact is that our essential outlook is still skewed, and eventually the rooted causes of our suffering will become so magnified as to destroy us completely. Because no matter how advanced we become, we will never be able to completely eradicate “bad” things such as disease, substance abuse, violence, or poverty.
However, in balanced and well-designed systems, we can achieve a sustainable harmony, in which these “bad” things are naturally regulated and subsumed to a greater whole; they can be accepted into the fold, temporary eddies rendered inconsequential by their eventual flow back into the main stream.
Take as an example a well-designed garden (as modeled on nature): when “pest” populations begin to rise and threaten the flowers and herbs, natural predators slim them back down before they can pose a threat. When diseases break out on a microbial level, the nutrient rich soil and humus—which is full of life so dense that it can’t even be fathomed by science—naturally fights back, just as a healthy immune system will work to set itself back into harmony after exposure to malevolent microbes.
The reason such a garden is healthy and balanced is because it fosters diversity (as opposed to monoculture), complex interconnectivity of independent systems, and natural cyclical processes (as opposed to enforced dependency on chemicals).
Now think of our society in terms of this garden, and you may begin to get some ideas on what some root causes might be underlying such immediate symptoms as illness, apathy, war, and poverty. . .