The same predictions are made about every disaster – that once the lid of a tightly policed civilization is knocked off for a second, humans will become beasts. But the opposite is the case. It sounds grotesque to say we should see reasons for hope as we watch in real time while the earth is shaken six inches on its axis, tsunamis roar, and nuclear power stations teeter on meltdown. But it is true. From this disaster, we can learn something fundamental about our species. It should guide how the Japanese authorities behave today – and kill off right-wing ideologies based on the belief that humans are inherently selfish tomorrow.
That in extremis humans are hugely cooperative is true.
That when not in extremis humans are not so is also true.
Thus we need to base our plans, our designs for society, on a sound footing. Assume cooperativeness in extremis, not so in not.
The right is right about everyday life so we should be organising daily life upon those principles.
As an analogy, we all know that at the end of the night, when the beer goggles are firmly in place, when hormones are running rampant, that the fat chick can get laid.
But we don’t therefore conclude that fat chicks can get laid any time they want to.
Extreme environments change behaviour, d’ye see?