Anthropolitics: The Rise of Homo Civilis

From the publisher:

Evolution did not mold us to be dog-eat-dog sociopaths. Homo sapiens are naturally selected to be collaborative, empathic, self-governing citizens. We build republics. Civilization is our evolutionary thumbprint.

Societies mature as children do, by expanding their scope of empathy, which is the source of ethics, governance, international trade, the rule of law and transcendent rights. And this is precisely what the human brain has evolved to do.

Thanks to advances in neuroscience, we can now see empathy at work in the healthy brain. We can take pictures of it. The opposite of empathy is egotism. We can take images of that, too. Egotism and narcissism show up as brain damage—very similar to PTSD.

Neoliberalism, libertarianism and other forms of egotism are not philosophies or doctrines. They are forms of mental illness. So are conspiracism, anti-vaccine tantrums and white supremacy. All are sociopathogens that attack civilization.

The brain’s empathy centers can be damaged by illness, dementia and accidents, but most empathic damage is caused by emotional trauma—fear, anger and resentment. In unsettled times marked by epidemics, climate crises and economic instability born of extreme inequality of wealth, emotional trauma on a social scale leads to what scientists call collective narcissism—the absence of empathy on a mass scale.

The narcissistic mind is the soil of conspiracy theories, racism and ultimately violence—even genocide. This is the brain of the Capitol-stormers; the brain of modern fascism. We can take pictures of it.

The job of the mentally healthy citizen is to ensure that the narcissistic fascist brain goes the way of knuckle dragging, skull ridges, cannibalism and incest.