Europe: A Failed Mouse Paradise

 

What happens if you meet everyone’s needs, give them all the creature comforts they could want while removing sources of conflict and strife?

They quit. They stop living. They lose all interest in having sex. The entire civilization ends up dying out. What is amazing is that while this is obviously true (and playing out in real time in Europe and Japan and elsewhere), it is also true in the animal kingdom, where a mouse-utopia ended up with every mouse dead.

Man does not live by bread alone, and neither do animals. When we live in a “perfect” stable world we stop having children, we become self-obsessed (the video speaks of the beautiful mice who just groomed themselves to look fabulous), and before we die out entirely, we engage in pointless strutting and random acts of violence.

We crave ambition, adversity and purpose. Where we lack these things, we, like mice, lose the will to live. Utopias are doomed because the foundational premise is wrong: man does not want to be happy.

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There are 47 comments.

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  1. James Gawron Thatcher

    iWe: Utopias are doomed because the foundational premise is wrong: man does not want to be happy.

    iWe,

    This statement brings to mind the difference between Aristotle and Kant. For Aristotle, happiness is the highest good. For Kant, one must deserve to be happy along with being happy to obtain the highest good. Deserve means being morally deserving of happiness. The mice are happy but they know deep down that it is an undeserving happiness so they become self-destructive.

    Unhealthy Mice.

    Healthy Mice

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #1
    • January 9, 2019, at 7:51 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. David Foster Member

    To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law—a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.

    –Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz

     

     

    • #2
    • January 9, 2019, at 7:57 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  3. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Minor quibble: I think it is challenge we crave, not necessarily adversity as such. Now, purpose, it may be the single most important factor. Whether in Utopia or Bergen-Belsen, the people who lose the will to live the fastest and thus die the fastest- often from their own hand- are the ones who find no purpose in their continued living.

    • #3
    • January 9, 2019, at 8:09 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  4. cirby Member

    iWe: We crave ambition, adversity and purpose. Where we lack these things, we, like mice, lose the will to live. Utopias are doomed because the foundational premise is wrong: man does not want to be happy.

    People want to be happy – they just want to be happy on their own terms.

    “Here’s everything we think you need for happiness, no more, no less.”

    “That’s not the life I’m looking for.”

    “Shut up. Be happy, or else.”

    It’s Central Planning in another wrapper.

    • #4
    • January 9, 2019, at 8:12 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  5. MarciN Member

    The author, Yann Martel, of the Life of Pi makes a similar point about zoos in general. Animals tend to settle in to the confinement relatively peacefully as long as their physical needs for food and water are met. :-)

    • #5
    • January 9, 2019, at 8:13 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. iWe Reagan
    iWe Post author

    cirby (View Comment):
    It’s Central Planning in another wrapper.

    I actually think it is more than this. Happiness is not merely getting what you physically need. The idea of Purpose speaks to emotional or spiritual needs. And Purpose implies some kind of lack – something missing.

    The reason why aborigines fail in the modern world is that their worlds have been optimized around the Purpose of survival. When that Purpose is removed (because they are fed and clothed and housed), their societies collapse into hedonism, nihilism, and death.

    Christianity and Judaism provide a Purpose beyond merely meeting our physical needs.

    • #6
    • January 9, 2019, at 8:28 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  7. iWe Reagan
    iWe Post author

    MarciN (View Comment):

    The author, Yann Martel, of the Life of Pi makes a similar point about zoos in general. Animals tend to settle in to the confinement relatively peacefully as long as their physical needs for food and water are met. :-)

    And perhaps the viewers provide the stress they need to be willing to keep procreating (unlike those mice).

    • #7
    • January 9, 2019, at 8:28 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    My father, and I, both retired way too early, d/t circumstances outside his/my control. Got through it well because he set himself one large task a day – at least. Thankfully, I have R> and other structured involvements. 

    • #8
    • January 9, 2019, at 10:32 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Sometimes I really love life to be calm and predictable (as far as one can predict anything). But I usually get restless and want something to DO! And usually like challenges and to problem-solve if it’s not too difficult to figure out. Also, the tough moments help me appreciate the lovely moments more.

    • #9
    • January 9, 2019, at 11:40 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. The Reticulator Member

    Not true. We’re better off than the wealthiest and most powerful of ancient kings, because we now have iPhones. Life is now better in every possible way.

    • #10
    • January 9, 2019, at 11:54 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. The Reticulator Member

    After making my comment in #10, I went to the link. Imagine my surprise to see Simon Whistler, who in one of his videos from a year ago posed this question: “If you could choose between living like the richest and most powerful person in the world, say 300 or 400 years ago; like, for example, George Washington; or living today as a normal middle-class person from a country like New Zealand, Denmark or Canada, which one would you choose?”

    He then goes on to explain why we might not want to choose power and influence: “Well, if you chose that option, I don’t think you thought it out quite enough….Saying things were better back then simply isn’t true….” And he lists the usual advances in health care and communications that have brought us closer to utopia.

    • #11
    • January 9, 2019, at 12:22 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. JudithannCampbell Inactive

    I agree that socialism is horrible, but am not sure that life under socialism is quite as easy as you portray; the taxes that even poor working people have to pay in Great Britain are crushing, and there is never a refund or a break of any kind: if you lose your job, the government will probably take care of you, but you will be obligated to show up at some job center on a regular basis to be lectured to by social workers in order to qualify for benefits. Every single person who works is taxed regardless of how little they make or how many dependents they have, and they are taxed a lot; even those who make minimum wage are handing over a very significant part of their income to the government, and they will never see any of it back. That does not sound like a comfortable utopia to me.

    Socialism promises a comfortable utopia; has it ever really created one? Scotland has a sales tax of 20%, and that is just one of many, many taxes they pay on absolutely everything. People who work for the socialist government might do ok-they often do very well, but life for most people there is far from utopia. If anything, I wonder if people in Great Britain are too willing to accept adversity and suffering if the government tells them it is for a higher good. I live in Massachusetts, a very liberal state, but if anybody ever tried to bring in a 20% sales tax here, there would be riots in the streets. It boggles my mind that kind of taxation is accepted in Europe.

    • #12
    • January 9, 2019, at 1:45 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Saint Augustine Member

    iWe:

    Utopias are doomed because the foundational premise is wrong: man does not want to be happy.

    Star Trek!

    But why not just say that man does not want an indolent happiness? Indeed, do we not get happiness from overcoming challenges?

    • #13
    • January 9, 2019, at 3:11 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  14. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    iWe:

    Utopias are doomed because the foundational premise is wrong: man does not want to be happy.

    Star Trek!

    But why not just say that man does want an indolent happiness? Indeed, do we not get happiness from overcoming challenges?

    Well-said, Augie…indolent happiness is key. It’ll be interesting to see how proposed state and municipal initiatives, on both coasts, toward universal basic income/health insurance/paid leave, etc. move forward and impact people with respect to this question.

    • #14
    • January 9, 2019, at 3:45 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  15. Full Size Tabby Member

    I see a connection with the news today that the American Psychological Association has said that “traditional masculinity” (competitiveness, aggression, etc., i.e., getting things done) is harmful to males and to society. Utter nonsense.
    Humans (men in particular) need purpose. A man who is given $30,000 does not feel the same as a man who has earned $30,000.

     

    • #15
    • January 9, 2019, at 6:45 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  16. Saint Augustine Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    iWe:

    Utopias are doomed because the foundational premise is wrong: man does not want to be happy.

    Star Trek!

    But why not just say that man does [not] want an indolent happiness? Indeed, do we not get happiness from overcoming challenges?

    Well-said, Augie…indolent happiness is key. It’ll be interesting to see how proposed state and municipal initiatives, on both coasts, toward universal basic income/health insurance/paid leave, etc. move forward and impact people with respect to this question.

    It might be well-said–after fixing the typo.

    • #16
    • January 9, 2019, at 8:43 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Cross reference this post with today’s CB Toder aka Mama Toad — Renovation: Fodder for My Soul.

    My immediate thought was the same lines from Ecclesiastes as I posted in comment there:

    I think back to Ecclesiastes 3:

    12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

    The idea seems to be that we should enjoy refreshing ourselves after a day’s work, with the expectation that, if we see the next day’s sun, we will be fortified to do that next day’s tasks. Our best life, then, is to do the tasks set before us each day, then resting and refreshing ourselves before doing the same again, getting satisfaction from both the work and the refreshment.

    • #17
    • January 9, 2019, at 9:08 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  18. Michael Minnott Member

    cirby (View Comment):

    iWe: We crave ambition, adversity and purpose. Where we lack these things, we, like mice, lose the will to live. Utopias are doomed because the foundational premise is wrong: man does not want to be happy.

    People want to be happy – they just want to be happy on their own terms.

    “Here’s everything we think you need for happiness, no more, no less.”

    “That’s not the life I’m looking for.”

    “Shut up. Be happy, or else.”

    It’s Central Planning in another wrapper.

    I think Cirby makes a good point here. Humans may need some sort of challenge for their emotional/spiritual fulfillment, but I fear the hell of some state official sending me to a work camp for my moral betterment.

    • #18
    • January 9, 2019, at 10:55 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. Michael Minnott Member

    FYI – the mouse utopia experiments directly inspired the novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. This in turn was the basis of this animated classic from Don Bluth and Co.:

    • #19
    • January 9, 2019, at 10:59 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  20. Randy Webster Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Not true. We’re better off than the wealthiest and most powerful of ancient kings, because we now have iPhones. Life is now better in every possible way.

    I don’t have an iPhone. Does that mean I’m worse off than the ancient kings?

    • #20
    • January 9, 2019, at 11:20 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  21. Michael Minnott Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Not true. We’re better off than the wealthiest and most powerful of ancient kings, because we now have iPhones. Life is now better in every possible way.

    I don’t have an iPhone. Does that mean I’m worse off than the ancient kings?

    Yes, woe be to you who is not an ancient king and lacks an iPhone. If only you had a time machine, a sociopathic lust for blood and conquest, plus Steve Jobs as your vizier, then you’d be fulfilled.

    • #21
    • January 10, 2019, at 1:28 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  22. JamesSalerno Coolidge

    I read comic books as a lad, one of them was “Silver Surfer.” The Surfer’s home planet was a utopia. Peak scientific achievement, disease completely eradicated, etc. Despite this, the suicide rate was through the roof because the people had nothing to live for. The Surfer’s dad commits suicide. Then a big alien comes and eats their planet, but the society had already been “dead” for years.

    That scene left quite the impression on my young mind and come to think of it, probably shaped a lot of my beliefs. With how much the radical left influences arts and entertainment, can issues like this even be addressed with today’s youth?

    • #22
    • January 10, 2019, at 6:38 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  23. iWe Reagan
    iWe Post author

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):
    Despite this, the suicide rate was through the roof because the people had nothing to live for.

    The natives in Northern Canada have been given free housing, food, health care…

    The suicide rate in Nunavut is almost five times the world’s highest national rate of 35 per hundred thousand in Lithuania.

    • #23
    • January 10, 2019, at 6:48 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  24. Valiuth Member

    iWe: We crave ambition, adversity and purpose. Where we lack these things, we, like mice, lose the will to live. Utopias are doomed because the foundational premise is wrong: man does not want to be happy.

    So in other words “American Carnage” is good for us? 

     

    • #24
    • January 10, 2019, at 7:12 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. The Reticulator Member

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    iWe: We crave ambition, adversity and purpose. Where we lack these things, we, like mice, lose the will to live. Utopias are doomed because the foundational premise is wrong: man does not want to be happy.

    So in other words “American Carnage” is good for us?

    In earlier societies males gained status by killing each other. It was hard to make the transition to a more secure, safe society in which that job was delegated to government. It left them with a greatly diminished role, and not much reason to live. Women didn’t make the transition well, either, but it was especially hard on men. Human relationships were more intense and more meaningful for both men and women under the old system. So, yes, carnage was good for us. It was also bad for us.

    • #25
    • January 10, 2019, at 7:29 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  26. JamesSalerno Coolidge

    “Life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness”

     

    The founding fathers really nailed it, as usual.

    • #26
    • January 10, 2019, at 7:33 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  27. Western Chauvinist Member

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):
    With how much the radical left influences arts and entertainment, can issues like this even be addressed with today’s youth?

    I was wondering what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would take away from that video. Probably the urgent need for population control. The New Soylent Green Deal!

    I have to disagree that people don’t want happiness, though. People want to be happy — it’s just most of us have no idea what happiness is. It isn’t more toys and distractions. Victor Frankl and Curly had this figured out a while ago — it’s meaning.

    • #27
    • January 10, 2019, at 7:38 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  28. JamesSalerno Coolidge

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):
    With how much the radical left influences arts and entertainment, can issues like this even be addressed with today’s youth?

    I was wondering what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would take away from that video. Probably the urgent need for population control. The New Soylent Green Deal!

    I have to disagree that people don’t want happiness, though. People want to be happy — it’s just most of us have no idea what happiness is. It isn’t more toys and distractions. Victor Frankl and Curly had this figured out a while ago — it’s meaning.

    I agree that people want happiness. I think where we go wrong is when we view happiness as an end point (and this is a trap everyone falls into. I’m guilty of this). Happiness is not a sustainable state. “Life’s a journey, not a destination” and all that…. 

    • #28
    • January 10, 2019, at 7:55 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. Full Size Tabby Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Not true. We’re better off than the wealthiest and most powerful of ancient kings, because we now have iPhones. Life is now better in every possible way.

    I don’t have an iPhone. Does that mean I’m worse off than the ancient kings?

    Not necessarily. You do have chocolate chip cookies, which the ancients didn’t have.

    • #29
    • January 10, 2019, at 8:49 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  30. Steven Seward Member

    Fascinating video, @iwe! I’ve already signed up at the website brilliant.org and am looking forward to learning some cool stuff.

    I’ve long thought that the low suicide rate and high birth rate in Israel was due to the fact that the populace constantly faces an existential threat to their country by hostile forces. This keeps people constantly motivated to be vigilant, and gives instant meaning to life, even for those whose lives are otherwise dreary or difficult. At least that’s my amateur psychological diagnosis.

    Curiously, if you believe their statistics, the entire Arab World has a low suicide rate also, perhaps because they have their own motivation and meaning in life, for instance, like wiping out Israel?!? Or maybe it is the high rate of religious belief in the Arab World. Israel, by contrast, and counter-intuitively, has one of the World’s lower rates of religious belief.

    Many places with extremely high murder rates or outright wars, have very low suicide rates. Warring countries like Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and Columbia have low suicide rates. Murder capital of the World, Honduras, is listed as 20th from the bottom of the list in suicides.

    Nearly all of Europe with the exceptions of Spain and Italy, have high rates of suicide, and coincidentally, very low rates of religious belief.

    Here is a quick reference guide. The U.S. rate of 17.9 suicides per 100,000 is a typo. The real rate is 13 point something.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

    • #30
    • January 10, 2019, at 10:58 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
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