Date: July 19, 2017
“Starts out with an explanation of the theory and a presentation of some evidence using excerpts from various talks, documentaries, and a few graphs. Followed by a perspective on world history derived from Ernest Becker’s Escape From Evil and the University of Amsterdam study on Terror Management Theory (TMT) called Things Will Get Better: The Anxiety-BufferingQualities of Progressive Hope http://www.academia.edu/534931/Things_will_get_better_The_anxiety-buffering_qualities_of_progressive_hope_2009_
The video is also informed by historical evidence about ecological degradation and the unpredictability of technological developments.
From the perspective of Ernest Becker & TMT, self-esteem is primarily a reflex of an unconscious fear of death; and human culture an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality – which in turn acts as the emotional and intellectual response to our basic survival mechanism.
Interestingly, the other competing (or complementary) major theory of self-esteem comes from CP – coalitional psychology (also known as “Sociometer Theory”) basically saying that what others think of us has survival & reproductive benefits, so that a sense of self-esteem would help us improve or maintain this fitness by self-monitoring – gauging others’ opinion and modifying our behavior accordingly. This would largely entail a view of history as an evolutionary adaptive set of behaviors.
The problem with this CP explanation as a sole explanation is that
1) Every major culture we know of features religious or supernatural beliefs which have less to do with what others think of us than with what gods or spirits think of us.
2) Our status or “what others think of us” is mediated by invented, largely arbitrary cultural activities and beliefs (abstract meaning systems) that have virtually nothing to do with the specific adaptive threats we encountered (or that could even be logically postulated) in the course of evolution. Work on primates shows that coalitions and alliances in primate groups serve very specific adaptive goals.
3) CP cannot account for the fact that reminders of death increase allegiance to these abstract meaning systems, and that, conversely, challenges to these meaning systems increase death-thought accessibility. These abstract meaning systems may or may not facilitate the formation and maintenance of coalitions, but TMT evidence shows that this is largely on the basis of a suppression of unconscious death-anxiety (an unfortunate byproduct of our adaptive intelligence), not as a specific adaptation for survival.”