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Excerpt from The Myth of Human Supremacy

Cooperation (p. 228)

From chapter "The Dictatorship of the Machine"

Anyway, I understand all of this, but still couldn’t wrap my mind around the presumption that humans had “developed” cooperation, and most especially that we had done so after we “left the trees.” These people have never heard of flowers and bees cooperating in pollination? Salmon and forests cooperating? Hell, bacteria in our own guts cooperating so we can, you know, digest? And I just don’t see how a culture that created capitalism, the selfish gene theory, and more broadly, human supremacism, and that is destroying the planet, could be even remotely accused of “cooperating.” I just read that in the North Atlantic, cod populations are at about 2 to 3 percent of what they once were, and are not recovering, but continuing to decline. Yet commercial fishing corporations are refusing to allow measures—such as halting bottom trawling, sufficiently lowering (or eliminating entirely) the catch, and so on—to let the cod have even a chance at recovery. They call this cooperating?

But now I get it. And Mumford helped me understand. Let’s take this step by step. Within this supremacist culture our epistemology—how we know whether something is true—is tied to domination. As Dawkins stated, “Science bases its claims to truth on its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command, and to predict what will happen and when.” This tie between domination and epistemology is generally accepted without question or thought in this culture. Likewise, within this supremacist culture it is authoritarian technics that are generally considered the greatest achievements. This tie between domination and achievement is also generally accepted without question or thought in this culture. So why should it surprise us when the notion of cooperation is likewise coopted into the service of authoritarianism and domination? Cooperation, in this supremacist perspective, does not in fact mean reading the needs of those in your community and responding to them by helping these others. And it certainly doesn’t mean reading the needs of those in your larger biotic community and acting to improve the capacity of this biotic community to support life. It does not mean cooperating with the living planet to make this living planet healthier, as is normal behavior for residents of this planet.

No, cooperation in this context means something completely different, something completely in line with the thrust of this whole authoritarian culture. Cooperation in this case means the creation of “complex human machines composed of specialized, standardized, replaceable, interdependent parts—the work army, the military army, the bureaucracy.” Cooperation has been perverted into its toxic mimic through the conversion of living human animals into cogs in hierarchical social machines.


In the case of wiping out the cod, cooperating means forming corporations to control armies of workers who are “cooperating” to build huge fishing vessels; forming academic bureaucracies to task armies of researchers to “cooperate” to discover ways to use sonar to find and destroy schools of cod; forming corporations to control armies of fishermen to “cooperate” in killing fish; forming corporations to charge armies of workers with “cooperating” to transport fish to markets; forming corporations to send armies of lobbyists to “work together” with “decision-makers” to make sure the catch doesn’t go down so long as there is a single cod who can be turned into fish sticks (and hence, money); and forming huge armies of “fisheries scientists” and bureaucrats to cooperate in overseeing the extermination of the cod, via managing them to death.