What it means to be human

Taylor Hickem
3 min readOct 21, 2020

To be able to tacking the greatest challenges of the 21st century including climate change and the erosion of democracy, we must embrace a realistic picture of who we are as humans. The good, the bad and the ugly.

David the Chimpanzee Photo credit BBC

Quote taken from video documentary “Unfit: The Psychology of Donald J Trump”

After recounting Jane Goodall’s eyewitness account of the bloody rivalry caused by a split of a once harmonious Chimpanzee tribe into two rivals, Psychologist John Gartner, who makes the case that Donald J Trump is psychologically unfit to be president of a functional democracy, makes the connection of the lessons of our genetic ancestors to the modern trend rise of authoritarianism worldwide and the special case of Donald Trump.

The views expressed by Dr Gartner are not intended to be a normative statement of values about how humanity should behave, or a fatalistic prognosis of the worst possible interpretation of human nature, but only to remind ourselves that this dark side of humanity is just as real as the more politically correct ideals we aspire ourselves to be. Only by having a clear, realistic picture of the complexity of our nature, can we begin to design the institutions that will empower us to see more of our better, and less of our worst sides of ourselves.

Starting from 01:00 marker :

…Now think about this from an evolutionary point of view, whose genes are going to move on to the next generation? → [Of course it would be] the troop with the malignant narcissistic leader (Trump’s diagnosis) who said “let’s go and kill all of the chimpanzees from the other tribe”.

So this is very deep in our genetic programming. This is why demagogues like Trump are able to be successful. Before Trump, we had fractures in our society but we had this over-arching identity as Americans. Donald Trump fractures it and says NO, we’re actually TWO troops — and OUR troop is being attacked by THAT troop and if WE don’t go over there and

beat the crap out of THEM

then THEY will destroy us.

That is like a siren song to our deep genetic programming in the base of our animal brains — Yes, if someone convinces us THAT OTHER troop is trying to kill us, and I don’t care how bad my leader is — he’s the one who is leading us to the edge of the conflict, who cares if he is a liar, we want to survive. The only way WE survive is by attacking those OTHER people.

That primitive programming is not atypical.
They are not anomalous.
They are not unusual.

Human kind has been at war in every place in every time throughout history committing all kinds of atrocious acts from burning down villages to raping women, torture, killing people.

That’s actually normal for the human animal.

It’s the psychology of power.

We all tend to fall behind the powerful leader out of self-preservation, group preservation. It’s a natural instinct.



Taylor Hickem

Applied research, engineering, and projects for solutions to sustainable cities. SG Green New Deal https://aseangreennewdeal.wixsite.com/home