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Status, Evolution, and Human Nature


As we move into a new year, I’d like to post something that I feel has fundamental importance. I hope you can take the time to read it carefully.


Status is generally defined as a person’s condition, position, or standing relative to that of others.

Please read that definition again and consider this:

Status automatically creates division and conflict.

Status forces us to think in terms of position, hierarchy, and dominance, and can’t possibly do otherwise; it is built solely upon our standing relative to others.

In other words, status is a poison. It causes us to think of others as adversaries and to compulsively compare positions.

To be very blunt about it, status is a primate model of seeing other beings. But it’s even worse than that: Not only does status poison our inter-relationships, it poisons our self-image. After all, it requires us to think of ourselves as above or below every other person.

Here are the two central problems with status:

  1. Status is plainly irrational. We are massively complex beings, at the same time better and worse than the next person in a dozen ways.
  2. Status forces us to see each other as adversarial. Status seeds hate, malice, and war.


Status stands before us as an evolutionary hurdle. If humanity is to rise as a species, it absolutely must transcend status. Until we do, humans will continue to think primate thoughts, and human history will remain centered on conflict.

Status is a continuous, pervasive, and internalized culture of man versus man. And most human minds do hold this as a central concept. How many people like to see themselves as richer, prettier, taller, or more powerful than others? By so thinking, they build the foundations of envy, abuse, and violence.

Our present world is dominated by status-based structures. Whether kingdom, democracy, theocracy, or whatever, status-based structures set one man or group of men above all others. These people of a “higher” position-relative-to-others collect the production of the “lower” people, issue edicts they are forced to obey, and punish those who do not.

In other words, the ruling systems of the present world are incarnations of status… they are “status made flesh,” to paraphrase a famous scripture. This is a primary reason why the world is perpetually at war. The very model on which our society is built sets man against man and group against group, automatically and unavoidably.

Human Nature

Status is not “us.” It may be something we’ve been trained in for dozens of generations; it may be something that has influenced us all our lives; but it is not “us.” It is, rather, a dirty and old habit.

Individual humans tend to transcend status fairly well when they exert effort on it. They usually learn, for example, to drop the concept among people they love. And therein lies the proof that it is not truly “us.” We are better than status.

The truth is that humans can and do demonstrate non-oppositional thinking and living. And in this we see that human nature has been sold short.

Humans, even while immersed in the poisonous and persistent mindscape of status, still demonstrate love and charity.

That fact speaks extremely well of us. Human nature is better than we thought it was.

It’s time to start stripping status from our minds and lives.

Paul Rosenberg

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Chris Tesi December 30, 2015, 11:55 am

    Should status be considered a vise? If so, is it an individual vise or a collective vise or both? I believe it is both individual and collective. As people, we tend to feed off one one-another. This applies to both good and bad qualities. We can love our children, extended family, friends and country and yet engage in acts of savagery that are truly astounding. The concept of a collective vise is interesting to me as it opens up the possibility and discussion of collective responsibility.

    • lms1 January 1, 2016, 7:24 pm

      Do you actually mean “vice”? A ‘vise’ is “used to hold an object firmly while work is being done on it.” Which, in a metaphorical sense, might be an appropriate use in the context of your post.

  • PECB December 30, 2015, 2:01 pm

    “Status automatically creates division and conflict. Status forces us to think in terms of
    position, hierarchy, and dominance, and can’t possibly do otherwise; it is built solely upon our standing relative to others. In other words, status is a poison. It causes us to think of others as adversaries and to compulsively compare positions. . . .”
    etc, etc, etc. . .
    [for the purpose of discussion here, I’m assuming you mean status that has actually been earned, instead of imposed]
    Well, only for the childish, insecure mind . Among true, self-confident adults that have become well rounded human beings (granted, a very small percentage of the population) status is simply a sign of respect — recognition of earned accomplishment. And the recipient of such recognition (if they too are well rounded adults) accepts such recognition graciously and moves on — continually striving to be all they can be (to steal a phrase).
    EXAMPLE: Joe Schmuck works hard at becoming the best engineer he can be, and through such efforts creates all sorts of new technologies and devices. Such accomplishments earn the respect of his peers and creates a status for Joe Schmuck, among engineers, as being a top-notch engineer. Other engineers, and engineers-to-be, observe Joe Schmuck and seek to learn from him so that they may better themselves as well.
    Amongst well rounded adults, status is simply recognition of accomplishments earned. This may serve as a “signal” to another well rounded adults that this is a person worth their effort to learn from in that particular area, &/or a person simply worthy of their respect as an accomplished, well rounded human being.
    However, the attitude exemplified in the article is that of spoiled, insecure children and there’s nothing do be done about it but to avoid traveling in such circles as much as possible.

    • whateverdude January 1, 2016, 6:10 pm

      “”Status automatically creates division and conflict.”
      One could say the same about property. Property creates grounds for conflict. Ergo, one must eliminate all forms of property … blah blah blah 😉

    • Kevin Morrison January 5, 2016, 6:56 pm

      The biggest issue is there are very few “well rounded adults” in this world (far too few). There is overwhelming evidence that the majority of society is populated with “childish, insecure minds”. This is why the author sees status as poison, it is because the majority of people with it abuse it and use it in ways that us “well rounded adults” find repulsive! One could compare status like a weapon, in the right hands it is harmless and often very helpful but in the wrong hands it can be dangerous.
      So when considering your opinion on this subject it might be worth while to have a really good hard look at society. Not sure what you see but I see a world where status is causing more harm than good. To bad a key requirement to have any status was that you had to be a well rounded adult. Sadly that is not the case for the majority of those that have it, or worse… think they have it (Obama comes to mind).

  • Ross Milburn January 13, 2016, 8:48 am

    I feel that Paul has struck an important chord in his
    critique of status, but thrown his net too wide. The real enemy is the
    dominance hierarchy of our relative, the chimpanzee, and other mammals.
    Dominance is “status supported by coercion.” During evolution, humans replaced
    this behavior by “contractual hierarchy” in which status is bestowed by social
    agreement, without the use of force. Most of us are happy to live according to
    this rule. Unfortunately, when warfare was invented, and the state came to
    power as a parasite, aspects of chimpanzee behavior were retrieved.
    For example, the European aristocracy claimed a permanent
    high status for its families, and used force to subjugate the “inferior”
    commoners, thus preventing social justice, which must be based on “meritocracy.”
    Many human groups claim superior status and enforce that with violence. During
    history, for example, Moslems, Christians, Jews, and Europeans have claimed
    superior status, and this gave rise to the oppression of infidels, heathens, Palestinians,
    and Native Americans, among other victims. To claim superior status because one
    belongs to a particular social group is both baseless and immoral.
    Of course, when men come together to institute some kind of law,
    or government, they do so for the common good, so any discrimination whatsoever
    by those responsible for administering law or government should be a crime –
    but it is not yet so. Meritocracy can only exist on a level playing field.
    However, although good laws and proper child-raising can
    eventually eliminate conflict, it will never eliminate competition, which is
    based on thermodynamic laws. And those human winners who obey the agreed rules will always be acknowledged and rightly enjoy enhanced “status” in particular
    contexts. It would be a poor world if those among us who are brilliant,
    industrious, or even beautiful, could not gain acknowledgement for their gifts,
    and this surely translates to “status.” That acknowledgement may excite envy
    and a desire to emulate their success, but it does not oppress anybody.
    Also, even when humans are driven to compete, we have a
    unique ability to collaborate for common success, during which we can suspend our
    competitive emotions, and enjoy the camaraderie of creative exertion as a
    cooperative activity.

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