Rats don't race
There's a wonderful image somewhere of a chimpanzee holding an empty petrol can over his head in the middle of the jungle. The petrol can is completely useless. The chimp is full of glee. The rest of the chimps gather around. In a strange trick of our brains they all overlook the uselessness of the can. If the chimp holding it thinks it's good, and the other chimps around think it's good then - it must be good. And without any check of the intrinsic usefulness of the object it becomes coveted and the chimp holding it becomes superior.
So, somewhere in our evolution to using tools we began to look outside the intrinsic qualities of a given object. We developed a sense that objects could be more than what they seemed. The benefit of this is clear. A stick was not just a piece of wood but something that could be used to build a shelter or make a weapon.
The downside is that we sometimes get it wrong.
Our judgements are often based on what others think. We mirror. So when those around us think an object is good - it's almost natural for us to assume the same. And the very act of people even mistakenly believing an object to be good makes that object good. It serves a purpose in social advancement
The only actual value an object need have is that it is considered to be valuable by others but that is enough.
The only animals that really engage in this kind of stuff are higher primates and humans. Rats don't race. If a rat sees a fellow rat in distress it will forgo a food reward to help it. That's not exactly the rat race. We're the only ones that gather inherently useless objects for the sole purpose of having others covet them and increase our social status.
The desire to acquire
We have seen already how humans evolved the desire to acquire. It marks a major change from other animals. Gathering items now meant status. It was not meant for satisfaction of another need.
But all kinds of things become associated with status. Performance in tasks also becomes a means to acquire. For example - running fast is not a means of escaping a predator any more - it is a means of acquiring an award that will confer status in a given group.
You can assume that most other animals have an awareness of status. For us awareness is a preoccupation. Maybe its because we have the memories to be always aware or maybe because we also have the foresight to be always jostling for position.
Competition and cost
Nature has a few rules. One of them relates to wasting energy. Wasting energy is dangerous - for the individual, the species and for life itself. We derive energy from converting complex molecules into simpler ones and releasing the energy in between. So there's a cost.
Competition for competitions sake is a waste of energy. Destruction of another living ghing just for the sake of its destruction is a waste of energy.
Nature is about production - not destruction.
When a species destroys more than it creates it will just die out. It's simple. If humans evolve into animals that kill each other at a greater rate than they can be replaced then it's over. It won't necessarily be a war that will do it, it's most likely a post war slide through famine and disease.
It's really hard to get your head around this but this is all about nucleotides. The nucleotide doesn't care how it survives or what vessel carries it. The code in the nucleotide doesn't do better or best - it just does different. It needs to be different because it has already survived massive environmental shifts and it could only do this by being different. Each species has a role. Our role is to promote the diversity of life. We are the nucleotides best chance of having life survive beyond the ultimate destruction of this planet. Allowing life to survive in the rest of space is our thing. But we may be too far short of that to be worth while. We may be just too vicious and self destructive and wasteful to get there. It's up to us.
We have the capacity to see each other as tools to achieve what we want. We are one of the few animals that can relate to each other as con-specifics but also as tools to achieve
This conflicts with our innate need to seek each other out for safety and comfort.
It is the difference between interaction and transaction. We need interactions. Interactions carry a certain amount of fulfilment of our basic needs. The first is belonging. Interactions can quell that constant relentless fear that we will be thrown out of the group. the ideal interaction is one where we feel valued for something intrinsic to us that cannot be taken away. I suppose it is the appeal of the tribe or clan - something immutable that can make us belong. There is an assumption of common interests and of mutual protection. The people are "like me". They won't get rid of me because they also "like me".
But they won't get rid of me because they need me too. But in order to feel even more secure in the group it's necessary to have a common goal. Attacking something else is powerfully galvanising for this kind of group. For the first part it appeals to our aggressive instincts - our desire to acquire.
In truth those things can be hard to come by - especially today. Now interactions are replaced by transactions
Businesses have attempted to make transactions seem more effective by making them seem more like interactions. It can be distracting. As more time is dedicated to transactions less time is spent on interaction. Ancient societies knew the danger and despite loss of productivity had days of rest during the week. Belonging because of what you are rather than what you do.