Real Cooperation #43 #cong23 #reality


We evolved to be social animals that prioritise cooperation, not competition. That is our reality. Our dominant ideology of neoliberalism rejects this. It is causing the destruction of our world.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Nourish others.
  2. Shun extractors.
  3. Work cooperatively
  4. Realism is better than blind optimism.

About Conor O'Brien:

I am a retired dairy farmer from a tradition of cooperative and local involvement. I am a member of the Board oversight on Mitchelstown Credit Union. Member of Knockmealdown Active that develops outdoor activities there. Also involved with a local group using walks on the Knockmealdowns and the Galtees to build the community. I help to organise an October storytelling workshop on was on Whiddy Island. Learning more about the soil every day. Reading. Local and general economic history. Evolutionary biology.

Contacting Conor O'Brien:

You can contact David by email.

By Conor O’Brien

Religion, quantum physics and reality.

We evolved to be social animals that prioritise cooperation, not competition. That is our reality. Our dominant ideology of neoliberalism rejects this. It is causing the destruction of our world.

We are all linked in community. Religion was the means of transmitting the science and values needed to live in this wonderful world in which our greatest pleasures come from associating with others. Religions evolved with our species increasing knowledge of their societies and how the world worked. Just as properly functioning markets are a very effective means of exchanging goods, so also were religions very effective means of transmitting social values and science.

Einstein said that “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” The problem of the Christian religion began when it rejected Galileo, and the science which showed the universe did not revolve around the Earth and man. It became blind to the reality of the world which science had revealed, which led to it losing the authority to speak for the values that hold society together. Evolutionary biologists such as David Sloan Wilson are now developing the knowledge of how we evolved as social animals. “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary”

In the absence of a theology that incorporated science a powerful section of society has promoted the primacy of their individual power over social and environmental needs.

Last August I brought my third cousin Bill Stokes of California and his friend Adam to visit our common Frewen homestead in the Glen of Aherlow where our great grandmothers Eliza and Brigid Frewen came from.

We visited Clonbeg graveyard where the Frewen grave is, just as another group were going in. I recognised Jimmy Barry among them from hillwalking with him.

We went in and took photographs at the Frewen grave and followed the other group down to the holy well where Jimmy was explaining it to them. We joined them and Jimmy recognised me; the visitors were going, “Does everyone know everyone else in Ireland?” Jimmy said, “No, that’s normal in Ireland; we do only one degree of separation here. The rest of the world needs seven.”

“Yeah, a likely story”

A few of them lingered to talk to us and I asked them what was their connection to Clonbeg. They were all siblings, (60-70yrs) , scattered across the US, and they get together every year, so they had decided to visit their peoples graves in the Clonbeg. They did not know the location of the grave.

I asked them what was the name?


Astonishment all around. They were from Connecticut, Texas, and all over. But some of them had gone to the same Mary Knoll seminary that Bill had been to.

Obviously I had to remind them, “It’s normal to make connections like that in Ireland”

I had recently been listening to a person explaining how a recent Nobel prize was for Quantum physics and I remembered enough of it to make the connection. In Quantum physics there are particles smaller than an atom which are spinning + and -. They are so connected that if one separates them even as far as the moon, a change in one will be reflected in a change in the other. Don’t ask me anymore: its all quantum physics.

So this was a perfect example of Quantum Frewens all coming together.

Bills friend Adam could not believe that this was all happening in a graveyard in Ireland and finishing up with quantum physics. I kept telling him that this was normal in Ireland.

Coincidences do happen, and I’m not going to say that we might not develop a theory of Irish relations that matches quantum physics. But if our knowledge of how the world works was still at the pre-Galileo stage, we would have accepted an explanation that involved saints and ancestors guiding our steps. And possibly have made offerings to St Sedna, the patron saint of the holy well.

Today we have a much clearer knowledge of how our world works, so we can use a story about quantum physics to explain how three different branches of Frewen’s arrived at their family grave together. But the story is still carrying the same messages that communities matter.

Over the past 50-70 years we have been part of a great natural experiment in breaking our social bonds. It is justified by a theory of economics which claims that individual greed and competition at the expense of nature and society will benefit everyone. It prioritises financial growth over regeneration of nature, private accumulation over community needs, ignores scientific knowledge and methodologies, is of benefit to only one per cent of the population, and glorifies norms of behaviour that are regarded as psychopathic in normal society.

The evidence is plain that the experiment is a failure. We are in the middle of a global process of destroying the environment through an exponential rate of extraction and consumption of fossil fuels and other raw materials. We need to change that reality by building an alternative system from the ground up, not the degrowth of a failed system.

We need to grow with the patterns that regenerate nature. Respect nature, diverse scale of communities, diversity within communities, make resources shareable, avoid extremes, reduce energy, recycle, reuse, use natural processes. This does not mean rejecting science, but directing our efforts to productive and nurturing ends, not consumption and domination. I can tell you from my experience of changing out of conventional to regenerative agriculture that it is one of the most enjoyable and learning parts of my farming career.

We start by changing our values and for that we need to stop basing our spiritual life on a theology based on medieval science. A theology of domination will not do this. We need to form a theology of nurturing.

  • Marjorie says:

    Well said Conor and possibly a surprising number of people would agree.

    It is my position that selective gender domination is the common source of destruction in leading bodies, venerated or political in nature.

    If we accept that 100% of humanity have the capacity for creative thought -that 50% could arrive at the greatest understanding is nonsense. Balance is needed to progress. Immediate correction of the imbalance is essential as its positive effect will take time and humanity is running out of time.

    How to re educate is not a simple question in Ireland when Irish Universities (the only ones I have experienced ) agressively promote competition and deny the most important part of their purpose; to open minds to the whole universe, control the ego and question and then question, and promote further questioning. Is questioning to defeat a thesis not counter to progress ?. Only creative questioning will result in progress, gender equality is essential for creative thinking and progress.

    We, the greater community of humanity , will know when we have arrived, we will not need to be told.

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