A phrase, I would say, used by those who do not adequately explain evolutionary theory. (Darwin did use the term, in the 6th edition of his Origin of species).

The basic thesis of Darwinian evolution is that random changes can lead to nontrivial adaptations by means of natural selection, a continuous process which preserves those variants that fit in best with the situation at that time and place.

Hence, "survival of the fittest". It is not a tautology.

The phrase "survival of the fittest" was not coined by Darwin, but by Herbert Spencer, a Victorian 'social darwinist'.

The social darwinists used Darwin's theory of evolution as the justification for the economics of that era. However, they neglected to consider one thing; just because something is natural, it doesn't mean that it is right.

As far as evolutionary biology goes, fitness is entirely a measure of your ability to reproduce and pass on your genes. An organism that is incredibly strong, lives for years, slaughters all that stand in its way and in the process produces two offspring is less fit than another member of the same species that's unable to fight at all, dies when it's half the age of the other but produces four offspring. The fittest do not necessarily survive, but their genes do.

Wars at Work: When in Doubt, Be Switzerland

from Infoplease . . .

Strict neutrality was its policy in both world wars. Geneva was the seat of the League of Nations (later the European headquarters of the United Nations) and of a number of international organizations.

On Sept 10, 2002, the Swiss abandoned their long-held neutrality to become the 190th member of the UN.

International disputes: none


Possibly crazy? Perhaps impossible? Politically naive and idealistic?

Being neutral in the face of major changes, upheavals, and warring factions at work can possibly be a poor or brilliant political move depending upon the circumstances. In one regard, either side could see you as a potential threat because they don't know exactly where you stand regarding an issue (are you for me or against me?). On the other hand, the fact that you didn't take a strong stand or move to one side shows that you are more flexible and willing to listen to both parties. And unfortunately, both sides could see you as snooty, selfish, or just disengaged, perhaps looking for another job (or in the case of Switzerland, counting the money in your bank accounts).

The bottom line comes down to this: you must do what keeps you employed and allows you to continue doing what you love. I love my job; I don't like all aspects of it, but I want to keep it. Furthermore, I am extremely busy: what matters right now in my situation is to keep afloat and keep teaching my students. I have opinions and I will voice them when I have the time to fight that battle, but right now, I have absolutely no fight in me. In addition, taking a strong stand against someone who is still your boss can be very uncomfortable to say the least. No matter what, your boss (unless he or she is a brutal despot--and I've worked for those nuts before) is still someone you turn to for support and guidance. Do you really want to ruin that relationship?

It's all very complicated. So I play Switzerland. I see the merits of both sides and listen to their views. I state my personal opinion directly and unemotionally; sometimes playing devil's advocate; yet I commiserate with them regarding their concerns with the situation. I guess, there really is no artifice in this, though it may seem that way. I don't necessarily make a game plan, but a neutrality plan so that I can concentrate on what I love most (teaching) and keep away from the land mines. So perhaps this isn't so much neutrality as "selective backing" --I pick and choose the issues that I agree and disagree with to support or nix.

I have found over the years that it actually requires more skill and work to take this side, but in the long run I feel less drained and sapped of energy. I also have a stronger sense of self, and self-respect. I have not betrayed how I feel and have honored my needs and beliefs first and foremost. So . . . I feel less fragile and worn out. Something has to be said about self preservation and keeping one's eye on the larger picture. By maintaining some distance I can see the issue more clearly.

Back to Who dares wins

The old spring mattress in my conex house is getting stiffer by the day, and it's not like there's anything much better here. Waking up from the bed was hard enough, and it's getting colder by the day, this place is getting worse by the day. Running out of food again I'd have to go out soon again, and I wasn't sure how far or how long I could carry my ruck in the state I was in. Every day I had to make sure my room was locked up tight before I even came close to moving out. Other scavengers were surely about and I wasn't about to give up my hard-earned paydirt.

After I locked and barred my room I stepped out to loot from anywhere I could find. I walked out to the PX with my loaded pistol at the ready, I was sure to find confrontation somewhere in there. Hopefully something was left over after years of being abandoned, at least in the storage closet. I peered around the corner of the door before rushing in behind the counter, crouched down low. I was sure to find a cache somewhere, either some food or some bartering material. Walking along behind the counter I searched the shelves for smokes, chew, electronics, anything someone would trade for. After an extensive search I hit the jackpot, between the counter and the register I found a small stash of magazines. I quickly pulled a bag from behind the counter and stashed my prize away.

I peered around the corner again and snuck silently along between the aisles of the small shop, keeping an eye out and an ear ready to detect anything else in the store. I held the pistol with both hands when I heard something, maybe an animal, maybe a person, but I wasn't taking any risks either way. Nothing was going to put me out before my time, and nothing was getting my loot.

I heard the noise again and quickly turned the corner toward the sound, putting the source of the noise in my sights. The noise in question was the squeaking of a massive rat, it must have been the size of my fist! I listened for anything else before pulling the hammer of my revolver, ready to put one into the rodent's head, maybe I could cook this thing into a proper meal. Not hearing anything else, I put a bullet to its small, tapered head and quickly picked it up by the tail. I put the kill into a bag and then with the magazine. I readied my pistol again and stepped out into the main part of the store again, striding quickly to the the stairs and around the corner.

I heard a voice behind myself and gasped in shock, turning around slowly; this was exactly what I didn't want to happen. A man had his pistol pointed right for my heart and he seemed anything but soft, this was going to take some negotiation. I lowered my pistol and set my bag on the floor. The voice croaked again, this time in audible words "what're you doing here in my store? What've you got there in that bag?"
"I was just looking for something to eat, I didn't know anybody else was here, I swear."
"Got anything to trade for it?"
"All I've got here on me is a little bit of cash, a freshly killed rat, and some magazines I found."
"That doesn't sound like anything good, find something and bring me the cash, but remember, I got my eyes on you."

I walked the store, pulling some canned food from the storage closet and a few boxes of (likely expired) crackers, hoping I had enough cash to pay for what I'd pulled off of the shelves or some way to outmaneuver the definitely hostile squatter.

I took a deep breath and prepared myself for confrontation, no way I was giving up my loot or my money just to eat for a day. While walking back along the aisle I slowly and quietly cocked back the hammer of my pistol, taking another deep breath before springing into action. I pulled my pistol up a couple feet and shot for the knee and stepped back into cover. I bagged the ill-gotten groceries with my fresh kill and my loot and bounded up the steps. I burst through the door and into my room, quickly out of sight and out of range. I quickly got myself into my room and locked the door behind me. Falling back onto my uncomfortable spring bed reflected on the past half hour and thought to myself "Survival never changes, life is rough when every day is a fight for your life".

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