When Charles Darwin extended the theory of Survival of the Fittest to explain how nature selects organisms, he was buttressing Herbert Spencer’s adaptability model. Both Darwin and Spencer were talking about evolution and how nature picks only the best amongst the organisms. They revealed that only the organisms that adapt to their environments, irrespective of how unsuitable situations are, can survive and reproduce. This means that plants and animals that refuse to adjust to the changes in nature will die because nature will not change for them. Spencer and Darwin might have focused their theory on reproduction and populating Earth when they projected this theory but they, unknowingly, taught humankind a very crucial life’s lesson.
The theory of Survival of the Fittest (or Natural Selection) is used only in Biology to explain evolution. Our teachers used it then to teach us why desert plants have thorns and waxy leaves. It was also used to explain why fish and birds have streamlined bodies. Closer to this theory is that of competition, which explains why living things compete for available resources. Bring these two theories together and you will realise that what Darwin was saying then is, “fit into your community and sort yourself out or you will lose.”
If you look at how things happen around you, you will understand how the fittest “survive”. By “fittest” I do not mean having “six packs”, bulgy arms, hour-glass figures, or an athlete’s body. “Fittest” here stands for those that understood their societies and adjusted themselves by adopting behaviours and ideologies that are required to survive there. “Fittest” in this sense means “going to Rome and behaving like the Romans”. It connotes being smart enough to understand that people change to fit into societies and not the other way around. It simply tells you not to fight changes but to learn to live with it.
One thing that affects people a lot is insisting that something must be done a certain way because they saw it work in other places. If a cactus decides that because it shares some characteristics with roses (such as having thorns) it is going to have soft sweet-smelling leaves/flowers instead of the hard waxy type, it will never survive in the desert. Of course, it has the option of living in rain forest like any other green plants, but will it be valued when placed beside other plants? This can also apply to many of us, especially those that want what is obtainable in location A to be the same with that of location B. Remember that every society is unique in its own ways. No two communities are exactly the same, thanks to cultural differences.
But let’s look at some things that happen around us today. Darwin said that living things must adapt to their immediate environment or they will not survive. In your place of work, for instance, there are modalities already put in place to determine how, why and when employees will be rewarded or punished. But some employees kick against those processes because they expect their employers to set up modalities like the ones found in other companies. Employees like this become difficult to manage but they end up being sacked. This also applies to those that expect the cultures and practices of the communities they find themselves to change because they are unfavourable to them. Today, Darwin is telling people like this to adapt or face sack.
Of course, no one is saying that, because a person needs to survive, bad societal practices should not be challenged. But it should be understood that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. However, for you to change misnomers in a community, you have to be its member because the best way to bring changes is from within. Hence, to live and survive in the community, you have to adopt their way of life, understand them, and discover reasons they behave the way they do. Other than that, you will be kicked out before you even make a move.