chapter  1
24 Pages

Introduction: the Co-operative Imperative

Money, power and sex. The history of the world can be told in three words, yet a fourth word – co-operation – has an important history of its own. People’s desire to help each other and work together for the common good is a characteristic of human beings, though so, of course, is competition for supremacy. According to science writer Matt Ridley, co-operation is literally ‘in our nature’, carried along through evolution by selfish genes but making us – for our own longterm welfare – social and trustworthy creatures.1 In reality, our co-operative instincts are always muddled, because helping others raises questions of personal identity and motivation. Deep down, we know von Hugel is correct, but few of us can resist the temptation to interfere. After all, we know best. In a broader sense, helping raises complex questions about policy and tactics that are inextricably entangled with institutional self-interests. Hidden agendas, inappropriate interventions and imposed ideas are commonplace. ‘Good

advice is rarer than rubies,’ says Salman Rushdie.2 This is especially true for the subject of this book: international co-operation for peace and prosperity.