Photo: I Am/Shady Acres Entertainment
A big revelation in I Am is that our culture is wrongly built around the idea of competition. Tom says in the film, "That's pretty much the message that I got as a kid: 'Separate yourself from the pack.' 'Be number one.' And 'Win.'"
Though our culture may be built around competition, I Am strives to answer the question of whether it's competition or cooperation that is the essential nature of humans.
"If you talk to people in aboriginal or indigenous cultures, you find the highest societal values is cooperation. And competition is a very low value. And competition beyond certain boundaries is considered mental illness," says author Thom Hartmann in I Am. "You look at our culture, and cooperation is considered a relatively low value. And competition is considered the highest value. We celebrate the most powerful competitors."
But is competition the true essence of human nature? Thom says that scientists decided to test this hypothesis and found that it is not.
"What [scientists] found was that democracy was being played out literally every day by ... animals," Thom says. He recalls his own experiences of going scuba diving and seeing schools of fish dart around as a collective group, and also remembers watching flocks of birds in his backyard fly together and change directions suddenly while still remaining together.
"How did they know?" Thom asks. "Well, it turns out, when you do the slow-motion photography, they're all voting literally with every wing beat or with every gill beat. They're voting hundreds of times a minute. And [the scientists] said, 'We found this from insects all the way up to primates.' The basis of nature is cooperation and democracy. It's in our DNA."