Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Wrong Turn on the Evolutionary Path

It would seem that Sir Ken Robinson has picked up the gauntlet of my educational rants, in a much more kind and cogent way (he probably started his thing long before me), so I think it's time to move on to a new subject, albeit a frequent favorite, and look at why, after thousands of years, we are still fucked up.

Whether Jew or Christian, Hindu of Buddhist, Muslim or Zoroastrian, the one thing that pervades all of our philosophical outlooks is fear. It might be argued that not all religions are based on fear, but it cannot be argued that they don't all use it as a tool for advancing their particular slant. I'm sure that the psychologists and anthropologists out there include fear in their handful of basic human traits, but I think that fear trumps hunger and sex just by its sheer pervasiveness. And I am not saying that fear is unfounded, as I'm fairly certain that even Conan would quake in the presence of a saber-toothed tiger. There undoubtedly was a time when we, as a species, were ill equipped to handle the dangers in this world. I mean even the first witnessed natural death of a human must have raised a few hairs on the neck of his peers. "I don't know. He was breathing a minute ago". But just as consciousness is responsible for seeding the fears in us, it is also potentially the vehicle to eradicate it. We have sufficiently advanced technologically to cope with nearly everything that frightens us (with the noted exception of those dangers we ourselves created). Yet, as a result of millennia of simply accepting fear, and allowing it to guide our progress, we have created a universal fear culture that we simply accept as status quo.

I guess it all seems to start with the boogity-boo of god yelling at Adam and Eve, maybe the Noah thing, and certainly the saber-toothed tiger, but it strikes me that these stories are merely recollections of man's earliest fears of mortality. And the simple fact remains, that way back then, when we had a choice between embracing life or fearing death, we decided to take the wrong fork; we chose to walk the trail blazed by all the other animals before us (yeah, that's right...the one's without 'consciousness'). Now I don't know if apes cry, or if elephants remember, but I do know that early humans were terrified of their own awareness, and they began to make up some pretty good stories to lay their own culpability aside.

So, we took the chimp path (still think we should have taken Bonobo Road), and, whether consciously or concessionally, we let the alpha male take the point. But alas, even alpha males die, or fall to a younger successor, so we needed to adopt something a little more fantastic. So we invent gods. And truthfully, gods made a lot of sense. We could tie immortality to the vengeance of nature, and bring ourselves to adopt the old standby...'gods work in mysterious ways'. But we did just a little too good of a job, and then we started having to be afraid of the gods.

So, at this point, most of us (the orientals and indians apparently evolved from a remote region of Pangaea) arrived at the altar of Aslan, where honest Abe was asked to cleave his son in half with Paul Bunyan's ax, and we wind up with two halves of the same kid, one based on fear of suffering in the desert; the other on being afraid of being chosen; both on being afraid of the same god, and each other. And it was then that the alpha males really kicked into gear, wearing great hats and robes, and standing on towering altars, telling us to be afraid, be very afraid (of course, it was also at this time that Leonard Cohen wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic).

So we daven-ed and hora-ed our way past golden calves and babelfish, passed go, and arrived at the shattered tablets, where we were instructed by the god of burning bushes in all the things we should and shouldn't do (apparently, ten was way too many). But the flip side of Commandments is, of course, divine retribution. We were already afraid enough of dying without having to withstand the knowledge that there would be hell to pay in the afterlife. So along comes the issue of the holy trinity (Amon Ra, Baal, and Y-Yah) and let's us know that those who accept him shall dwell in the Kingdom of Heaven, which as far as I know, is somewhere near Flatbush. And the believers quaked holy indeed when the 'son of gods' got railroad-spiked to the ties. Of course, while the throngs were realizing what a mean motherfucker that trinity guy was, Jesus resurrected and lammed it to India, where the masses, upset over his treatment by Roman and Jew alike, cattled up under the flags of Suleiman and Attila, while the 714 gods of the Mahabharata rode shotgun, and unleashed the scimitar and hookah on the unsuspecting, heathen paleface.

Well, with all those gods running around loose, all of them offering something to be afraid of (even sex...hahaha...who could be afraid of sex!), alphas of every persuasion decided that we should be afraid of everyone who doesn't believe the way they believe, and we've been killing off Hutus and Tutsis ever since.

Apparently, gods simply were not enough to help us discern who we should be afraid of, so we expanded into ideologies, and we got the commies, the fascists, the martinets and dictators, the banana republics, and the fleur-de-lis, not to mention merry old England and her particular brand of thuggery. And we arrived at the world as we know it, where everyone is feared and everyone is afraid. And here, in the good ol' land of reds, whites and blues, even the greatest god of all...Benjamin Franklin...can no longer save us, and we get to be afraid whether we have or don't have his blessing. We got so afraid of everything, we forgot to be afraid when we elected Barack Obamalamadingdong.

We are smart enough. Just too damn afraid to know it. Too damn afraid to succeed.

I got the pedal to the metal...careening down Bonobo Road...I'll grab your ass on the way by...when I turn left or right or inbetween...Happy New Year.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Perfectly correct with everything in your profound analysis ........ except, of course, for one thing and here I'm sorry to disagree with you but it has to be said. Conan would NOT have quaked in the presence of a sabre-toothed tiger.

Which, of course, kind of slews the whole thing and means that you're not entirely correct.

Ah well. Next time.