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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Drunken Anthropology Lesson

A friend recently tossed this out into the twittersphere:

“Trying to put my finger on why progressives back off the pressure when the other guy is on the ropes but conservatives go for the kill.”

Well, loosen yer boots and set a spell and I’ll tell ya how that came about...

In the beginning, we got fed up with falling out of trees when sleeping, so we hopped down and started chasing antelope around and similar creatures like that. The extra thought processes required to capture swift running herds led to huge changes in the brain; we needed to get smarter. Not just to catch food, but to catch it before the other clans, and keep those other clans away, and to steal their food when convenient.

So we sat down around the campfire one day and pondered how we might go about achieving all that. After some long, hard discussion, we finally decided the best thing to do for ourselves and the survival of our species was to become Conservatives. Being mistrustful of other clans ensured they couldn’t dominate us, and helped with our survival. Hording all for ourselves and to hell with them was likewise a fruitful endeavour.

Those of us who held these conservative values flourished and started begatting all over the place and laughed as other clans faded out. If you didn’t think like a conservative, that was your fate and you were just plain stupid and deserved to die.

So a few hundred generations later, we’re all hardwired that way – it’s simply part of the human instinct to behave conservatively for the survival of the species.

Then one sunny afternoon we discovered agriculture. That was like, the sweetest thing ever and we kicked ourselves for not coming up the idea sooner. It sure saved a lot of running around and ending up in places like Norway. But a curious thing happened when we began to stay put and operate farms and build communities: all that hardwired conservativism suddenly became less of a strategic advantage and somewhat of a counterproductive one. Collecting and sharing proved more useful in this new environment, and considering future generations rather than just the immediate one. this was a whole new ballgame.

As communities became larger, we started to realize that even if we didn’t know a fellow human, it was a good idea to help feed him if he was hungry and house him if he was without a roof and nurse him if he was sick. This was obviously contrary to our general nature but doing so worked to save the community, and when the community was saved, it flourished.

The inhabitants of the most socially caring communities fared better than those who still lived by the archaic conservative standards that were a good idea at the time. So these new liberal-minded folks did a lot more begetting and their ‘values’, which were nothing more than best survival techniques just as the others had been previously,  started to become hardwired and replacing the old ways.

The problem is, that was a mere ten thousand years ago. It’s the sensible way to go, and the way to future survival as cities continue to grow larger, but it has nowhere near the seniority of the deeply-entrenched conservative mind which refuses to die out. If we survive long enough, socially-caring minds will eventually completely take over the selfish every-ape-for-himself mentality that’s so stubbornly persistent.

So – between actual physical attributes and environmental factors, our brains possess both the old and the new survival techniques and we live our lives, and “think”, generally, one way or the other. We just happen to be at a point in history where the old and the new must exist together. The good news is, once we get through it, we’ll be flying. The bad news is, that could take many more hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and the old conservative mindset in the age of the cloud will be a damn dangerous thing indeed.

But that’s another story.

Thanks for the inspiration for this, Shawn!

Disclaimer: this was written late at night while inebriated and may or may not contain any sense.

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