Saturday, December 17, 2016

The History of the World, Part Eight

Since it's been (accidentally, sorry) awhile since part seven gentlereaders, a quick review would seem to be called for. According to the lopsided way King Crank looks at world history: H. sapiens won the real hunger games, rose to the top of the food chain, and established various and sundry civilizations.

Let's jump in the WAYBAC machine and return to part two.

Next, depending on how you look at it, an awful lot of history happened, or, a few things happened over and over again and once in a great, great while something really cool happened. Kind of like the life of the modern day average Joe/Joan Bagadonuts, but much more violent.

They attacked us or we attacked them in the name of cash, conquest, revenge, God, the gods, hunger, honor, slaves et cetera. Fortunately, God was on our side or it would have been even worse. As Thomas Hobbes pointed out, life is indeed, “...solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  Mr. H. was arguing that this is the natural state of man (he was right) and that’s why we need an all-powerful ruler to keep us on the straight and narrow (he was wrong, but we do need some form of gubmint). That way we can direct our energies to defend our playground and/or slaughtering them instead of each other.  

Once in awhile, peace would break out but Mother Nature provides us with a way to stave off boredom and complacency, natural disasters and disease.

This is how things rolled most days in most places. Why? Well, it’s either because we’re naked apes living in a dangerous world, or, someone screwed up the paradise we were provided with by God and he’s still mad (details depend on which creation myth you subscribe to). It wasn’t all bad though. Once in awhile Joe or Joan B. was fortunate enough to have an actual boring day. Also, as mentioned above, once in a great, great while, something truly cool happened."

Next, we jump ahead to part three.

... . In 1776 the world caught a major break.

In Great Britain's North American colonies a bunch of folks got together and invented the United States of America. In Scotland, Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, invented modern economics, and taught the world how free markets would eventually lead to the need for a weight loss industry. These two events occurred while the industrial revolution was picking up steam.  A trifecta!  

And then, everyone lived happily ever after.

The End

Well, not exactly. Naked apes will be naked apes after all. Mother Nature loves all her children equally, from deadly pathogens to would be Mother Theresas. Thomas Hobbes famous observation about the nature of life on Earth -- that it tends to be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short -- continued, and continues, to be true.

For example, the same America that often claims to be the world's oldest democracy (if you go a-googling you will find this factoid disputed by many) didn't get around to outlawing slavery until nearly a hundred years after formally declaring that it was obvious that all men, well, white males anyway, are created equal. It took even longer to acknowledge that the ladies aren't chattel.

Even then, we had to go to war with each other to make it happen. Even then, Jim Crow laws, literally or figuratively, remained in effect for another 100 years. Even now, we still have a handful (relatively speaking) of maroons in this country that think race predetermines an individual's character.

[Gentlereaders, an aside, 'cause that's how I roll. Not so fun fact: According to this PBS website (1) if the American Civil War was fought today and the same percentage of the population (2.5%) were killed, 7,000,000 people would be deleated.]

Even then... (insert your favorite crappy thing that someone, or several someones, did to someone else, or several someone elses in the last couple of hundred years, here).

Now, no matter what you believe, or who you blame, or what you think should be done, life on Earth is, as they say, is what it is -- always has been, and probably always will be. As to potential utopias, or heaven, or advanced civilizations from other planets, etc. -- I have little interest, less knowledge. My focus is on what's best for the most during the blink of an eye we call a lifetime.

Deidre McCloskey figured it out. About two hundred years ago, certain people in certain places discovered that free people + free markets + "Humanomics" (2) = unprecedented prosperity. The modern era was born. The old normal, thousands of years of a handful of kings and clerics in charge and almost everyone else a virtual or actual slave, began to die off.

The American and the Industrial Revolutions, combined with the economic revolution embodied in the concept of free trade will, long after we're all dead, be considered as important as the invention of agriculture.

But I'm not a nationalist, a little nationalism is necessary and healthy, a lot is tacky. I'm a gratitudalist. I believe that in spite of our many flaws and historical sins that the USA is (arguably, and at least for now) about as good as it gets. I'm grateful, as I did nothing to earn this, I just had the dumb luck to be born here.

Of course, that doesn't mean that the prosperity, freedom, and obesity epidemic that we take for granted in the USA, and that has taken hold to one degree or another elsewhere, will last. Some local version of Putin, or one of his Darth Vaderish ilk, might someday manage to take over the country and go all Orwellian on our pampered asses.

We live in gut-wrenching scary times. We live in a nation that has lost its cultural consensus in a world that's never had one. We're awash in information, good and bad. The digital revolutions daily disruptions are as likely to generate high anxiety as high expectations.

H. sapiens are what they are, and though they have, and continue, to evolve, all you and I actually have is this moment, now this one, now this one... Deep breath, savor what you have, stop fussing about what you don't. If your life sucks sweaty socks just now, know that it could be worse and that if you wait it out, it might get better. It always stops raining eventually.

Resolve to be kind. You don't have to like the other kids on the playground but you need to get along with them for everyone to get a chance on the swings.

Have an OK day.

(1) PBS -- The Civil War By the Numbers

(2) Humanomics