Friday, June 24, 2022

The History of the World

A multi-column series originally published in 2016
Part one: Bang!

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.  

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  


Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device 

"Not Again!" -History

Dear Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

I'm spending the summer in a cabin on a beautiful lake somewhere in the Swiss Alps, working on my memoirs, and trying to decide if this column will resume post-Labor Day. The market has found me wanting; I'm buying all of my own coffee. So be it, I remain an unrepentant supporter of capitalism. 

My big brother Eddie is currently my only financial patron so I'm starting to feel like Van Gogh... without the world-class talent, but with both ears. I'm also considering publishing only when the spirit moves me. Cranking out columns week after week, while enjoyable, is hard work — well, intellectually speaking — at least for me. 

{It sure ain't roofing or the like you whiney b...}

In the meantime, I'll be republishing (relatively) gently edited columns with updated statistics and fun facts in [brackets].

The universe we inhabit appeared 13.772 billion years ago on a Tuesday.

A single, unimaginably dense point began rapidly expanding and a lot of complex stuff happened and continues to happen. The most interesting thing that resulted, from an Earthlings perspective, is that 4.543 billion years ago the Earth appeared. The Earth is the result of some of the complex stuff that happened and continues to happen.

Wikipedia says that about 300,000 years ago anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens, emerged in Africa.

{So we're all Homos and we're all Africans?}

Yours is a, um... unique perspective, Dana, but I like it.

Or… to one degree or another, everything mentioned in the preceding paragraph and what followed happened because God decided when and if it should be so.

The details depend on your personal beliefs. I know some very nice, perfectly normal H. sapiens that believe what I consider to be some very strange things (of course I’m not talking about your beliefs). I freely concede that one of them may turn out to be right and that I may be wrong. I’m wrong with disturbing regularity so I try to keep an open mind. I highly recommend this approach as I’ve found it to be the only effective defense against blind panic when a high-velocity radioactive fact comes crashing through the roof of my thought structure like a blazing meteorite, and lands in the chair I just got out of to answer the phone.

For the record, the meteorite analogy is a paraphrase of a bit of a Marc Cohn song, “Live Out the String.”

Regardless, tools already existed by the time we came along although hardware stores/departments did not appear till much later on. The controlled use of fire for warmth, light, and most importantly in my semi-humble opinion, cooking (I've never cared for cold cuts) also likely preceded us but this is a matter of some dispute. Along the way, the attributes that distinguish us from the other animals on the planet such as language, art, religion, warfare, etc. developed.

Agriculture came along roughly 12,000 years ago and changed everything.

Our ancestors had been hunters/gatherers for eons. Since grocery stores hadn’t been invented yet everyone had the same job — killing something or harvesting something that nature had randomly produced — to avoid starving to death. Now, on a good day, this wasn’t a half-bad way to make a living. If you, or you and the gang (odds are you belonged to some sort of tribe or odds are you would be dead) managed to find something to kill and eat without getting killed and eaten in the process and/or stumbled onto an apple tree full of ripe apples early in the day, why, you could go home early! Assuming you had found enough food you were free for the rest of the day.

Of course, this could be quite boring because there wasn’t much to do since they had neither cable nor computers, not even smartphones. This was why sex was invented. I refer to sex as practiced by homo sapiens, which tends to be a somewhat frequent and obsessive activity as compared to most other animals.

Anyway, various someone's at various locations gradually figured out how to plant and nurture crops as well as domesticate animals. While this required a lot more work than hunting and gathering it was a somewhat more reliable way to keep from starving to death or from becoming some other species' lunch.

Also, there are some scientists, and some evidence, that suggests getting high was a significant motivation as well. Turning grains into beer is easier than turning them into food, and beer was just as popular then as it is now, even without clever commercials — please drink responsibly. Eventually, we got good enough at this agriculture thing to produce more food than was absolutely needed for the gang to just scrape by. This made it possible to settle down instead of wandering all over the place looking for enough calories to keep body and soul together.

Man, by nature and necessity, is a social animal. It takes quite a few years before we reach maturity so we’re dependent on our parents (a mom and a dad if we’re lucky) much longer than the average creature. Also, survival is considerably easier and our lives are potentially much more pleasant when we work together. For example, everyone knows that bringing down a wooly mammoth with the tribes' help is much easier and more efficient than trying to do it yourself. That’s why most people naturally prefer to hang out or at least affiliate with a clique of some sort, it’s a  survival mechanism. Getting along with the inhabitants of the other huts on the block not only promotes regular meals and security, but it also enables you to get your fair share of woolyburgers without having to slay the neighbors.

Social cohesion increased the likelihood, and quality of, survival. Having to share the playground with the other kids is where morality (the rules) comes from. Please see, The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt.

And somebody came up with monogamy. If all the dudes could count on access to, um, companionship, it made the cooperation needed for the hunt less prone to social drama. The dudettes could count on access to, um, companionship, and protection for the kids. This arrangement was/is disproportionately beneficial for dudes. Dudes need their significant dudette to be, among other things, a good mom, a good wife, and often as not, willing and able to work outside the home. This is necessary to counter a given dude's natural tendency to rapidly devolve into a naked ape when left to his own devices.      
We figured all this out long before agriculture made villages not only possible but necessary and humans began clawing their way to the top of the food chain (the original corporate ladder). When we reached the point where we could produce more food than we needed it was only natural that folks began to specialize. Most remained farmers, but surplus food made it possible for some people that had abilities that benefited the community to do their thing without having to farm. A relatively reliable supply of food and water (and/or beer) leads to increased populations. If enough people can produce enough food to keep themselves alive and have enough left over to feed specialists such as craftspersons, cops, kings, etc. — before you know it, a village becomes a town becomes a city becomes a civilization. The rest is history.

Civilization began in Mesopotamia, an area that corresponds roughly to greater modern-day Iraq, that fertile crescent thing that gets so much press. Ain’t that ironical? This happened about 3,500 BCE.

To be continued...

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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