Friday, January 12, 2024

The History of the World (Condensed), Ch. 2

Image by JJ Jordan from Pixabay

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now, haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

"The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes." -Mark Twain

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),  

Chapter One ended with the beginning of civilization. Our story continues. 

...Next, depending on how you look at it, an awful lot of history happened — or a few things happened over and over again — and regularly something really awful happened. 

Rather like the life of a modern-day, average American Joe/Joan/J. Bagadonuts but subject to even more random acts of violence. They attacked us or we attacked them in the name of cash, conquest, revenge, God, the gods, hunger, honor, slaves, etcetera.

Fortunately, God was on our side or it would have been even worse. 

As Hobbes famously pointed out, life is “...solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Mr. H. was arguing that this is the natural state of man (he had a point) and that’s why we need an all-powerful ruler to keep us on the straight and narrow. 

He was wrong about that but we do need some form of government. This is how we keep the bullies on our playground in check and defend it from the bullies from other playgrounds.  

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

For example, say King Ed is sitting in the privy waiting for nature to take its course and his mind starts to wander because the only copy of Dark Ages Digest on hand is almost a year old. 

He’s been giving a lot of thought to attacking a kingdom just down the road because he’s got his fair share of bloodthirsty warriors and greedy nobles to keep happy and if he doesn’t keep them busy they may turn on him and/or each other for entertainment and booty.

He’s been through that before and knows that even if he and his allies triumph lots of innocent serfs, peasants, and slaves will be slaughtered. 

Collateral damage, sure, but since they're the ones that do most of the heavy lifting, and since lots of them die before reaching the age of thirty, you need to maintain a large inventory to dodge some significant downsides. He’s still short of virtual slaves, actual slaves, and cash from last season, not one of his better ones, and short on potential solutions as well. 

Things are so bad he’s considering hiring one of those expensive consultants his brother King Marty favors. He’s heard good things about a firm called DPD, Diabolical Plots by the Dozen, founded incidentally, by a distant ancestor of Vladimir Putin.

His ruminations are interrupted by a hysterical minion pounding on the door and screaming, “Your majesty, your majesty there are reports of plague (or flood, or fire, or hairy weather, or rapacious insects, or blight, or famine, etcetrine) in the kingdom!” 

This solves the problem, short term at least. Now, survival becomes everybody's Job-1. Assuming this isn’t an apocalyptic-level crisis and assuming that King Ed is one of the survivors he can deal with his other problem later.

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/she/they is still mad (the details depend on which creation myth you subscribe to). It wasn’t all bad though. 

Once in a while, a Joe or Joan or J. Bagadonuts was fortunate enough to have an actual boring day. Once in a great while, something truly cool happened.

Somebody came up with the wheel, someone perfected bronze, iron came along, the printing press was invented, Mr. and Mrs. Beethoven had a baby — that sort of thing. Being the clever creatures that we are, we even came up with all sorts of ways to use these breakthroughs for things other than killing each other.

H. sapiens are religious by nature, including the ones who claim not to be. Various entities, or his/her/their messenger(s), have regularly stopped by to light the path to paradise. This phenomenon continues apace, right up to this very moment. 

Nowadays, the entities and/or their messengers may be politicians, pundits, Greenies, Wokies, Trumpies, etc. The field has broadened considerably.

"We're the ones we've been waiting for" so let's "make America great again!" I think that...

{Whoa, Sparky, focus dude.}

Thanks, Dana, I've gotten ahead of myself. Where was I? Oh, yeah...

And then, in 1776, the planet Earth finally caught a break.

(To Be Continued...)

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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I post links to my columns (and other things) on Facebook so that you can love me, hate me, or lobby to have me publically flogged.  

Friday, January 5, 2024

The History of the World (Condensed)

Chapter One

Image by JJ Jordan from Pixabay

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now, haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

"Not again!" -History

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),  

We H. sapiens living in the current era are reminded daily that if global warming/climate change doesn't get us, the Artificial Intelligenci, a deadly global pandemic, or _______ probably will. 

As a public service, I've put together a condensed history of the world that will be featured in this space over the course of the next several weeks. 

{Public service?}

Assuming there are survivors, Dana, they'll need help reconstructing the past once they start to rebuild. Perhaps my feeble scribbles will somehow survive and I can be of service from beyond the grave. Also, I freely admit that this is world history according to yet another ugly American. 

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 planet Earth pulled itself together.

Roughly 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 unique perspective, Dana, I like it.

Or, to one degree or another, the stuff mentioned above, and what follows below, 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 what you believe). 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.

Irregardless, tools already existed by the time we came along although hardware stores 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 much 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, ever more efficient ways to kill each other, etc. developed.

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

Our ancestors had been hunters/gatherers for thousands of years. Since grocery stores hadn’t been invented yet everyone had the same job, killing something or gathering something to avoid starving to death. Now, on a good day, this wasn’t a half-bad way to get by. 

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 gather up and/or kill to eat without getting killed and/or eaten in the process 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 as 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 H. sapiens, which tends to be a somewhat frequent and obsessive activity as compared to most other animals.

Various people at various locations gradually figured out how to plant and nurture crops as well as how to domesticate animals. While this required a lot more work than hunting and gathering, and having a diet that provided less variety could lead to health problems, it was a more reliable way to keep from starving to death.

Also, there's some evidence that suggests that getting loaded was a significant motivation as well. Turning grains into beer is easier than turning them into food, and beer was as popular then as it is now, even without the ubiquitous commercials — please drink responsibly. 

Eventually, we got good enough at this agriculture thing to produce more food than was needed for the gang to scrape by. This made it possible to settle down instead of wandering all over the place hunting and gathering enough calories to keep body and soul together.

Men, women, and others are by nature and necessity, social animals. 

It takes quite a few years before we reach maturity and we’re dependent on our parents 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 tribe's 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 promoted regular meals and security, it also enabled you to get your fair share of woolyburgers without having to slay the neighbors to get theirs.

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

Speaking of sharing, monogamy was invented. If all the dudes could count on access to, um, regular companionship, it made the cooperation needed for the hunt less prone to drama. The dudettes could also count on access to, um, regular companionship... and protection for the kids. 

This arrangement was/is disproportionately beneficial for dudes. Dudes need a significant dudette to be, among other things, a good mom, a good wife, and nowadays, often as not, willing and able to work outside the hut — and to counter a dude's tendency to rapidly devolve into a naked ape when left to his own devices.      

We figured this out long before agriculture made villages not only possible but necessary and H. sapiens 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 people began to specialize. Most people remained farmers, but surplus food made it possible for some people who had abilities that benefited the community to do their thing without having to farm. 

A relatively reliable supply of food and water (and beer) leads to an increased population. If enough people can produce enough food to keep themselves alive — and have enough left over to feed specialists such as craftspersons, cops, kings, insurance salesmen, 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 (ain’t that ironical?). This happened about 3,500 BCE.

(To be continued...)

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

Scroll down if you wish to share my work or access my golden oldies.   

I post links to my columns (and other things) on Facebook so that you can love me, hate me, or lobby to have me publicly flogged.  

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Nothing Is True (Anymore)

 Information Age or the Age of Anxiety?

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now, haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

"The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible." -Arthur C. Clarke

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),  

I've written about truth before. 

{So where are all the links?}

Links? What links, Dana?

{Do you think that your memory problems might be the result of some form of dementia?} 

I hope not, but what are you...

{You've looked into this. The Goog loves links, the more links you post to something that has something to do with truth, the better the chance the Goog will offer up your column when some "user" out there in cyberspace types in the word truth or a phrase that includes the word truth.}

Oh that, no I remember that. I just don't care anymore. I think there's something wrong with your memory. I've made it clear that company policy is to only link to stuff that is absolutely necessary and fundamentally purely factual.

You know what? Company policy has just changed, right this second. Going forward the only things I'm linking to are my charming personal glossary and things I think a given gentlereader might be interested in checking out. 

No more linking to stuff that's common knowledge (or should be in my semi-humble opinion)...

...or that can be investigated by a given gentlereader if they're truly interested. Until relatively recently, the world has gotten by with information delivered via the dead trees format. No links.

My biggest fan reads my stuff on paper, doesn't own a computer, and uses his cell phone as a phone. He's led a decent life, is enjoying his retirement, and compared to the average H. sapien these days is quite well adjusted thank you very much. 

{But this is the Information Age! Links link information to information that links to...}

Yup, and that's why nothing is true anymore. Sister Mary McGillicuddy taught me (60 years ago!) that mankind's personkind's collective wisdom lags far behind personkind's technical achievements. 

{Hoo-boy. Here we go. Let the ranting at clouds commence!}

Abasabalutely! But let us remain relatively calm, and logical, and not forget to smile. 

Permit me to sum up the point I was trying to make, in one form or another, in all of the columns I wrote about truth that I'm not linking to: All truth is provisional but that doesn't mean truth can't be true enough.

That is to say, a well-adjusted, fully mature H. sapien should cultivate pragmatism (but with an open mind) right up to the very day he/she/they are deleted. Everything we know is true is potentially subject to changes, major or minor — but what works, works.

As I write this the sun has not come up yet, but it will shortly. I know that it will rise in the east and several hours from now will set in the west. 

I take this for granted even though I know that however unlikely it might be, some maladjusted, nihilistic teenagers from an ancient space-faring species could pass through our solar system today on a joyride in a stolen spaceship and decide to extinguish our sun for the sheer fun of it.  

{You're nuts... But that would explain why we seem to be alone in the universe.}

My Mum told me that technically anything is possible but many things are highly unlikely.

I also know that the sun doesn't actually rise or set, that this is an illusion created by the fact the Earth (which is round, by the way) orbits the Sun. But until 1543 this illusion was considered common sense. it took another century or so before most people knew it wasn't. 

And we still say sunrise and sunset — close enough.

"Given that Twitter [X] serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy." -Elon Musk 

Failing to adhere to free speech principles does fundamentally undermine democracy, but Twitter, or X if you prefer, is not the de facto public town square.

The town square metaphor Mr. Musk uses refers to any sort of public meeting in which the locals get together to hash things out. (Hey, Dana, here's a link to a Wikipedia entry about the Norman Rockwell painting illustrating free speech that many of us geezers and geezerettes carry around in our heads).

{What about that ancient Luddite you print your columns out for?}

Fear not, no link is necessary.

A real public square, or more likely something akin to a public meeting of the Hooterville School Board, is a radically different venue/experience than Musk's concept of a virtual public square. The planet Earth doesn't have a public square, not even a virtual one.

When the Hooterville School Board holds a meeting the members of the board have been chosen by the citizens of Hooterville. Everyone knows who they are and where they live. Any given citizen who attends is an easily identified Homo sapien, especially that pain in arse Mr... never mind.

Anything that anyone says and/or claims is witnessed and verifiable (or debunkable), and minutes are kept.

Most of social media, and much of the worldwide web of all knowledge, consists of anonymous people (or bots, or trolls, or troll farms, or my-truthers, or hackers, or hustlers, etc.) tossing Uh-huhs! or Nuh-uhs! at each other.

Everything is true, and nothing is true.

{So what do we...}

Same as always, the best you can, one day at a time. Take a deep breath, and then take another, and then do what needs to be done. I find watching sunrises and sunsets helpful.

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

Scroll down to leave a comment, share my work, or access my golden oldies.   

I post links to my columns on both Facebook and the site everyone still calls Twitter so you can love me, hate me, or lobby to have me canceled or publicly flogged on either site. Cranky don't tweet (X-claim?).