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9/23/04

A lot of people look at me funny when I talk about things, or seem to understand and ultimately do not. I think I've traced this down to one essential difference in perspective between myself and many in my audience. I'd like to address this difference here. You may agree or disagree, but no matter what your stance is please understand that I only present this in the spirit of sharing understanding.

Man is not the center of creation. Man is not the masterpiece, not above creation, not the caretaker, not the owner, and is in fact in no way separable from the rest of the world. Man is not flawed. Man has not fallen. Man was not elevated. Man is not more highly evolved. Man is exactly as his creator made him, or if you prefer, man is exactly what he evolved to be.

This is usually the point at which I have to dive behind a riot shield. Before offering your arguments, riddle me this: is the thing you're about to argue a function of the species, or a function of the culture?

Allow me to take this one step further. Tell me this then: How is that argument of yours *not* the product of the very assumptions you argue?


(Continued 10/18/04)

There's a whole lot of common arguments against this. Usually they come from the perspective of man as flawed. People point to all sorts of "crimes" that frankly tend to be culturally based.

Starting with adultery and promiscuity, our culture encourages marriage after a courtship period during which both parties are on their best behavior, and when they get married and are suddenly confronted with pantyhose dangling from the shower rod, dirty toilets and well... the problems start. Our mating rituals are not based in reality. Furthermore, not everyone is cut out for a permanent, life-time commitment. Our culture has made that unacceptable, and considers any deviation from the norm of "stable family for the purpose of reproduction" to be wrong. Even the word "deviant" which just means differing from the norm, has become a label of scorn. The whole issue of human overpopulation is a separate matter (and yes, we can keep supplying food for our masses... by further destroying the wildlands. Malthus has not yet been disproven. Further, the process we use to keep feeding more and more people is rather harmful to Mother Earth, and assumes that it is man's right to take over all that land... ) and yet it bears on this problem. People are no longer responding in ways that encourage perpetuation of the species. Why? Well because there's too many of us to begin with. At that point you start to see behaviors that are biologically less successful because they give the young of the species less chance of survival, until the population is back under control... sound familiar anyone? People are behaving as they are made, but being damned for it.

Violent crime. This one's too easy. Also a symptom of overpopulation (not enough territory... and we are territorial animals), and the idea that everything must belong to *someone.* Nothing is community - even that which we consider community belongs to the government. People feel like they don't have enough, and strike back. People want things, and strike out. Part of this is pack animal mentality - establishing who's alpha in a subgroup. I hesitate to say that there's not enough to go around - because there is - but people who have decided they're somehow better than others control distribution. I'm not talking communism here - I think that was the worst possible idea, an entire system based around mediocrity and lowering the bar. What I'm talking about is the fact that we've determined that "only these ways" are acceptable means of survival, and some people don't want to follow those means. They have become outcasts because of their natures, and behave as such. What should be natural to them has been twisted into something dangerous to us all. And no, I'm not a softie who will say "put them in their proper environment and it'll be ok" because it won't. Why? Various reasons. The most insidious is that we have convinced them that they have fallen, that they are bad, so why act any other way? Their behavior also gives them "respect" in the "don't mess with me" sense... kinda like an alpha pack leader. What higher gratification could they want, other than more and more of it? Meanwhile society considers them either lost sheep or wolves outside the door (fallen), while at the same time perpetuating the system (man is above nature, somehow elevated) that created the problem in the first place. What a confusing mess! Oh, and incidentally? Periodic raiding and backing off is pretty common with other territorial animals. It's called "letting the neighbors know you're still there and still not to be messed with."

What often follows this type of declaration is "So what's your solution then?" Here I admit defeat. I don't have one. The tribal structure seems to work best (ie, maintainability and resource sharing) of the ones we've tried, and yet there's too many of us to break back to that. We can't base a large government, like the USA, on that kind of thing, or you get what you get now - the village lazy sot gets away with it on a grander scale because there's no accountability. I have no vision for "What should be," and I admit it. Then again, I think it would be prideful for me to say "This is how it should be" because I don't think there is a "should be" in the sense of one way to live. I think that idea that there is one right way to live and many wrong ways is another part of the fallacy. To be honest, I suspect that the only reason I'm still alive is the presumption that human life is somehow to be saved at all costs (but animal life isn't, and natural selection is foiled). I hope to infect people with the ideas, at least get them thinking about it, and then see what happens. There are people far more qualified than I to envision alternative social structures to what we have. The only ones I see... don't have me in them. I am a genetic liability. I do have hope however that if the ideas are put in people's heads, if people were to start thinking about these things, then maybe the structures we've got can still support it. 

The thing that is so concerning to me is that so many of our major religions, and so much of our cultures, are based upon "overcoming our animal natures." Why? "Because we're better/worse than they are." Why?

  • Because God made us this way - that's the culture, not the species
  • Because we are able to reason and other animals aren't - I can dedicate an entire website (and I'm sure there's at least one out there) dedicated to "smart animal" stories, usually with them pulling our fool fat out of the fryer. If an animal couldn't reason, it couldn't be trained.
  • Because we know right and wrong - Who defines right and wrong? Usually that leads back to "God" and the culture issue. Then there's the detail that one person's right is another person's sacrilege... yet again a culture issue, most of the time.
  • Because we are wasteful - contrary to popular belief, there are other creatures out there that are just as destructive as we are. They just do it on a smaller scale because they lack our tools and population and size.
  • Because we are smarter than them - Err, smarter how? We evolved the kinds of intellect we did because frankly our survivability without it is nil. Other animals evolved types of intelligence appropriate to their forms as well. That's why you let the *horse* find water, if you're without and on horseback. And I'd like to see a man using his brain alone match the navigational systems of migratory birds.

I have a question, for those who believe we were created "In God's Image:" if that's the case, why do you then turn around and call us flawed? I have a question for those who believe we're fallen from grace: if that's the case what gives us the right to plunder the land? I have a question for those who believe we're to be the caretakers of the Earth: how then did She get along without us all those billions of years? I have a question for those who think we're more highly evolved than anything else: given that evolution is the process of improving survivability of a species, how can we even compare to the common cockroach?

History is not a story. It did not lead up until now. It will continue on and on, and someday, as the dinosaurs learned, it will not include us anymore. We need to get that through our thick skulls, before we make the date we follow the thunder lizards into oblivion any closer than it is. And preferably before we take any more of our brother and sister creatures with us.

-Jaelle, 9/23/04 and 10/18/04

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