I grew up in the seventies, or at least that’s when I discovered history and philosophical currents. I read both the treatises from my grandparents’ time and before, the attitude of which can be summed in Shakespeare’s lines: “What a piece of work is man… etc.”
But I also read a lot of seventies claptrap moral philosophy and theorizing about man. I don’t have a very high regard for the seventies, an era that seems to me to have been heavily influenced by drug use and eye-searing polyester to the point people could believe two thousand impossible things before breakfast, which ran into lunch because they were passed out on the floor, tripping on horse tranquilizers.
Okay, maybe this was just the view of a young woman just coming of age in a country undergoing great upheaval.
However, if the sixties started it, the seventies is when the ah… new age of entertainment and thought hit the mainstream. Perhaps it was when the slow marchers got enough power to influence things. Suddenly every book and every movie seemed bent on rubbing our noses in the fact that humans were animals and not nice animals.
In anthropology – I was a weird kid. As the youngest of a huge extended-but-living-in-each-other’s-pockets family, I was very lonely (my ten years older brother was the nearest to my age) but also well provided with books, college texts, and stuff on subjects my much older cousins favored – it was the age of the Naked Ape, red in tooth and claw.
Universally the view as that we were bad, bad, bad all through and that the only hope for society was for our betters to take us in hand and change us.
I didn’t realize at the time this was a vile-prog point of view. I do realize now it hasn’t changed much.
Watching people at the DNC say “We all have to belong to something, so we belong to the government” made my hair stand on end, but if you believed that man, the human by itself, left alone, is an evil being, a uniquely evil being in the scale of the world, wouldn’t you think you needed something – some entity, some enlightened someone – to fix him? And if you don’t believe in G-d, who are you going to call? Other humans. And because you have to believe in something you believe that government somehow transforms humans into angels.
Don’t ask me. I don’t get it either. I believe both in G-d and that he created flawed humanity and believes in us and in our ability to struggle to salvation.
But whether you believe in Him or not, if you believe we humans are unredeemable, it explains both the ridiculous need for “overseers”, the hatred of humans (zero population growth and extinction-lust programs and books), “bad humans, good aliens” movies (gag) and the endless pathology of the left which seems to hate humans just a little more than they hate… everything else.
And this is nonsense.
Those books of seventies sold us a bill of goods, including that humans are the only beings who murder their own kind; the only humans who commit murder; the only animals capable of making war, and who knows what else.
None of those are true. What is true is this: we are sentient creatures built on an animal base. The structures of our rationality are built onto the body of a pre-rational animal. We are built on an ape base, and that comes with certain qualities, as much a part of us as anything we want to be or think ourselves to be: we are sexual beings; we are creatures of instinct; we are social creatures; we are both lazy and clever, an ape who makes complex things.
The important thing to remember, though, is that we have the qualities of our vices.
I’ve moaned here, and you’ve heard me moan that we’re tribal creatures. This has some awful side effects because we tend to tribal-up. Some of the effect is minor. Get a bunch of my friends and Dan’s in a room. Or just an undifferentiated bunch of IT people and writers. As the night advances, we’ll divide into two groups and roll our eyes at the other guys.
This drives the social justice warriors nuts. They want to understand/integrate/whatever the other. They want to lift up the other and debase the group to which they belong. But they too are build on the same social animal base we are. So what they end up is forming a tribe of “The people who care deeply for the other” and… well, the other. Those of us who couldn’t care less and some people who think there’s nothing wrong with them that a few swirlies couldn’t fix. (And sometimes my loyalty veers to the second tribe.) This is the basis of all oikophobia. Wanting to belong to the tribe that is achingly, achingly I tell you (stop laughing) sympathetic to the “other.” Unless the other is their own tribesmen who think they are a few buckets short of a gallon of water, to be caring deeply about people who would stone them to death for their behavior.
What they – as well as the moralists who would have us all, even the least suited to it become utter saints – fail to get is that you can’t – not as a fellow human, not even, often, as yourself – excise the bad parts of someone and leave the good standing. That’s not how it works.
As individuals or as a species we are the same: we have the virtues of our vices. So humans who are tribal might get in league against “the other” but they also, by being tribal, stand in close association and protection, and will take care of the weak and the old they consider to be their own. (The SJWs want the government to do it, but that’s something else. It’s a delusion of sorts.)
Men are aggressive, but that aggression turned to protectiveness, has caused them to die in droves to protect the homeland and women they never even met.
Yes, humans strive against each other in war, but that’s a side effect of striving FOR something.
Civilization consists of individual humans choosing to channel their natural instincts productively. A functional society consists of giving them incentives to do so, instead of killing and pillaging.
Yes, there are bad men. Yes, there are bad women too. Yes, periodically all civilizations go dysfunctional or at least dysfunctional for a while, and yes, Mr. du Toit might be absolutely right that our collective psyche is being fractured by the speed of change which creates a sort of regression in some people who would rather go howling into the dark ages than towards a future they don’t understand.
But by and large, humans have done well. It’s not just a matter of our covering the face of the Earth, not altogether bad for a “naked ape.” It’s also the fact that we can look back just 400 years to Elizabethan England and see how far we’ve come.
It’s entirely possible, mind, that Western civilization is a terrible thing. (Terrible according to WHOM?) but if you are disabled, weak, a woman, a child or just plain weird, where would you prefer to be? In a Western nation or elsewhere? And more importantly, in the world now, or elsewhen?
It’s all in how you channel your aggression. You’re not born human. You’re born something like human. A civilized society can make you human, though, and we’re getting pretty good at this.
If we understand this, we can stop the self-reflexive hatred.
Virtue and vice are one, and the denied one fuels the other. No human is so good he’s without bad impulses, no. BUT he can choose. And those impulses are often never expressed.
We might, yes, be a killer ape. But we’re a killer ape whose expansionist desires can make him dream of the stars, and realize we might even be friends with those we meet there – if they extend a hand of friendship to us.
A naked ape can’t ask for much more.