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Monday, 30 June 2008

Dabs, letters and quitting the Stone Age (part Two)

Ask the average person on the street how humans lived before 'civilization' and the answer you would receive would probably be varied. Ask the average, reasonably well informed Scouse Canadian this question six months ago, and the answer might well have been that prior to Uruk in the Fertile Crescent of modern Iraq/Iran, humans were basically divided in to small hunter gatherer communities (think Borneo) or small nomadic bands of goat herds (think Sub Saharan Africa) or possibly small agrarian communities (think perhaps olive growers of the Meditteranean). Other people, might have the perception that over 5000 years ago, our ancestors were uncivilized cave-persons called Ugg.

Recent research indicates that none of these impressions could be farther from the truth. From findings at Catal Hoyuk in Turkey, to unearthing the conurbations of the Mississippian cultures of North America, it seems that civilizations, of one type or another have been a characteristic of human societies for much longer than previously thought, even by anthropologists. Not civilizations in respect of technology and urban living, but civilizations in the sense of ordered communities with cohesive social organization, belief systems, possibly writing of some sort and definitely art.

Indeed, recent anthropological and archaeological discoveries, as outlined in Richard Rudgley's book 'Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age', discoveries and sites that have been investigated using the most recent techniques would seem to indicate that from at least 10,000 years ago to about 5000 years ago, cultures existed across the world where spitting your chewing gum into other people's hair, living with mountains of mouse droppings or imposing inequitable contracts of employment on others was simply beyond the pale. Indeed, the whole trouble with spitting, or living with mice seems to have started round about the time that exploiting your fellows became acceptable.

Nel was in the local supermarket yesterday, quietly queueing for some milk and cookies when she became fascinated by a man in front of her with strange hair. She was trying to figure out whether his hair was an attempt to disguise male pattern balding, or just a bad hair cut, when the man, winking at his companion in the queue, spat his chewing gum into the unfashionable (but enviable) long lustrous hair of another, unrelated male who was next in line. Intolerant of this type of behaviour, the plucky boffin raised a hue and cry, drawing the attention of the store clerks, and other customers to this anti-social behaviour. A small debate ensued, in which the spitter denied all responsibility for the deed, and our heroine, sticking to her guns, maintained her accusations until she started trembling(a sure sign, she reports, that she's just about to start crying). Once the trembling commenced she just stared the offender down until he left the store in disgrace. Interestingly, he threw a parting shot at Nel as he left the store, turneing round and scowling at her before declaring "You're not even English". I told Nel she should be very proud of herself, but equally very careful about confronting wierdo's. The girl, though, can't help herself.

In the Stone Age, ie settlements from before Uruk and Babylon that have been investigated across the world over the last ten years, microscopic analysis of the human areas of habitation reveal an almost complete abscence of mouse droppings in areas of individual huts/houses/communal yurts. This abscence is reported amid a level of analysis that can identify particles as small as individual pollen grains. Humans, it seems, are not 'naturally' disgusting. Equally, and I admit that this next point is a stretch, it would be hard to imagine that in smaller communities, people who regularly piss-off everyone else in a band/community by spitting their natural liquorice or coca into everyone else's hair/face/back would be tolerated.

In work, Carra is about two weeks away from sentencing. Earlier this year, he attacked and beat up, a couple of guys who objected to his urinating at their back door. He is an impressive physical specimen - the type that I might have previously, and erroneously, labelled a Cave Man.

But now I realize that I'm wrong. My reading, and more importantly, other's well researched, scientifically based research into things Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic reveal that to associate the type of behaviour that we regularly label Neanderthal, or CaveMan like with the completely uncivilized, abhorrent behaviour that we have generated today is doing a massive dis-service to those earlier cultures. The Old European Culture of Malta, for example, existed in relative stability for 2000 years from about 4500 to 2500 BCE, while the Jomon culture of JApan probably existed from about 12500 BCE to about 450 BCE. There is every indication that both cultures thrived (NOT subsisted) in stable equilibrium for these periods, and planned their continuity. They did so without money, and without mice, and (again extrapolating, perhaps) without the social instability or anti-social behaviour that has it's root causes in fundamental inequality.

I cannot any longer take seriously any argument that begins with "Well, that's human nature..." in relation to justifying/explaining the inequalities we all witness on a daily basis from Burma to Iraq and from Indian Sweatshops to Donald Trumps' hairdo, because I do'nt believe anymore that there is any such thing as (genetically programmed) human nature. If pressed, I would be specific, and declare a belief that states that the current organisation of our society where profit is a God, therefore the 'natural order of things' and 'competitiveness' (in the narrow sense of acheiving higher/better/faster than my neighbour and then profiting from that advantage) is inherent in humans, is a belief only. A dogma, just like any other religious or superstitious belief. I think that as humans we have the capability to CHOOSE the society that we live in, and at some stage, in some societies, we chose to adopt the current model. But every piece of evidence I see suggests this current model will not last, and it will not last even as long as the culture of the builders of Stonehenge lasted. It will never be possible, or desirable, for humans to get 'back to nature', but back to the Stone Age?

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