............is a dangerous thing. Less than that is a bit more dangerous. The first few weeks at University are revealing not only the truth of the cliche about learning, but a few additional insights into the process. My favourite course is my 'Free Elective' - Introduction to Social Anthropology. The course is fact filled and full of new ideas and concepts already, as well as showing me perspectives on topics I thought I had already grasped. Naturally, this makes a re-write of "Civilization - WHY??" necessary, as I have discoverd that the Earth was not seeded by aliens from Alpha Centauri after all, a fact that I had garnered from the web, and used freely throughout the aforementioned thesis to try and explain some of the stranger elements in human behaviour, such as the wearing of cardigans, serious poetry and warfare.
Anthropology though, has confirmed a position that has been unfolding throughout "Civilization - WHY??", a position that started as wild speculation, and one that I am now actually taking seriously. This position, and the ill-effects of a little learning were illustrated this week when Large had a blazing row with a colleague.
The colleague's position (lets call him Manu) ran parallel with Churchill's position, namely that our current system of government (and by implication economic organization) 'is the worst system of Government possible - apart from any other'. This view, broadly reflects the almost Darwinian view of Western Society that it (Western Society) is the 'natural' pinnacle of the evolution of societies, and that every other society in the World would eventually end up 'here' already if 'we' had not got 'here' first. Support for this view points to our 'freedoms' and proclaims that if people are left to be free, this (current Western Society) is where we end up. This view is further supported by pointing to the supposedly mercantile 'instincts' of people from Asian societies, a view which implies that if Asians been just a bit better at inventing things, it would be them now, not us, who effectively rule the world. Capitalism, the free market, commodity trading, it is said, are actually all just human nature. This does lead us to the curious proposition that Asians and a tiny minority of Westerners have specific 'money' genes. But as Manu and friends have already hijacked some of the thesis "The Selfish Gene"as even more support for their case, I will not pursue this particular misreading of Scientific works any further. I am, after all, not a satirist.
Largey's point was the opposite, specifically, that capitalism is not working, that humans have, still do and will in the future, choose to organize themselves along different lines than our current system, and that her brother Will is almost entirely responsible for the lack of movement on the societal level because he studies Love. Will, you see, is a philosopher, and in days of yore, his main job would be to grow a great big beard and sit in his exclusive Gentlemen's club (before retiring to his extremely rich friend's house) theorizing about how the workers of the world, oppressed as they were, had nothing to lose but a couple of old shackles, so it was way past time to start shooting anyone who was priveliged. In truth, far from fermenting revolution, what Will, and his friends actually do is philophisize, well nigh unforgiveable.
I tend to disagree that Will is entirely responsible for the current state of the World, although he has, from time to time, been responsible for my feeling that the World is just about to end, but that is mainly because he went through a period of using Prozac as a salad dressing, and as we all know, even Ranch is preferable. I do however, agree with Large about the rest. Even in Hull, as I have mentionewd before, we have a large number of direct acquaintances who have lost jobs, savings, pensions, business as a direct result of the current 'downturn'. In a world of plenty, this is unacceptable. In the months and years ahead, people in this marvellous 'here' will not be put into hardship because of drought, famine, disease or warfare, but because a system which exists purely to make very rich people even richer has failed as a direct result of the misjudgements of those very rich people. When I write that sentence, and realize just how absurd is the system that we have chosen to use to organize ourselves , I am tempted to re-visit the Alpha Centauri theory.
I was going to neatly conclude this post by citing some of the (still current) societies I have learned about in Anthropology, and thereby showing off my new found knowledge. These societies engage in barter, mercantile networks, hunter-gathering, nomadism. They span history and geography, ecologies and complexity and all are based on different paradigms than the current Western one. Would they be sustainable? Do I want to go back to living in caves? Do I believe in the 'noble (ecological) savage' ?. Absolutely not, but our laws, constitutions and economies are all choices we have made, and maybe, just maybe, if I read a little more I might discover that I can learn about some of these societies, not just so I can pass examinations, but so I can give Will a few tips when he finally decides to write the great Philosopher's book showing mankind the direction that it has to go in order that the next Great Leap Forward is a leap, and not a stumble.