Monday, June 26, 2017 9:30 PM
Good and Bad (2017Jun26)
We had a lot of good stuff before the world became industrialized, polluted, and overpopulated. But we had to give that good stuff up in the name of progress. There’s a lot of good stuff in idealistic youth, fresh from school. But we have to teach them to be cynical, distrusting, and acquisitive before we consider them grown men and women fit for the business world.
For humanity, something isn’t really useful until it’s been broken in—our sweetest gift is a handful of flowers, cut down in their prime, with only days to droop before they are thrown away. Not that I disapprove of flower bouquets—but they are, objectively, murdered plants—and that’s the way people like them.
I’ve always been fascinated by the muddy mess of the old Main Streets. See, before paved roads, every street in town became a muddy, impassable obstruction. Back in those days, there was never a big patch of mud, unless people were there. What strikes me about this is that even before exhaust pipes, factory chimneys, diesel engines, or chemical plants that dumped toxic waste in the rivers—even before all that, people were messing up every place they gathered in groups larger than a tribe.
Which is why the muddy obstacles were found in settlements’ and boom-towns’ streets—and not in the Native American villages. Even the slightest deviation from the hunter-gatherer tribal traditions (like a higher population density) would have changed things—and whether change is good or bad, I tend to admire the fact that there was a terrible balance in their lifestyle.
Think of it—coast-to-coast, groups of people living solely off the land—in comparatively miniscule numbers, sure, but with zero infrastructure that wasn’t already being supplied by Mother Nature. And before their feistier, paler brethren came sailing up, they hadn’t even needed to spend a dime on national defense.
I’m telling you, Europeans didn’t so much discover the New World as find the corner of the world that they hadn’t already ruined, deforested, overhunted, or incubated plagues in—and then proceeded to ruin that New Corner as fast as they could (experience tells, right?) And their specialty—weapons and war—made it easy to wipe out any previous residents, wherever they went.
Ironically, the reason the New World was so full of un-ruined goodness was because Native Americans kept it that way—and the Europeans judged them too inferior to hold claim on their land (or their lives), partly because they weren’t sophisticated enough to have ruined it all, already, themselves. That’s what you call a ‘bitter irony’.
Thus I always feel that when we discuss people, humanity, whatever—that we have to talk about two kinds of people—the kind of people we were evolved to be, by nature, and the kinds of people we learn to become, as part of civilization. These two very different aspects of humanity are nevertheless melded into each personality.
Virtually no one is so civilized that they don’t breathe air—nor so natural as to never use money. Some of us dream of going forward—colonizing the solar system, where there is no air. Some of us dream of going backward—to a naturalism so idyllic that money becomes obsolete. Trekkies dream of both—but there are very optimistic types, don’t you think? Still—beats pessimism.