Sunday, June 14, 2020


A some point a great leap forward due to evolution of the mammal subdivision called “primates” and then “hominins” and then “homo sapiens” was the lobe of the brain behind the forehead and above the eyes.  Something in that part made it possible to see ourselves as though we were “outside” ourselves, at least to imagine what we looked like to others.  Even with a mirror we tend to see what we want to see, so understanding what an observer might “observe” is far more informative.

This is an evolved ability, dependent on both what physiology makes possible and what cultural training prompts us to do.  Not everyone wants to do this or can do it if they want to.  Some can see it only if they are not gripped by “lower” (earlier in evolution) functions of the brain.

Insects, birds and mammals are hard-wired to dislike, avoid and attack any of their species who are “different” because that helps keep the species in existence, less likely to drift off after the “different” even if theirs is a better way.  A fine sci-fi series of stories exists about children who are gifted with the ability to fly, but when they are found out by the earth-bound, they are resented, crippled and killed.  They soon learn to be secret. 

It is not just Blacks or PoC who are identified as a threat and punished for it, but they are the easiest group to think one could identify by just looking.  Color is a continuum and some towards the accepted end of the scale are able to “pass” which is distorting but saves lives. I’ve heard stories of Blackfeet who fought in Korea or Vietnam and escaped death by passing as Asian locals.  Their basic genome is Asian.  We are only beginning to realize how often people crossed the Pacific in either direction.

Color of skin is a lousy way to sort people because it makes no allowance for the way they were raised, their education, their life experience, the situation they are in, and their basic natural personality.  Black-as-ink people with my sort of education (which admittedly is produced by elitist male whites which ironically demands tolerance of difference as a means of growth) can be friends after a bit of conversation.  A fancy English accent erases many signs of stigma.  Our language, our assumptions, can be similar enough to communicate in spite of appearance.  White-as-a-ghost-people (maybe with red necks) don’t even begin to be able to see that I exist. I don’t like their music, can’t understand their slang, don’t know what they’re talking about — so naturally I don’t see them either.

Because of the pandemic economics our local semi-regional newspaper was forced (they say) to stop publishing as the individual town newspapers they had bought, putting them together into one mega-Golden Triangle paper.  It’s quite a puzzle because the Glacier Reporter is about the rez, and other small towns around here are likely to be white, ethic, and poorly educated.  They have no access to a local college like Blackfeet Community College, but if they have the means they can go to Havre where the college has become preparation for a practical trade like plumbing — not that we don’t all need that.  

But I was shocked by one antiquarian columnist who clings to 19th century European ideas about God, country, and propriety.  She won’t be around much longer, but I expect more time wouldn’t change her.  She learned these ideas early and they have served her well-enough since she shares them with many others.  After all, her belief that she will be taken to Heaven comforts her.

One wonders whether people devoted to prejudice and the violent elimination of adversaries have really learned that or are simply not evolved enough to grasp the idea of self-reflection.  One wonders whether the fondness of drinking and drugs is a way of escaping any self-questioning about what they do and why.  

If there are people who have never learned to reflect on their own selves, that’s one thing.  But what about people who just never evolved that ability?  What about people like the Somali mother carrying a baby dead of starvation and an empty water jug on a trail to oblivion, simply going on because her body wants to go on?  If she could see her deprivation and dead end, what good would it do her or the species?  But if WE look at her, won’t it make us work harder to save all of us?

Maybe not.  There are countries and individuals who want others to only conform, not try to figure out some kind of reality.  Efforts to think as persons are stamped out because the species of human has been narrowed to being owned by a government or a religion or a military.

The human forebrain also has other capacities related to metaphor.  There are lists that used to be taught in high school.  One is metonymy, which means speaking of a part as though it were a whole, like saying “sail” instead of “ship.”  People who are too susceptible to this will believe that a corvid-19 mask stands for some kind of heresy instead of being a simple practical act.  Most of us will accept a person as representing a complex of ideas and some get stuck to that person so tightly that when the person pivots — like Trumps twirling his politics or Lindsey Graham contradicting his own opinion of Trump — we stick to the person.  This works for the Queen of England, but only because she doesn’t challenge it. 

The Thirty Years' War was a war fought primarily in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. It resulted in the deaths of over 8 million people, including 20 percent of the German population, making it one of the most destructive conflicts in human history. Initially a war between the Protestant and Catholic states in the Holy Roman Empire, it gradually developed into a general European war involving most of the great powers.”  (Wiki)

This is the war that old white men can’t forget since a majority of them are ethnically German.  Somehow even after hundreds of years they can’t forget it because even winning two World Wars didn’t get the attitudes out of their heads.
“The Thirty Years' War devastated entire regions, resulting in high mortality from hunger and disease.   (Wiki)

This is beginning to happen in the US and other countries who are losing their handle on economics and disease.  The Thirty Years War is what prompted the US colonies to put aside religious differences (Puritan, Baptist, Deist, Anglican, Catholic, Mormon) and unite to save the country.  Pence is a deeply uneducated and unevolved man.  Trump’s father was a German citizen.  The narrowest past is all they see.  What we need is a future.

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