Sapiens

Posted on July 11, 2022

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Life in the Boomer Lane is now reading Sapiens, the not always predictable journey of mankind from Early Blob to Current Day Something Else. The author, Yuval Noah Harari, brilliantly takes the reader from the beginning of life to what may well be the end of it (LBL’s words, not Harari’s.) Among other things, LBL is already appreciating that Harari’s words are helping her to understand the current political climate. She will share some of these insights with you.

There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.

This is powerful stuff, here, folks. Sapiens’ lives are controlled less by what is real than what we create in our heads. Sapiens took what was real (birth and death, weather, rocks, backaches) and created an entire universe around them of what was not real. All of this has culminated in the current age of conspiracy theory and photo manipulations that make teens adhere to an unrealistic depiction of humans and allow older humans get dates on Match.com.

The first evidence for tool production dates from about 2.5 million years ago.

Since then, there have been millions of tools created by sapiens, the two notable ones being the appointment of Chris Christie to Trump’s transition team in 2018 and the designation of Rudy Juliani as part of his personal legal team in 2018.

When humans domesticated fire, they gained control of an obedient and potentially limitless force…A single woman with a flint or fire stick could burn down an entire forest in a matter of hours.

The obvious examples today are the flints and fire sticks of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Cersei Lannister.

Every two species that evolved from a common ancestor, such as horses and donkeys, were at one time just two populations of the same species, like bulldogs and spaniels.

The most prominent example of this is how donkeys and elephants, who used to argue a lot but were of the same species, slowly turned into entities who inhabited totally different realities and forget how to communicate with each other.

…The truly unique feature about our language is not its ability to transmit information about (what is real). Rather, it’s the ability to transmit information about things that do not exist at all…The ability to speak about fictions is the most unique feature of Sapiens language...Fiction has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively...Large numbers of strangers can cooperate by believing in common myths...Churches are rooted in common religious myths…..States are rooted in common national myths. Judicial systems are rooted in common legal myths….There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.

LBL must insert herself here, to address those who believe that religion, government and a belief that cavemen ran around with dinosaurs are real. Listen folks, the fact that they aren’t real doesn’t mean that they haven’t strongly impacted countless millions of lives. It simply acknowledges that, unlike rocks, they can’t be found in the physical world. They have been created by us to serve our needs. And in many cases, that creation has resulted in some mighty powerful positive leaps forward in human existence. In other cases, it’s resulted in a lot of mess, like war, the Inquisition, and televangelists.

“How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined.”

True dat. It’s like after awhile, whatever guys (and they were most definitely guys) who decided all this stuff are long gone. Nobody remembers them or how everything came about. After enough time, it feels like whatever it is was some kind of true thing. Like Mary was a slut and women can’t be priests and men don’t want damaged goods (To be fair to Loyal Readers, LBL doesn’t know if this last item is a commonly believed one or if it’s just what LBL’s mom repeated incessantly.)

Green monkeys and chimpanzees can lie.

So can perfectly normal humans. There, does that make you feel better?

Harari spends a long time introducing and discussing the “Cognitive Revolution” in which sapiens, for no obvious reason, suddenly (Note to Readers: “Suddenly” in evolutionary time, being over the course of approximately 40,000 years) got really smart. Nobody can adequately explain how, in only the aforementioned 40,000 years, humans decided to create a flexible language and collective fictions that would serve to bind them together and guide their behavior. Thirty-two thousands years later, Rupert Murdoch would use this as the basis for creating the Fox News Channel.

And finally, People are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes.

Conservative Americans are currently engaged in a collective bout of diarrhea over the changing social fabric of this country: Interracial dating, gender fluidity, and immigration are taken as givens among teens. The current crop of rising young adults do not wrestle with these issues. Then, observe Target or Walmart or the mall on any day of the week. It’s obvious that the race and ethnicity of the average American is rapidly changing. Last, read the polls from average Americans who want women to have a choice about what happens to their bodies, prefer some kind of regulation on guns, and welcome immigration. None of these changes serve to support the power base of those who have governed this county since its inception.

LBL feels bad for these folks. Nobody likes to lose power. Nobody likes to be told that they are no better than anyone else or have their statues taken down. And if you are a poor white, it has to be especially tough to hear that, depending on where you live, you are worse off economically than blacks, Latinos and Native Americans.

It’s understandable that the more things change, the louder these folks scream. It’s just unfortunate for all of us that we have to live through their tantrums (In evolutionary terms, most likely to last at through the foreseeable future) and lies (see “green monkeys and chimpanzees” above) that are sort of ruining our lives at the moment.

It’s also unfortunate that many of them (the less informed/the less affluent) have gravitated to whoever will make them even angrier, rather than to whatever will actually make their lives better. They only want someone tell them that their anger and/or their violence and their disregard for the democratic process is the sign of being a good citizen. The others (the more informed/the more affluent) have the luxury of picking and choosing where their anger will be placed. Usually it ends up squarely in the “These people (blacks/immigrants/group of choice) are taking away my hard-earned money.”

The main message seems to be that sapiens have been wrestling with these things since the dawn of time, while all other species just go about their business or simply disappear. Except for green monkeys. They have it figured out. If Green Monkey #1 is eating a banana, and Green Monkey #2 wants it, Green Monkey #2 will yell “There’s a lion!” and Green Monkey #1 will drop the banana and run.

We sapiens haven’t figured out how to do this. We will go through countless hours of screaming at each other, threaten each other, make up all kind of shit about each other, start a big war, and kill one or both of us. The banana will simply lie there and rot away, covered with flies. After awhile, nobody will remember why anyone wanted to eat the banana in the first place.

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