April 01, 2009

Blood veins as blue as the coal

Benjamin Franklin once famously characterized humans as tool using animals. Since then, we've found out we're not the only ones.

My modest substitute would be to say that we are story-creating animals. The human mind (and voice) secretes narratives the way the liver secretes bile. We often tend to fit things into a limited number of pre-existing story forms.

As I argued yesterday, people in the US have a tendency to see the world in terms of an action movie, with clear good guys and bad guys and usually a happy ending. The problem with this approach is that history is often more like a tragedy than an action movie, with conflicting rights and wrongs and frequent casualties. The action movie frame can show up across the political spectrum.

One thing that kind of irks me about the way some out of state environmental writers talk about controversies like mountaintop removal mining is that they often fall straight into this frame. I dislike the practice and would welcome greater regulation of the industry. But I also dislike over-simplifications.

More on that tomorrow.


POVERTY ON THE BRAIN. It can leave scars.

GOOD NATURED. A deformed skull from a child estimated to have lived over 500,000 years ago suggests that early humans showed compassion.

A HAPPY DEATH. A bill that would have required random drug tests for people receiving various kinds of public assistance, including unemployment, died yesterday in the WV legislature (with a little help).


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