October 09, 2009

Civilization and all that

Long time visitors to this blog will recall that El Cabrero has a soft spot for ole Sigmund Freud. I don't buy the whole package, but he did have his moments. It occurs to me that one can reinterpret at least some of Freud's ideas in terms of evolutionary theory.

Here's one example: his classic little book Civilization and Its Discontents is pretty much what it sounds like. The main idea I remember after all these years is that living in modern, bureaucratic civilizations requires the repression of a lot of drives. He believed that since we can't get rid of the things that civilization provides without a lot of people dying AND since we can't get rid of our instinctual drives either, we're kinda out of luck.

I agree with the main idea any way. Our minds and bodies evolved under vastly different conditions that those we're living under now and this causes lots of stresses and strains and all kinds of problems. If we assume that humans have been around in their current form for 250,000 years (it could have been more or less), for all but the last 10,000 or so years they all lived by foraging in small groups. My my calculator, that amounts to 96 percent of our history.

In a hunter-gatherer society, there's may be a division of labor based on age and sex and some differences in status, but there's no permanent class system or built-in stratification (not to mention no alarm clocks). If we estimate that state societies first began to emerge 5,000 years ago, that's only two percent of human history. "Modern" societies with bureaucratic and capitalist features began to emerge 500 years ago, which is only .2 percent of human history (assuming I did the math right).

No wonder the shoe doesn't fit sometimes.

NEGLECTED. Paul Krugman's latest is about education.

SAVING CHIP. Here's a Gazette editorial on WV Senator Jay Rockefeller's proposal to preserve the Childrens Health Insuarance Program.

THIS IS STARTING TO GET GOOD. Rockefeller and WV Congressman Nick Rahall have joined with Senator Byrd in calling on Massey Energy to help fund the relocation of an elementary school near a huge coal silo and slurry impoundment.

MONKEY MOMS love their babies.


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