Saturday, April 17, 2010

History - More relevant than you think?

It is a tempting conceit to believe that Man is somehow different and more special than we were 50,000 years ago. As if our technological prowess has seeped into our very bones and made us more than animal. Not a god but something in between. But, a conceit this is. A child born 50,000 years ago but brought forward to today and brought up as normal would have no problem with the modern world.

Our patronising attitude to our more ancient ancestors is part of this conceit. Where we can assign some level of 'humanity' to our more recent ancestors (since perhaps classical Greek times in the west) we can often think of previous social groupings as almost different.

Even where we can identify more strongly with the ancient peoples we still believe that we are superior in almost every way. This, though, is another conceit. Technologically we are very advanced compared to every period in our history but socially? In social terms we are still little different from even the earliest civilisations where they developed structural divisions of labour throughout society. And, perhaps, we aren't even so different from ancestors earlier than this. After all, we have the same physiological fears, desires and imperatives. Technology has lessened our need to be afraid, or hungry, or sexually active, but it has not eliminated them. And, despite our technology, we are often still afraid, hungry, desperate and libidinous. We are still doing the best we can with what we've got.

Perhaps more than ever we need to accept our animal physiology and even be more comfortable with it in the modern world. After all, if we can't be ourselves with the massive increase in personal comfort we have achieved - what was the point?

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