The study of the course of human history

The authors of this long article, or perhaps essay, are pursuing a point in connection with their views on human society, government, equality, how we got here, and where to go from here, from the anarchist point of view.

But whether you agree, disagree, or don’t even care, there’s a lot of other interesting ideas to pursue, given the time for such pursuit. I’m just going to share a handful of the ones that caught my eye.

This made me laugh, because I’m weird: “if one reduces world history to Gini coefficients, silly things will, necessarily, follow. Also depressing ones.”

This quickened my heart, because I find Göbekli Tepe tantalizing. I have frittered away countless hours trying to find out more about it, hungering for more photographs of the sculptures, materialistically wishing I could own a copy of some of them:

“Still more astonishing are the stone temples of Göbekli Tepe, excavated over twenty years ago on the Turkish-Syrian border, and still the subject of vociferous scientific debate. Dating to around 11,000 years ago, the very end of the last Ice Age, they comprise at least twenty megalithic enclosures raised high above the now-barren flanks of the Harran Plain. Each was made up of limestone pillars over 5m in height and weighing up to a ton (respectable by Stonehenge standards, and some 6,000 years before it).”

Often when I read about Göbekli Tepe, I come across a statement that makes me twitch my shoulders and jerk my head after imaginary mosquitoes. I read that Göbekli Tepe is ‘the oldest temple,’ or some similar positive statement. It’s not true. I don’t know why it’s so hard to say, “It’s the oldest temple we know of.” But scholarship is arrogant too often, which brings me to this one:

“Scholarship does not always advance. Sometimes it slides backwards. A hundred years ago, most anthropologists understood that those who live mainly from wild resources were not, normally, restricted to tiny ‘bands.’ That idea is really a product of the 1960s, when Kalahari Bushmen and Mbuti Pygmies became the preferred image of primordial humanity for TV audiences and researchers alike.”

And this:

“So, we might reasonably ask, what other cherished truths must now be cast on the dust-heap of history?

Quite a number, actually. Back in the ‘70s, the brilliant Cambridge archaeologist David Clarke predicted that, with modern research, almost every aspect of the old edifice of human evolution, ‘the explanations of the development of modern man, domestication, metallurgy, urbanization and civilisation – may in perspective emerge as semantic snares and metaphysical mirages.’ It appears he was right. Information is now pouring in from every quarter of the globe, based on careful empirical fieldwork, advanced techniques of climatic reconstruction, chronometric dating, and scientific analyses of organic remains. Researchers are examining ethnographic and historical material in a new light. And almost all of this new research goes against the familiar narrative of world history. Still, the most remarkable discoveries remain confined to the work of specialists, or have to be teased out by reading between the lines of scientific publications. Let us conclude, then, with a few headlines of our own: just a handful, to give a sense of what the new, emerging world history is starting to look like…”

But wait? What makes anybody presume that *now* we have reached peak scholarship with no errors? Is it really so hard to imagine that forty years from now it may turn out that today’s exciting, new, emerging world history is a semantic snare and metaphysical mirage of its own?
IT’s not that this stuff isn’t plausible and interesting:

“The first bombshell on our list concerns the origins and spread of agriculture. There is no longer any support for the view that it marked a major transition in human societies. In those parts of the world where animals and plants were first domesticated, there actually was no discernible ‘switch’ from Palaeolithic Forager to Neolithic Farmer.”

It is fascinating, but should always be seasoned with humility, like the rest of human knowledge.

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Rules for Living (To Avoid Being a Gentrifier)

The brilliant Richard Hernandez has an article that must be read in full. It’s on trendy socialism, and how it redoubles the marginalization of the poor. It’s a great read.

But I was drawn up short by this part:
“….Alternet in an article that reads like parody but is written in dead earnest, offers 20 tips on how not to be a gentrifier. “Gentrification is the word of the day. As the wealthiest in this country flock to major metropolitan centers like San Francisco and New York, and the rest get pushed out into the margins, many people are asking, ‘Am I a gentrifier? Is it bad? Should I care?'” Having answered in the affirmative the article proceeds to dispense advice. The first four give a flavor of the rest:

1.Smile and say hi to your neighbors when you see them, even if they seem scary or don’t say hi back;

2. Recognize all the people outside of your door as your neighbors, even if they look different from you and live under different circumstances.

3. Change the way you perceive neighbors by changing the language you use to describe them.

4. Really think before you call the police.


I had to stop and re-read this because it makes no sense to me. Or rather, it makes so much sense it’s obvious, so obvious, why would anybody need this to be codified into rules for presumably well educated Americans to read in English so they can employ these tips? What kind of people have to be *told* to smile and say hi to the neighbors, to recognize the people in your neighborhood as your neighbors regardless of how they look? It seriously does not compute.

I went and looked at the original. In a couple of cases there’s a bit more context which kind of explains things- if the audience is 14 years old. In others, I am even more gobsmacked and baffled.

Number 4 goes on to explain more about calling the cops on your neighbours. For example, really, people need to be told loud music is not a great reason to call the police on your neighbours, especially if you haven’t talked to them first.

There are a couple valid points in the whole list. The good stuff could be summed up as ‘dont’ be a jerk.’ The bad stuff could be summed up as “Erase yourself and live as a mindless cog and source of money in a Marxist collective, and occasionally be willing to risk your safety.’

But apparently, adults in this strange culture need more specific information on how not to be jerks. Take the second item. In full, it says:

“2. Recognize all the people outside of your door as your neighbors, even if they look different from you and live under different circumstances. This includes single mothers with three jobs and migrant workers who might not speak any English, as well as the homeless people who sleep in the park, the drug dealers who sell outside the liquor store, and the prostitutes walking nearby streets. Treating all of these folks with respect and dignity from the beginning will give you later leverage to talk to them about changing their behavior and getting out of the life.”

I see no reason to accept the author’s implication that there’s something snooty about avoiding drug-dealers and corners drug dealers are known to frequent- after all, violence is also known to frequent drug deals. You know the black mothers who grew up in that neighborhood are not telling their black children to make sure they hang out at the drug deal spot and make friends, so why should anybody else?

I am not an amazing, remarkable person filled with the milk of human kindness beyond the lot of most humans. I’m an introverted cynic who has a distressing preference for snark over sweetness and who revels in having days with no human contact at all. Frankly, I’m a thoughtless jerk a lot more of the time than I wish.
When I know a single mom working three jobs, or only 1, or even, gasp, none, I am likely to invite her over for dinner and send her home with leftovers and maybe send over a home-made loaf of bread once in a while. If she lives in my neighbourhood, she is my neighbor like the sky is blue and God made little green apples and nobody has ever had to tell me that, and it’s not because I’ve got pretensions for being a St. Francis or Little Sisters of the Poor. Why does somebody need to point this out to the political left?

Migrant workers who might not speak any English? Been there- our first apartment was immediately next door to an apartment full of about a dozen migrant workers who didn’t speak English. Their snoring sometimes kept me up at night because the walls were thin. I am not a fan of illegal immigration. I smiled and said hi, or greeted them in Spanish when I saw them because I am a human rights activist and cultural warrior so pure and holy my feet don’t actually touch the earth okay, no, that’s not it at all, I smiled and greeted them as we passed because that’s simply what you do with your neighbors! It’s basic, or it’s supposed to be, common decency. Common decency, like common sense, seems to have gone the way of the dodo. Smiling, nodding, saying hi – it’s nothing! It’s not hard. It isn’t amazing, admirable, impressive or saintly. It definitely isn’t something a human adult should have to be told to do.

I haven’t lived in the same neighborhood as drug-dealers since I was in high school, at least not to my knowledge, and the same with prostitutes. When we lived in Japan, I did, however, once discover that if I lingered in my favourite shopping district after dark, it turned out that what I had naively thought were restaurants only open for dinner were bars with call-girls and they opened for business at night. I had shopped later than usual one day and was walking past one of them with my kids shortly after the club had opened for business and the working girls in the doorway dashed over to coo and gush over the kids (they were awfully cute kids, and one was a baby). I suddenly realized these young women were not ‘waitresses’ and I admit I had a moment of passing shock where I considered grabbing my kids and running followed immediately by a longer moment of sanity where I realized I didn’t run very fast anyway, and nobody was going to be harmed because a prostitute spent a few minutes gushing over my babies. I smiled and talked about the kids and their ages for a few moments and went on my way. I didn’t intentionally hang out after dark in the area after that because it’s not kindness but stupidity that ignores the potential of danger in a field not known for respect for women or the rule of law, but I didn’t freak out if I couldn’t avoid it, either, and I had a few more encounters along the same lines. It wasn’t the prostitutes that made me nervous, it was the possibility of being around during any potential altercations between crime bosses, pimps, johns, or other criminal elements. I put down my shock largely to the fact that I was just 24 and had not to my knowledge ever seen a call-girl before.

If this sounds like bragging or boasting, I’m failing to communicate here, but I think most of my readers will understand what I’m saying because most of you are like me- flawed humans who are more conscious of your own weaknesses and ugly spots than anybody else, but who simply do not have to be told, cannot even imagine an adult needing to be told, to say hi to your neighbours even if they are single parents, or have brown skin, or might not speak English. And I know what a jerk I am, so I really have very dark suspicions of the kind of person you are if you need to hear this when you are already a grown up.

Also, this: ‘…will give you later leverage to talk to them about changing their behavior and getting out of the life.’ Ew. You don’t say hey to your neighbours for leverage. Jerk.

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University demands student submit to group bullying

Tyrannical Marxist struggle sessions and self-criticism continue in the Marxist centers of America, higher education.

For speaking up in class and pointing out that biology says there are only 2 genders, and opining that the gender wage gap is a myth, the university is denying the student a class he needs to graduate, unless he issues a written apology to the professor and also:
“Lake will begin class with an apology to the class for his behavior and then listen in silence as the professor and/or any student who wishes to speak shares how he or she felt during Lake’s disrespectful and disruptive outbursts on 2-28.”

He can only go to class if he submits to a group bullying session. No word on if he must wear a culpatory sign around his neck or a scarlet letter on his sleeve.

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Devastating Earthquake in Papua New Guinea

It happened in February, but the worst hit communities are some of the world’s remotest- they have little by way of outside connections, are inaccessible by road, and the mountain trails connecting these villages to the outside world are lost in subsequent mudslides. Entire villages may have been destroyed. The landscape has been rearranged. They havent just lost their families, their homes, many may have lost their entire community. The destruction and the toll of the disruption of everything they’ve known in their lives is unfathomable.

We only heard of it ourselves because of local missionaries with ties in the region.

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Punctuality and Culture

Reading up on, and living with, cultural differences has really solidified for me something I have long suspected but now am sure of.

That is, we spiritualize American standards in certain areas to almost a fetish, and then we export it, attempting to change a culture without any understanding of the context and related pieces.It’s entirely possible this goes in the other direction as well, if not evangelically, at least in a critical spirit and the idea that Americans should be more like …. ‘us’, whoever ‘us’ is, and insert pet cultural standard.

I can’t tell you how many entire sermons I have heard in America on the sin of being late, on the godliness of being punctual. I struggle with punctuality and so I chafe at these sermons for personal reasons stemming from self-interest. I recognize that as an American living in America it would behove me to have some respect for the standards of my culture. I do. You know there’s a but coming, don’t you?

It’s not one of the 10 commandments, so I wish we wouldn’t act like it is. This is where somebody old school tells me there is a commandment against stealing and being late is stealing other people’s time.
I think that’s stretching it unless you or I are being paid by the hour for the time I am there at whatever event this is.

Like it or not, this a cultural standard, a cultural practice, it’s not more or less godly to live in and keep to a time keeping culture vs a culture which has a more flexible approach to time.

Before we got here, I know about the differences in attitudes toward time. But now that we’re living here I don’t just know it, it makes sense to me. Time is not as much in one’s own control here as it is in America. You can’t plan for the rain, the torrential rain that eliminates a third of your public transportation options immediately, and increases demand for the additional conveyances, floods roads in minutes so you can’t pass. You can’t plan for the kinds of sudden traffic snarls that can burst our of nowhere in seconds. In a society so much more focused on relationships then almost anything else, you can’t just always wave off your neighbor or co-worker or the person at the bank who want to stop and ask you some questions and talk to you. Work might be an acceptable reason, especially if they know your boss is a westerner. But it’s generally slightly or ever so much more important to be available for your family, your closest friends, your neighbors than it is to be on time for a meeting at a restaurant or for church.

You can’t control how many stops the jeepney is going to make before yours- they stop when passengers ask to get on or off. Same with the trikes.
Traffic, weather, road conditions, power or water outages, friends, relationships- all these things make punctuality something of a lottery. If outsiders come in and emphasize on the dot punctuality without understanding the reasons why it’s less important in that culture, then something is liable to lost in the relationship side of the culture. Likewise, if outsiders came and got Americans to be more relaxed about punctuality, we’d lose something of the efficiency and productivity we value. In either case it might be worth the trade-off, but it would be better for the people in the culture to make the trades with the full understanding, at least as full as possible, about what it is they are trading.

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