Let us continue on the topic of civilization and in particular (auto-) domestication. What we do when we domesticate an animal is to further one special ability of an animal, such as tasty meat in one type of cows, the ability to produce much milk in another, obedience in dogs or their ability to pull snow sleds or hunt rats or pick up the scent of cancer cells or humans buried under masses of snow, and so forth. We don’t need or want animals able to stand on their own two feet, so to speak. In fact our domestication of them to a very large degree, or even completely, ruins that ability. A milk cow let loose today, for example, would die real quick. It has been specialized in milk production so much that if she is not milked regularly this will kill her.
With humans we do the same, or we do the same to ourselves; because of civilization we automatically – unconsciously – domesticate ourselves. We have to be at least somewhat domesticated to function in this civilization to begin with, and by functioning in this civilization we become even more domesticated. We end up in a downward going spiral, until we – at one point – become completely dependent on civilization to survive and then finally unable to survive at all. And that will be the end of us, Idiocracy style.
Our hunter-gatherer forebears lived in small tribes, no larger than 144 people (called “a great dozen”). If they grew larger than that, they would split up and you would have two tribes instead. These tribes lived on their own for most of their time, away from others, but they did regularly meet at some few sacred places in Europe. I would guess that Stonehenge was such a place, but we also know of one such place in what is today the Czech Republic, and other such places surely existed too. They organized ring games (competitions), that eventually became known in historical times as the Olympic games, for example, and later as knight tournaments. They would go there to share news and other information, but also to find spouses from other tribes – to avoid inbreeding.
However, they only needed to tolerate the presence of other humans, and to socialize with distant relatives and strangers, for a short time. After these gatherings, they returned to living on their own, away from others. They remained wild and free, in natural tribes. Untamed. Everyone was family. They did not need to domesticate themselves to function in their type of society.
The (undesired) consequences of (auto-)domestication are many. We get a weaker skeleton, we get shorter faces (with teeth no longer having space to grow, like with “wisdom teeth”), we get weaker muscles, poorer joint definition, hair changes, fat accumulation, simplified patters of behaviour, more pathology, physical defects, extended immaturity and not least, we get smaller brains. Yes, we become dumber.
But people today, completely hung up in the idea of “evolution”, but too unintelligent to understand that theory, often believe that we are better today than we were before. “We have to be, because we have evolved so much since the Stone Age, right?” We live longer and we are capable of so much more – as proven by our high tech (the advanced wheelchair I talked about when I wrote about Civilization).
In reality we only live longer on average thanks to modern medicine (and other modern sciences), completely at odds with Nature and what is good for us – and we are so incapable that the only way we can get anything at all done is through specialization.
Now, this is a positively charged word, don’t you agree? “Specialization”. It means that each and every one of us becomes a specialist in something. Not necessarily something glamorous, it can be a specialist toilet cleaner, but still: a specialist. The term itself suggests, I think, that we at least perform one single task well, and better than our pre-agricultural forebears, who were all jacks-of-all-trades. But….
Ah, yes. There is a “but” here. You see, when you look at historical sources, describing the performances of our forebears, and when you look at archaeological evidence, and not least the first books written, you realize that this is not the case at all. Yes, we specialize, we educate each and every one of us to become an efficient (hopefully?) cog in a great machinery, able to perform one single task well (dentist, driver, computer programmer, soldier, psychiatrist, teacher etc.), and some of us are indeed skilled in other tasks too, but even though we specialize, and pour all our energy into mastering that one single skill or lore, we fall short compared to our forebears.
Historical records tell us how the city of Athens, that had even been civilized for some time by then, could produce thousands of rowers able to row faster and for longer than our Olympic rowing champions are able to today. Fossilized footprints in the sand can tell how the average Stone Age man could run faster than our Olympic champion runners and world-record holders can. And they didn’t even have running shoes on when they did, and ran along sandy beaches. Our average Stone Age forebear could throw a spear farther than our Olympic javelin champions can throw a javelin. And yes, the same average Stone Age forebear could do all these things that well, whilst we can only produce specialists able to compete with him in one single task. And it doesn’t stop there. They average Stone Age man was also intellectually superior to our biggest geniuses.
Now, I don’t claim to be one of our biggest geniuses, but if you take my own role-playing game, MYFAROG, as an example, you could say that I have specialized in making such a game, and therefore I am able to. I have written a comprehensive rule system that makes sense and covers all eventualities in the setting, and that can be used for role-playing. But I had to write it down. I don’t remember everything in the rule-book by heart. A Stone Age forebear of mine would have been able to not only come up with such a system, but also he would not need to write it down. He would memorize it and everything in it. His players would not need character sheets, because they would easily remember all their stats and XP and whatnot, and changes to them as well. I might think highly of myself for making such a game, but I am but a shadow of my forebears.
They would memorize the position of the stars at different times of the year, learn all the properties of plant from their parents, without the need for any books, tell stories to each other that would make even Tolkien envious, and then those who listened to them would hear it once and be able to retell the same stories to others later on. And so forth. Our “great potential” was lost, because of agriculture and civilization. Or at least greatly diminished.
You think I exaggerate? Maybe I do, but I don’t think so, and if you look at Europe, the average IQ has dropped here by 15 points the last 100 or so years already – and no, it’s not all due to immigration from low-IQ populations in the third world. And the physical achievements of our forebears are well documented.
Even in the 19th century, we had for example a Norwegian author, Peter Andreas Munch, who went to the Vatican to read a book. He was not allowed to take notes or to take the book away from the Vatican library, but he simply went there and read the book, and then went outside and wrote what he had read down on paper. Yes, he could memorize what he had read, and then write it down afterwards. Even only a few generations ago, people were on average much smarter than people are today. The decline in intellectual abilities is dramatic! My father had to learn and were able to learn a lot more when he became an engineer, than my brother did, some 22-23 years later. Some time in the 90ies a class of engineers in Norway were given an exam from the late 70ies, because their professor had not had the time to make one himself, so he just used an old one that he was convinced they could not have seen before, and every single engineer student failed the exams, and filed complaints that it was too hard. Not one of them passed. Now, this can of course also be attributed to a decline in the education in Norway, but this changes nothing, because why is education declining in Norway? The answer is the same: because people in general are becoming dumber. When the students today can’t pass a single test and fail all their exams, then they… simply make the tests and exams easier. This applies to all subjects today in the educational system, even mathematics and biology.
And speaking off; even the scholars of the 19th century were not specialized like scholars are today. They would be experts in a wide field of subjects, whilst today’s scholars are just poorly educated, according to their limited intellectual abilities, in one single subject.
So no, the specialization that came from civilization is not something positive. It had to come, because modern man has become so useless that the only way he can become useful is by focusing all his energy into learning to perform one task somewhat well, so that he can make a living and be somewhat useful for society. As you know painfully well, most of us aren’t even able to perform that one task very well though. In fact, many so-called experts today are barely trained to look up questions in their field of expertise online. If the web went down, so would their knowledge and competence. A modern repairman no longer repairs anything. He just replaces broken parts with new parts.
It’s because of Capitalism, yes, I agree, but this is a part of civilization, a consequence of it, and follows in the wake of its intellectual destruction – of our auto-domestication. In fact, it’s a good example of how we domesticate ourselves and ensure that we become only increasingly dumber.
When mankind adopted agriculture and developed civilization he basically took a dive from a cliff. At first it went well – he was flying! But as he falls he picks up speed and we are currently heading at full speed towards the ground. It doesn’t help to close your eyes. If you see what is coming or not is irrelevant. You will soon hit the ground regardless. And be smashed against the sharp rocks below.
The only parachute we have, that can save us? I will discuss that another day….
Thank you for reading.
P. A. Munch: