Today we live in times of great uncertainty. And still there is a sense, particularly among those living in the West, that we have never had it so good. Conditioning this optimistic sense is a firm belief that the liberal world, order irrespective of the odd setback, will eventually fulfill an eschatological promise of universal peace, harmony and wealth. It matters little that this project has been 400 years in the making without any real progress in the development of man.
For many this may sound incomprehensible, certainly what I suggest would seem counterintuitive. As a species we are all somewhat susceptible to a belief that progress as indeed history are both linear, therefore riding a wave of contemporaneity is equitable to living on the permanent cusp of human advancement. Further cognitive biases are confirmed not only by the official narrative of our elites, but also by those who seek to push a rationalist and secular agenda. At this stage it becomes vital in my argument to detach technological advances from that of human development. Certainly science appears to have brought rewards, and it is undeniable that intellectually we are capable of innovation that hitherto is unprecedented, but it comes at a hidden cost and in fact at times the cost is not hidden at all, rather it is our conscience deception by a firm belief that we are so precocious as a species that we are incapable of fully comprehending the clear signs that are all around us . Above all else I would like to suggest that scientific endeavour is no more than a mere companion of time and that man not only is in regression overall, but that both psychologically and spiritually is in clear decline. Here I argue that the Golden era of man was crushed no less than circa 10,000 years before Christ and that in the grand scheme of things we can not use technology as a sole and definitive marker by which to judge human progression.
The Age of Eternal Peace
Prior to 10,000 B.C. there was no war, that means only in the latest 5% of human history have we been subjecting one another to bloodshed on such a level. Indeed, war has become so humdrum, not to mention politicised, that war as an act does not feature in human rights discourse. In fact, war is often considered to be the act by which human rights are to be upheld, irrespective of the consequences to human rights that war under such circumstances unquestionably entails. Such a realisation speaks volumes about the manner in which are minds have been taken captive by the norms of our era. War has simply become an inalienable truth that cannot be detached from the nation state.
This is not to say that prior to the Neolithic world there was no violence. It is true there was still murder and feuds, however war was absent. Until 10000 years B.C. humans lived in tight knit, small groups as hunter gatherers, they were highly mobile in an era of great wide-open spaces and these were the key variables which explain the absence of war. War was simply far too costly, groups of the time being highly dependent on the work of all its members could simply not afford to risk such utter destruction. The mobile lifestyle of the day therefore made it easy to avoid conflict.
The avoidance of war however was not the only benefit, the constant movement prevented the over farming of land, the soil degradation that is apparent all over the world today not to mention the horrific consequences that future generations will inherent there from were simply not an issue. It is imperative that we as human being measure the consequences of are scientific discoveries. We cannot simply celebrate the genius of agricultural chemical innovation and discard the damage our rapacious methods of deforestation, the effects of overgrazing and the side effects our chemicals produce in the erosion of the earth soils. Additionally, we must consider the harm that arises thereof such as the loss of arable land in an increasingly populated world, or that clogged waterways and increased flooding are all inimical to our species and with such damage the threat of dislocation and conflict increases manifold.
Fundamental to the destruction of humanity’s golden era was a change in the way people decided to live. People began to settle, often building hamlets along rivers and lakes or along the coasts where the men would fish, these settlements became the be all and end all by which these new types of communities lived, they would plough the fields around them and establish their homes. Hence the ability to avoid violence was negated, replaced with a fear of external threats to a groups entire livelihood and crucially to the property these tribes had accumulated. Hence as humans settled the basis of what we today classify as the security dilemma came into being. Groups of people uncertain of the actions of other groups have to preempt if an outer group poses a threat or not and whether they warrant attack of not. This dilemma has been central to conflict ever since.
But these settlements not only deprived humans at the time of their ability to avoid war, as these villages grew into towns and cities so too grew the rubbish and sewage. Disease became common place and life expectancy dropped swiftly. Hunter gatherers had a good life expectancy between 60-65 while those in a Victorian British town lived somewhere between 40-45 years. Health therefore is non-linear in relation to time or technological advancement. In fact, modern technologies took millennia to return us to a similar life expectancy as the hunter gatherer and while we have now surpassed this in many areas of the world, there are still over twenty countries unable to achieve the life expectancy of the hunter gatherer of 10000 years ago, while another 21 nations fall into the 60-65 year life expectancy frame.
And while we celebrate the achievements of medicine in the developed world especially, we must recognise systems as a whole. We must not forget that in our modern world 18 million people die of starvation every year. We live in an interconnected world where the disparities between those who have and those who don’t is growing as quickly as the wealth accumulates in the hands of the top 5 %. It is interesting to chart, how these small settlements evolved into towns, cities and nation states, how the property therein lead to the formation of class societies and eventually the rise of individualism. Contrary to the ideas of Locke, I see property as the enslavement of humanity, not the liberator. Private property not only generated the class divisions and war that are omnipresent in our modern world, but also created the cages and chains that entrap the overwhelming majority of those living in the south to a life of poverty, while those in the North are protected from the excesses of our human “progression”.
Indeed, there are further caveats, as already mentioned the average longevity of the human being is not related to the year in which we live. It is fundamentally linked to our environment and lifestyle. Our so called scientific progression has filled our seas with rubbish, has created nuclear bombs and total war, it has given us chemical weapons, and brought us genocide, we fill our world with poisons and feed are children additives, we experiment with AI and genetic technology while our increased global interconnections brought about by time and space compression means that risks are infinitely harder to contain then in previous eras. An epidemic exploding in Tokyo today will engulf the world tomorrow, in the same manner that globalisation helps technological innovation.
Indeed, it is not to be discounted that all our technologies have made us more susceptible to disease and illnesses such as cancer and who knows what else. Rather than allowing the human genetic code to adapt and find solutions to our environment we continuously subject it to new irritants, new chemicals, radiation in our phones, our computers, new drugs, lead from our cars even new lifestyles and the advent of obesity. The list is endless, before our genes adjust we are already exposing them to something new, thus depriving ourselves of a natural form of evolution to a natural world.
The shock of civilisation
Beyond both the scientific and medicinal spheres of life sociologists often speak of shock, how humans fail to adapt psychologically to our changing world. As there was no war for 95% of human history, so too did humans not think of themselves as individuals, their first priority was their community and the moral and religious values that such communities advanced. Only in the last few hundred years have we been moving away from the idea of communal living. Promoting instead individualism. Durkheim, the acclaimed father of sociology, noted in 1891 how this social shift to individualism created incredible dislocation and shock to people all over Europe in the period following the French revolution. This gave rise not only to criminogenic pathologies and abnormal social forms, but is deemed to be the basis not only of increased suicide rate, but also behaviours consistent with generating conflict, criminal pathologies but also retreatist subcultures. Now in this globalised new world this shift to individualism is unfolding all across our planet, not only this, but we are witnessing a clash of civilisations in which liberal western hegemony has little consideration for a whole host of nations built on entirely different cultural, religious and social contexts. This invariably equates to a far greater shock than Europeans had to put up with just prior to the turn of the 19th century. At this point it is worth mentioning that this shift to individualism that so unsettled Europe in its day, is by contrast to our contemporary world a very little change. Now we are not only seeing a global shift to individualism and hence a loss of sense of community, but we live in a word in which there is no gender, no nation state, no taboos, no security and no God. This has lead some to claim we face a global civil war. The idea of a global civil war goes perhaps to far, but certainly we are witnessing increased psychological disorders and suicide rates in many corners of the globe, thus giving credence once more to Emile Durkheims theory of anomie.
So are we progressing? Or are we willingly obscuring from view the negatives that have accompanied our changing world? We cannot simply celebrate technology and deny the genocides, murder and pollution for which they have been misappropriated. Having said all that, the progress shock is a two way streak, so please don’t send me back 12000 years because probably I will never cope.