How we got here.

Amazingly, we tend to ignore the bulk of human history when considering what is ‘natural.’  How humans lived for tens of thousands of years has imprinted itself in our genes, yet we ignore that programming, instead trying to live by what our culture says is ‘right.’  There are reasons for why we act the way that we do, feel the way that we feel, and they are not the result of the rise of patriarchal religions, or the Industrial Revolutions.  The conflicts that we experience are all too often the result of our genetic programming being at odds with our expectations.

Because humans did not have writing until very recently, little is known for sure about what life was like 20,000 years ago.  Anthropology is making great strides in uncovering the past, but its findings are still colored by modern cultural bias.  Case in point:  Hunter-gatherer societies.  When the European world discovered that there were societies in undeveloped parts of the world which survived by gathering and hunting, the male dominated society of the modern world automatically assumed that the males in those societies were the primary food providers, thus the label ‘hunter-gatherer.’  By studying the garbage of prehistoric peoples, we have discovered that they should have been called ‘gatherer-hunter societies.’  Hunting was not the primary means of getting food, but instead gathering was.

This has tremendous implications on our perceptions of ancient lifestyles.  Women were the ones who primarily did the gathering, from what we have been able to discern.  If women were the primary food providers, they would have been very important in the everyday life of a group.  It was not until the advent of agriculture that men became the primary food providers, which also was the time when male-dominated religions appeared, and the status of women diminished to that of domestic animals.

If a group of people depended on the able-bodied individuals to perform the necessary tasks of survival, that means that people of child-bearing years could not have been the primary caregivers of their children.  Spending time with your children was not a survival trait, because that would have kept you from carrying water, collecting fuel, gathering food, preparing it, and all the other things needed to keep the group going.  Perhaps this explains the affinity of very young children for the very elderly, because we are genetically wired to respond to those who would have been our primary caregivers for thousands and thousands of years.

Certainly, there are many other ways of explaining why parents and their children have so many difficulties, while those same children seem to respond to their grandparents and great-grandparents so much better.  We can attribute the desire of very young children to please the elderly to many things, but isn’t it easier to look at how humans lived for most of our existence?  Of course, this throws the concept of the ‘nuclear family’ as being the natural family unit out the window, which is not going to sit well today.  But the nuclear family is already endangered, as more and more people are raising children by themselves, or with their parents.

Looking at our behaviors in the context of what were survival traits for most of human evolution is, to me, the most logical way of determining what is ‘natural’ and ‘right’, not by using our cultures definitions.  The idea of ‘three square meals a day’ is no more natural than beating oneself with a stick every day.  It arose during the first industrial revolution, when people were only given one meal break during the work period.  Our bodies have evolved to eat small amounts of food all day long, not to process huge amounts all at once.  That is a biological fact, which cannot be changed no matter how much we want to believe otherwise.  I think that there are many more of them, which we have not discovered yet.

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