Friday, January 14, 2011

civilization and being human and being animal

I'm thinking that the quality of a civilization is evaluated by the one experiencing the civilization.

However, from civilization to civilization, peopla in the ruling classes of the various civilizations tended to experience the best that the civilization had to offer, and so we might say that if in civilization "A" the people in a 'lesser' class that is not the ruling class experience somethihg better than the ruling class of civilization "B", then civilization "A" is better. So it is significant "progress", when people who are considered less important in the scheme of a civilization are better off than even the most important people in the civilization before them.

There are questions, I guess, about how much is enough. For example, we are concerned with all kinds of interactions between what has to happen to make the "stuff" we have and the environment. This sort of thought was never an issue when the places that ended up being Superfund sites were used to make stuff. Our ignorance was bliss indeed in those times.

But now "having it better" still means having it faster, brighter, more complex, louder, broader, slicker, cooler and more stimulating but also cleaner and less harmful to the environment. This is good, it broadens the scope of "better", raises the bar.

There is also living longer. Living longer, getting older, living more of your life as an old person. "Old" has to do with animalness more than humanness: for female animals, if you are old enough to reproduce this makes you an adult and if you are too old to reproduce you are old indeed.

This is not the case in the realm of humans-- being able to reproduce can occur well before being what civilization considers an adult. But, male or female you are considered "older" if you are as old as a female who is of the age where females are in menopause. This is typically considered to be "in their forties" but of course it can be later.

A few current civilizations recognize that the male will able to reproduce throughout his life, and make allowances for multiple, concurrent wives so the male can have more children. That is less typical among modern civilizations, and even in those where it is an option it can be hindered by the expense and the complexity of it.

One of the reasons I'm thinking about this is because as a male, getting older, it seems apparent that older males have more going for them than when they were younger. Better off financially, less inclined to reckless behavior, more informed through study and experience, more independent and self-sustaining-- all of this and still able to reproduce Measured by civilization's standards, then, it would seem that the older male is more valuable.

But the signals that civilization gives off are just the opposite. Younger, reckless, ill-informed men (and women) are all the rage.

Isn't that kind of interesting? You see all these nature shows where animals generally prefer to mate with the males that have proved their worth to the herd/pack/pride whatever.

It seems like that makes sense, that the proven specimens are those whose traits you want to preserve in the species for the continued improvement thereof. But we are informed quite differently by our civilization, to the point where I'd be puzzled and a bit disturbed if a younger, attractive woman would prefer me to some poor, dumb guy that resembles one of the various famous Justins.

Now is this because we manipulate the messages, the signals, that civilization produces? The advertisements, the music, the movies and TV, all of that, that conditions us towards our preferences in mates? If it is, then why is that message being sent?

I'm not saying that alpha specimens should have perpetually fertile harems in some sort of eugenic utopia-- although that certainly seemed to be the goal of several prior civilizations.

I'm also a romantic at heart, and don't have a problem that the message is clearly that we should "mix it up" and never feel constrained to the road more travelled.

Would it be better if the male were to be mated until his children reach self-sufficiency, and then having proven that his offspring can advance to that stage, he finds another younger mate and repeats the process? Theoretically speaking, of course, because I think it's pretty clear that males don't mate in order to have children. But then that means more older males competing with younger males for the same women, which raises societal tension. So it is probably good that males aren't wired that way. Males have children because of societal indicators and pressures, not because they think it is the greatest idea ever and they feel they just have to.

And then there is that. Lots of people never mate, lots of people mate but never have children and they are fine with that. Some people have children and have to give them away. Some people can't have children even if they want to. More and more people are mating and having as few children as possible.

I think that is all ok, but also a little worried about the people who are having as many children as they can but are unable to feed them. It devalues children across the board, it devalues humans, and makes them more like animals.


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