“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” Muriel Rukeyser HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Stevie Dall. TODAY FROM AMERICA: A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:…
Ignored her story too long,
But, at last, no more.
I consider history my primary preoccupation other than dreaming. Although it was my college major, I was never trained or accomplished enough to explore musty original sources and the other obsessions of the academic. It, nevertheless, has been my escape. During grammar school, I always sat by the bookcase containing the class history books. There, instead of participating in school activities, I would spend my time huddled with Julius Caesar, Squanto, Ivan the Terrible, Robbispeare, Lincoln, Hypatia, J. Pierpoint Morgan and whoever else turned up that day. After school, I usually spent at least an hour sitting by myself in the Principal’s office paying for my incorrigible behavior.
Over the years, my history infatuation eventually focused on a few areas and eras. They are:
About 70,000 years ago give or take 10,000 years a group of hominid’s, estimated as between a few hundred to a few thousand, crossed out of Africa and into Eurasia somewhere at the southern extremities of what is now the Red Sea. From this tiny band, almost all humans living outside Africa descend.
This group of humans met with a host of other humans who had left Africa in waves over the previous two million years. The humans our intrepid band met, many years later were given various names by wise men who study and opine on these things. Based on slight differences in bones, and DNA the wise men named these groups of humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans, Erectus, Physically modern humans (picture us but supposedly dumber) and others. Our merry band bred with their predecessors accepting those genes beneficial to them. Those who managed a gene here and there that was not beneficial died out before they could do too much damage to the gene pool. Eventually, these new humans spread throughout the world in what appeared to be lightning quickness supplanting all the diverse humans who had freely roamed the world for millions of years before they arrived.
Some say they were smarter. Others say it was because they knew how to talk better. And some even believe, it is because they got religion. But, I do not think so.
So again, why did they prevail over all the other humans roaming around?
Fish. They ate fish. No, that is not a joke. Of all the humans in the world at that time, this group that left Africa 70,000 years ago and their cousins they left behind were, as far as we know, the only humans who ate fish. Whether it was something genetic like lactose tolerance that separated them from the others or a sudden urge to experience the delight of an oyster sliding down one’s throat, I do not know — but it happened and everything changed.
This Ichthycultural revolution was every bit as transformational as the Agricultural revolution that occurred 60 or 70 thousand years later. In fact, there is some evidence that these people lived in fishing villages in South-East Asia and Indonesia 45,000 years ago. 30,000 years before settled villages appeared in what is now southern Turkey.
For about two million years, the ocean shore was a desert for Hominids and other Great Apes. The salt water was undrinkable and except for shorebirds and their eggs and coconuts, there was precious little food. The estuaries were saline, undrinkable and dangerous. The larger rivers and fresh-water lakes, at least in Africa, were killing grounds, haunts of crocodiles, hippos, and apex predators. It is no wonder the hominids, like the great apes, restricted themselves to the uplands and for the humans the forest edges and the grassland where they could scavenge, kill now and then and with their more upright posture see danger and escape.
I suspect that for the most part those humans in South-east Africa that first discovered the wonders of the seashore travelled back and forth between the shore and the upland like the California coastal Native Americans did many thousands of years later— moving to the upland during migrations of the vast herds of ruminants or the flowering of favorite fruit trees. There they probably met other humans and bred with them.
Unlike the upland nomads, the fish eaters tended to spend far more time in relatively the same place. Greater food resources and stability allowed the development of many of the traits that allowed these people to survive and prevail. They tended to be healthier. The stable food sources encouraged them to remain in the same area longer and their tribal or family populations increased to units larger than the small bands of the upland nomads. Stability allowed more children to survive than those forced to travel more often and whose food sources were more uncertain. This, in turn, resulted in longer nursing and greater social interaction producing more complex language abilities. Even religion changed, I suspect. Early hominids unable to fully distinguish their consciousness from the word around them projected consciousness onto their environment assumed each thing, trees, animals, rocks and so on had its own consciousness (spirit). They also were fascinated with birth and death which they did not fully understand. Our fish eaters, due to their more stable residence, began to distinguish those spirits close by from those further away and perhaps to assign those nearer a less malevolent aspect.
Of course, perhaps the most significant difference between the fish eaters and the other hominids was their emerging sense of place and ownership. To the nomadic humans, who travelled in very small bands, conflict over a carcass may have caused demonstrations of dominance and aggression but rarely killing. We have little evidence these humans engaged in systematic violence and some evidence that they even shared habitations in the same caves.
For the fish eaters, however, mussel beds and tide pools were stationary and merely scaring off another band for the night was insufficient and more formal violent behaviors developed.
As the fish eaters developed their society along the South-Eastern African coast about 100,000 years ago, a seminal event was occurring far to the North — the ice age began. As the ocean water began to be trapped in the great glaciers, the oceans receded opening more mussel beds and tide-pools for the fish eaters to exploit and a coastal highway for them to migrate along when their local food sources played out or their tribes grew too large and had to split up and migrate. Eventually, they crossed out of Africa somewhere at the southern edge of the Red Sea which at that time was a series of large salt lakes and brackish streams.
After that, they moved with startling quickness along the edge of the Indian Ocean reaching Australia within 15000 years. Along the way, they travelled along the estuaries and streams and mated with the upland tribes that they met especially the so-called fully modern humans (upland Nomads that did not eat fish) sharing their genes for good or ill.
Meanwhile, the upland humans were not faring so well. Living in small bands, often too small to permit out breeding, they often suffered genetic maladies. Also, as the glaciers expanded diminishing their habitat, they were more and more forced up against the habitats of the far more numerous fish eaters and their progeny many of whom had intermarried and returned to their nomadic migratory ways until, as far as we know, the last remaining group of Neanderthals ended up living by the sea in a cave somewhere in Portugal, trying unsuccessfully to survive on seal meat.
(Next: The first centuries.)
The United States Supreme Court declared money spent to influence opinion protected under the Constitution’s First Amendments right of free speech. This released a lot of financial free speech into the political process. Much of that financial free speech has been expressed in secret. Many of those using financial free speech have demanded this secrecy. My question is, how can secret communications be considered free speech? What right is being protected here? One’s free speech right is the right of individuals to express themselves in the marketplace of ideas. Certainly, it is not to shield someone from the free speech right of others to disagree?
Seven years ago, these men testified before Congress about their role in causing a collapse of the world’s economy. Many people lost their jobs and their homes because of what they and the organizations they ran did. They ran some of the largest financial organizations in the world. Some of those organizations are even larger and more powerful today. Many of these men still hold the same positions in their organizations as they did then. None has gone to jail.
They run your country. They can put you out of work. They can destroy the country’s economy. Each one has been either caught at or was responsible for actions that have cost the nation and the nation’s taxpayers trillions of dollars and in some cases were illegal or borderline so. They each make more than 50 times the income of the President of the United States. Yet, you collectively cannot remove any one of them from their position of almost absolute power. Nor, can you use the traditional free market means of expressing dislike or disapproval by not buying their products. This is neither a democracy nor a free market system. They are the enemy.
As Abraham Lincoln said:
“The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. The banking powers are more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. They denounce as public enemies all who question their methods or throw light upon their crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.”
Sometime in 2010 or 2011, the journal Nature mentioned, “A study conducted in Sweden gave women testosterone boosts in order to foster more risky behavior in them but… nothing.
The study gave rise to a theory that women should perhaps be in more control of global stock markets than men in order to make markets safer.’
What’s wrong with putting them in charge of everything and making the whole world safer?
“Despite its proclamation of the equality of all men, the imagined order established by the Americans in 1776 also established a hierarchy. It created a hierarchy between men, who benefited from it, and women, whom it left disempowered. It created a hierarchy between whites, who enjoyed liberty, and blacks and American Indians, who were considered humans of a lesser type and therefore did not share in the equal rights of men. Many of those who signed the Declaration of Independence were slaveholders. They did not release their slaves upon signing the Declaration, nor did they consider themselves hypocrites. In their view, the rights of men had little to do with Negroes.”
“The American order also consecrated the hierarchy between rich and poor. Most Americans at that time had little problem with the inequality caused by wealthy parents passing their money and businesses on to their children. In their view, equality meant simply that the same laws applied to rich and poor. It had nothing to do with unemployment benefits, integrated education or health insurance. Liberty, too, carried very different connotations than it does today. In 1776, it did not mean that the disempowered (certainly not blacks or Indians or, God forbid, women) could gain and exercise power. It meant simply that the state could not, except in unusual circumstances, confiscate a citizen’s private property or tell him what to do with it.
The American order thereby upheld the hierarchy of wealth, which some thought was mandated by God and others viewed as representing the immutable laws of nature. Nature, it was claimed, rewarded merit with wealth while penalizing indolence. All the above-mentioned distinctions — between free persons and slaves, between whites and blacks, between rich and poor — are rooted in fictions.
Yet, it is an iron rule of history that every imagined hierarchy disavows its fictional origins and claims to be natural and inevitable. For instance, many people who have viewed the hierarchy of free persons and slaves as natural and correct have argued that slavery is not a human invention. Hammurabi saw it as ordained by the gods. Aristotle argued that slaves have a ‘slavish nature’ whereas free people have a ‘free nature’. Their status in society is merely a reflection of their innate nature.
Ask white supremacists about the racial hierarchy, and you are in for a pseudoscientific lecture concerning the biological differences between the races. You are likely to be told that there is something in Caucasian blood or genes that makes whites naturally more intelligent, moral and hardworking. Ask a diehard capitalist about the hierarchy of wealth, and you are likely to hear that it is the inevitable outcome of objective differences in abilities. The rich have more money, in this view, because they are more capable and diligent. No one should be bothered, then, if the wealthy get better health care, better education and better nutrition. The rich richly deserve every perk they enjoy.
Harari, Yuval Noah . Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (p. 134). HarperCollins.
Adam Smith’s stated that “The profits of production must be reinvested in increasing production.”
I would assume from that that the good A. Smith may have agreed that if the profits of production go into building up wealth and not reinvested in increasing production, it is not Capitalism or a capitalist system but rather something else — perhaps something more like the royal system he lived in where the profits of production went to increasing the wealth of the entitled classes or into rent based assets.
Similarly, the debt and credit system are not Capitalism. They existed long before Capitalism developed. They proved exceptionally helpful and often assisted in increasing production but the bankers need for timely repayment is not the same as the investors wish for profit and may at times suppress production in order to satisfy the need for repayment. Also, as we have seen in the past 50 years or so, the bank based financial system encouraged the replacement of production with production-less wealth creation, thus requiring THE government to periodically step in to boost confidence by transferring public wealth in order to prop up the banks thereby making non-production based assets even more valuable. In effect, companies producing goods can fail but banks producing paper wealth cannot. I always felt that the banking system, since it often in the long run substitutes debt and credit for investment, risk and the reinvestment of the profits into increasing production is the anthesis of Capitalism.
Corporations are not Capitalism. They are a state sponsored scheme to encourage investment in production that investors would otherwise consider too risky. True, like debt and credit they may be helpful and perhaps essential in increasing production but they also have downsides. Investors having significantly limited liabilities as well as microscopic ownership interests leave operational oversight, to management, a few large investors, and various investor agents all of whom may have and often do have interests other than increasing production. They also, in the long run, substitute organizational preservation to production. Reinvestment of the profits of production in increasing production becomes a far lower priority to keeping Wall Street happy.