The Divine Dilemma
Lua Hadar, May 15, 2016
I’ve become fascinated with Humanity’s prehistoric past. Where did we come from, how did we survive, how did we get to today? My Netflix List is full of documentaries by scientists, social scientists, historians and philosophers.
I’m into DNA. The fact that geneticist Spencer Wells and the Human Genographic Project can map out the path of my ancestors based on a swab from my cheek and come to about the same rough conclusions as the folks testing my DNA differently at Ancestry.com is for me a confirmation that my connection with the past is somehow blood geographic.
And what my ear is drawn to culturally is perhaps as much a part of my ancient DNA as my cultural conditioning in this life. So I begin to search down that road – why do certain types of music reach me in the depths of my being?
Back to the Divine Dilemma. I’m reading a lot about the social organization of early humans. Prehistoric.
Cultural Anthropologists tell us that the first human groups came out of Africa and over millennia migrated around the world; we are all of African descent. The first homo sapiens stood on 2 feet, had larger brains fueled by meat that they became able to catch (collaboratively) by inventing and using tools, and a memory so learning could occur and be passed down from generation to generation. These were the prerequisites for the development and diversification of humanity.
The first humans were foragers, hunter-gatherers. They travelled in small bands with no luggage, making a base camp or nest where the young were protected and fed, and to which foraging parties brought home the bacon to be shared equally among all. Teamwork was the most highly prized skill in these communities, and that is how they survived long enough to reproduce. That is how we are all here now.
I’m quite fascinated with this topic, and have been really made aware of the huge changes in the fate of Humanity (good but also not good) resulting from the invention of Agriculture. When humans came to understand that they could stay in one place and cultivate food, instead of constantly moving to hunt and gather, a huge change occurred.
Whereas prehistoric groups of humans naturally banded together to obtain food, protect the tribe and shelter the young, Agriculture permitted the specialization of tasks. No longer was it all for one, one for all. Instead, the farmers grew crops and raised livestock to feed the community. Everyone else was free to attend to other tasks as Civilization developed: inventions, writing, creating products or services that could be bartered for food.
Some land was better for Agriculture than others; rich in nutrients or natural edible plants that could be cultivated. This accidental advantage of geography created some inequality. The more a population ate, the stronger and more numerous they became. The need for land increased, to farm more, to feed more people.
My DNA analysis told me that I carry the Y chromosome linked to the women who invented Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. Meaning that my true DNA ancestors were the first experimenters in agricultural engineering. “What can I do to this wild wheat to make it grow more? Where do I store the grain we make from it? How do I protect what I have grown –which I ‘own’.”
That’s what I call the Divine Dilemma. Agriculture brought some food security to humanity and allowed for the development of great civilizations, whose cultures are the foundations of our own today. But with the advent of Agriculture came the concept of Ownership. Boom.
Zoom out and soon you’ve got territorial borders: fiefdoms, states, countries, and continents that all need defending and protecting and OOPS you’ve invented War. “I need those resources for ‘my’ people.”
The borders make us believe that we are different from each other. “My” needs are more important than “your” needs.
So generations later, in our very complex and developed Society, we are constantly in competition with each other for the most land, the most resources, the most money, the most power.
The discoveries brought by the understanding of DNA tell us that we humans really are ALL about 99 percent similar to each other. Our differences have been created by natural selection over millennia as the challenges of climate change and geography selected out those best adapted to live and to reproduce.
This 1 percent of difference: skin color, eye shape and other external characteristics have been the focus of Humanity’s attention as we have struggled to possess land to feed those that look like us. Time and isolation of different groups eventually produced populations that had different beliefs, different stories of origin, different customs, different languages. We began to focus on those differences.
We have forgotten our Common Humanity.
But slowly Humanity is coming back around to understanding the interdependence of all life and the similarity and kinship of all humans.
My task is to help that understanding through song.
Here’s the first, recorded 2008 with Twist. More to come.