Ancestral sanctum

And what could be more divine than this, or more desired by a man of sound mind, than to beget by a noble and honored wife children who shall be the most loyal supporters and discreet guardians of their parents in old age, and the preservers of the whole house?
–Aristotle, Oikonomikos

The more time one spends in nature, the more clearly one sees the role of mankind.  Reflection requires a reference point to be meaningful.  It is impossible to compare and contrast something without having anything to compare it to.  Modern thought often presents man as outside of nature. As a consequence, it stifles understanding about mankind’s place in the environment and the world at large.

One of the most striking differences between man and beast is how their young are treated.  Some of the strategies animals use appear altruistic.  Fish like the Chinook salmon go to great lengths to spawn, only to die long before their children are ever born.  Many species of insects will lay hundreds of eggs and wait. The mother will offer her body for sustenance as soon as the larva hatch.

Other strategies appear cruel and selfish.  When a new alpha male takes over a pride of lions, one of the first things he does is to kill any of the still nursing cubs fathered by the old patriarch.  Sand tiger sharks gestate many of their offspring in the same embryo.  As each of the young sharks develop, they kill and eat each other to ensure only the strongest makes it out into the open sea.

On the surface, all of these behaviors seem wildly different. In truth, they are far more similar than most recognize.  They all exist to ensure the survival of the species.  Each strategy for producing fit offspring is dictated by the habitat and niche the species has adapted to.  If the offspring are born into hostile environments, they must be strong when they emerge into it.

Human offspring are born into a world with its own unique set of perils.  By the time the child grows up, he must develop a wide range of abilities to cope with the complex world he is born into.  If he does not, he will not be successful.  Raising a human child is an intense and difficult process for this reason.

Humans mature slowly at almost every stage of their life.  From the moment of conception. a single child brings with him a great deal of effort.  Gestation takes the greater part of a year and takes a heavy toll on the mother.  Her body undergoes a great deal of physiological changes in order to support the offspring. For most of the pregnancy, she is incapacitated from doing many activities she would normally be able to do as part of her daily life.

Once the child is born, it still requires a great deal of attention and support during the first few years of his life.  Many mammals, when separated from their mothers at a young age, are able to survive on their own.  Most humans, even in the most primitive settings, would be unable to do so until they are well into their adolescence.  People are simply not equipped with the instinctive knowledge other animals have.  Humans can only counteract this with many years of development.

Our ancestors came up with many strategies to deal with these biological shortcomings.  The most prevalent and successful is the creation of the nuclear family.  The concept of a family reaches beyond culture and time.  Since the dawn of man, they have been a constant source of support, cooperation, and survival.  The family is there for a person over the span of his entire life.  They are a basic building block in human survival and happiness.

In ancient and feudal societies, the family was central to the way of life.  It provided much of the safety net that modern governments provide today.  It provided a stable environment for both men and women to contribute raising offspring.  If one became injured and unable to work, his family would care for him until he became well.   When old age came, a man could depend on his family to provide for him when he became too feeble to do so himself.

Customs in these societies dictated when and how family members would share resources and cooperate.  Cultures adapted to the general circumstances that their environment put upon them. Many families in these societies had a strict structure.  Each member was delegated with an important role.  Everyone had to perform that role in order for the system as a whole to work.

Concepts such as paying dowry when a daughter was married, all inheritance passing to the eldest son, and marriage without the possibility of divorce seem strange and foreign to modern people.  The common criticism is that they unnecessarily limited freedom and encouraged inequality. This was not the case to the people who used them. To the societies that created them, they served an important role in daily life.

Modernity is a stranger to theses customs because it no longer needs them. Technological advancements allow these old customs to be replaced.  Family in the western world has grown increasingly weaker since the enlightenment.  Many of these archaic cultural practices have disappeared completely.  Children no longer need to stay close to home to help with the harvest.  They need to move to a big city, where all of the jobs are.  Women are no longer needed to raise children.  They can put all of their offspring into daycares while they are improving their careers.  The elderly no longer need to be taken care of.  They can now be monitored at all hours of the day in retirement homes.

With each passing year, the family has become less important to human existence. Modernity has a propensity to sunder ties of kinship.  It is not hard to imagine a future where they are no longer necessary.  When that day comes, living with a traditional family will be a disadvantage.  It will burden anyone who dares to use it with unnecessary restrictions.  Taking a year off of their job to care of their sick father would be nothing more than a hassle.  He would loose invaluable job experience that would hurt his career.

In many aspects, modernity has declared war on the family.  Ultra-modernist political systems call for a utopian society where everyone is treated equally.  The very concept of family subverts this sort of society.  When a fire breaks out, a mother will always choose to save her own child over anyone else.

There are certain things that a family provides that modernity will never be able to replace.  No matter how productive someone is without a family, he has lost an immeasurable source of human identity.  The closer two people are related, the more likely that they will come to each others aid.   Humanity, since its inception, has always gained a great sense of happiness and purpose from family.  Without families, we can never be a son, daughter, father, mother, sister, or brother to someone else.

These relationships mean something more than pure, raw survival.  The roots of these relationships grow deep within our genetic make up.  We have inherited them from our ancestors.  To have a family is part of what it means to be a person.  Until we stop being human, family will always be central to our lives.

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The birth of hatred

People are generally lazy by nature.  Procrastination is a trait that affects everyone.  There are few things more powerful as a motivator than a tight deadline.  They are even more effective when there are great consequences attached to the due date.

It should come as no surprise that social and political movements take advantage of this human weakness.  Rhetoric for every cause uses the innate laziness found in man as a primary tool to spread their message and magnify its percieved importance.  Regardless of the issue’s real size, every ill in society must be made far worse.  Otherwise, nobody will care to address it.  After all, there are many other issues that need to be addressed.  Many of them far more dire and wide ranging than the ones that get actual attention.

This is observable any time an issue rises to prominence in modernity.  In order for people to care about national debt, politicians must scream about how it will bring about the end of the nation.  For a charity to get donations to help African poverity, they must plead that millions will die of hunger and of genocide without their help.  Preachers must speak of eternal damnation and hellfire to get people to repent their sins.

The human attraction to these arguments stems from the innate tendencies to think in black and white terms.  There is little room for gradation in most politics and religion.  Something must be right or left, good or evil, heaven or hell.  Discourse about large, nebulous topics must be forced into categories humans can easily agree or disagree with.  Otherwise, they are easily forgotten.  It is the only way people can deal with topics beyond the scope of the commonplace.

This uncomfortable separation into discrete categories is the source of almost all disagreement.  These categories have meaning to the individual and the group for them to be useful.  They are influenced and colored by all of his experiences and all that he has learned.  While two people might be talking about the same thing using the same words and phrases, the conception behind it can be entirely different and thereby lead confusion.

Modernity thrives on this basic misunderstanding.  Multiculturalism and globalization bring together people with vastly different experiences and beliefs. The fact that most people are packed into crowded cities only exacerbates the effect.  To a Muslim, the hijab and burka are seen as symbols of purity, chastity, and temperance.  To a westerner, it is seen as a symbol of sexual oppression.  In truth, it is neither.  It is only a piece of cloth.  The meaning each person gives it is what breeds resentment.

As a result, modernity brings about conflict and anomiosity at the most basic of interactions.  People deal with this by retreating to places where they can be understood. The best way to avoid conflict is simply to remove oneself from the circumstances that cause it.  The bonds of neighborhood and community break down until society becomes a dog-eat-dog world where every man must fend for himself.  Once cooperation is no longer present the simple foundations of a society, to live in it becomes more trouble than it is worth.

Only through great effort can somebody see the perspective of another.  Even then, it is often only a superficial understanding and prone to error.  It is an unnatural way to think about the world.  Most people are incapable of “putting themselves in someone else’s shoes” at a basic level. Modern societies operate on a level that are ignorant of basic human nature.  Mankind has got to know its limitations.  Only then can it overcome them.

Modernity kills freedom

“If you could go back in time to any period in history, which would you live in?”  It is a common fantasy to imagine how one life would be different in a another time and place. Everyone has answered this question at one point or another.  Occasionally, someone will try to be smart with his answer.  He will object to the premise itself.  Why would anyone would want to go back? Living any time but now would be terrible.  Modernity is the only sensible time period to live in.  Progress has made all of our lives so much easier.

The core of the argument is that modernity offers all sorts of comforts and securities. The people of the past could only dream of what we have now.  Modern people lead longer and safer lives, just look at how much longer we live now.  Humans used to live short, harsh lives, struggling against the elements.

It was a matter of life and death for our ancestors just to find food, shelter, and clean water.  They had no rifles to defend themselves when dangerous predators attacked.  They had no restaurants to gorge themselves when on they were hungry.  There was no doctors to prescribe antibiotics to them when they got sick.  They must have been miserable.  It is no wonder that our ancestors only lived to middle age.

To any one with a cursory understanding of history, it is obvious this is an extremely narrow-minded perspective.  Even if one accepts his assumptions, the argument itself is flawed. It assumes that our ancestors lived shallow and unhappy lives.  It assumes that physical security and longevity are sole determinants in living a  fulfilling and meaningful life.  They are not.

This is plainly observable by noticing the amount of unhappiness still present in modern society. Progress has never brought about a utopia.  It has only brought security to the individual.  It has prevented much of the pain and suffering caused by hunger, pestilence, and the climate.  Instead, modern man must worry about problems on a global level.  He worries about pathogens and pesticides polluting his food and drink.  He worries about power mad politicians sparking a global thermo-nuclear holocaust.  He worries about overpopulation and pollution destroying the environment.

Modern man has just as much to fret about as his ancestors did.  The difference between the two is the scale of the issues.  Modernity has brought problems that are much harder to address.  No one person, tribe, or even nation can solve them any more.  For example, not even the richest billionaires on the planet have the power to solve world hunger.

As a consequence, the modern man has an overwhelming and deep rooted sense of powerlessness.  Compared to his ancestors, he can do little to influence the environment around him.  Where once a man could defend his family against raiders and thieves with his own weapons, modern man must rely on the police to protect them.  When a man grows his own food, he need not worry about what chemicals he was feeding to his family.  Whatever sense of pride and security man once got through self-reliance has disappeared with the introduction of modernity.

Any sane individual would want to live in a society where they can make a difference.  Powerlessness breeds depression and despair in everyone. Man gets a sense of purpose and contentment from setting attainable goals and solving them.  Modernity is the systematic concentration of the power of life and death to the hands of an increasingly smaller amount of people.  True freedom is known to less people today than any time in history.  The past wasn’t a horrible place to live and die, modernity is.