Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Who are we, even in our 'advanced' state today?

It would seem hard to argue that we, as a people, are very nice, except maybe to our close friends and relatives.  Instead, aren't poverty, dishonesty, and inequity rife, not just in our own 'advanced' culture but globally?  Subtle dishonorable manipulation of the rules allow some to gain, in intricate or devious ways, while the majority do without.

This is nothing new, but even at our supposed reflective seasonal holiday of caring, it is to me stark how unseasonable is our behavior the rest of the time.  Maybe we need a Christmas to remind us, by contrast, of who we are (or aren't) the rest of the year; but when it becomes a time for getting things, decorating our homes to suggest to others how loving and giving we are (because, after all, we celebrate the holiday--as our yearly growing displays show, no?), this holiday comes to seem rather cynically self-serving.  Don't miss those last-minute sales!

There is nothing new in these sentiments, and perhaps there is nothing new in the hypocrisy of our annual festival of self-congratulation.

Sadly, to me, this nothing-newness is know-nothingness, because we can know otherwise.  Below are the two final pages of my marked-up copy of the great co-discoverer of evolution Alfred Wallace's The Malay Archipelago (1869), reporting his adventures in the Pacific islands during 1854 and 62:

I write this post as a kind of reminder, of who we are relative to who we fancy ourselves to be, relative to who we once were.  We are bid to be thoughtful of others at this time, to be caring and sharing, with the self-flattering notion that we'll actually carry that spirit throughout the year.  Will that ever be the general truth?

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