Thursday, September 1, 2011


A reminder: Grand Canyon blog though this is -- and I will get back to the Havasupai et al.-- I hope that some of this digression is useful in showing my view of what was, what we came from and are based in, to lay the basis for understanding what is and what is happening, and not just at the Canyon.

WE MIGRATE, ALL ACROSS THE WORLD, IN ALL ITS ENVIRONMENTS, ALL THE TIME, AS WELL AS DOWN INTO IT AND UP ABOVE IT. Migration is built into our genes as a survival technique, a positively selected-for characteristic of Homo sapiens as we evolved over the past 100-200 millennia. We searched for food, we gathered and hunted, and we moved about in order to maximize our chances of survival. There is everything human about the ability to pick up and move, to look for another herd of antelope or another patch of berries, to check out a more interesting residence across town, or a better job a few states away, or a life out of poverty half the Earth distant. We move, we travel, we tour about, we trade, we migrate. So, yes, the debate today over "migration" contravenes our very biological essence, but more on that later. First, there is something even more important, if not unique, about us, Homo sapiens.

WE MIGRATE IN OUR MINDS!! It is in our genetic, biological make-up that these brains (klutzy kludges as they are, according to neuroscientist David Linden's The Accidental Mind) of ours work as projectors and introjectors of the outside world; the world imprints our minds; we image the world. To do this, we have language & mind, curiosity & questioning, what-ifs & narrative/fantasy, and these capabilities made us the inventors of agriculture, ships, the electric light, and the iPad. And made us the migrators that took us out from Africa, and all across the world. So were we ferocious conquerors, beaters of chests, massive men dragging our women & children as we stomped across the new worlds, bellowing & conquering as we went? No way!

We had evolved in a social structure of mutually supportive small bands. The evolution of language makes no sense if the matrix is isolated individuals, nuclear families, hierarchical or dominance structures dependent on one or two individuals. Such structures are necessarily conservative and resistant to innovation, and remain so today. Language is the very medium/engine of innovation. We name, remember, label, pass on, teach, educate, narrate, make up, fantasize (talk of dreams), imagine, create, picture & translate: All this and more, using that necessarily social tool, language. Now, what exactly, if metaphorically, is going on mentally as we use language/mind? Migration. We say: the berries here are gone? What shall we do? And are answered: We can try over there, or over there. Or we can try a new place. Or we have heard from a passing group that beyond that place is another possibility. So we recall what we know; we pick up information about what we do not, we speculate and fantasize. Our words, that is, carry us in our around-the-fire discussions to possible destinations. And we discuss and we decide. All together we give weight to experience and are as well stimulated by suggestions of a new way. 

Alright, along the way, we encountered other homo species. Did we gnash our teeth and gbash their brains? No. Why not? Number one, we do not bash because we are migrators; trading information (moving data around) with, picking up clues from, others, is our way of directing our steps, i.e.., we migrate, first, in language, in our minds, our conversations. We follow this up by physical movement. And in 30-40 millennia, we covered the world. Migration is innovation; Innovation is migration -- the moving around of ideas & theory & speculations, using language in our minds and conversation/discussion. So in the Darwinian sense, we were better off trading information with strangers than killing them. And we would think that, because we developed with a social structure that was mutually supportive and mutually beneficial; we were positively selected because this language/innovation tool only works as a benign interface. (Thats right, torture to get information is not just inhuman and self-defeating; it is a degradation of our genetic, evolved make-up -- call that a soul, if you like.)

And along with food comes the prize in the Crackerjack box: The mutual, equivalently felt, joys of sexual enjoyment. The sex we practice is not tied to estrus. Our recreational sex, enjoyed by both parties, is a social glue, a binder, an adhesive, so long as it is practiced in the social-biological context of transient pleasure. (Thats right, jealousy from a misguided sense of ownership is not inherent genetically, but comes, like torture, after the revolution--see below.)  Sexual pleasure is the second reward for being in with a band; first, of food-sharers, then of possible lovers, since infatuation is a transient, allowing you to have a good time (and maybe having a baby, the primary for biology), and then continue with all the other business of life.

With no concept of ownership of persons, with ovulation being concealed (from both sexes), with paternity being of no importance because all children, though first fed by their mothers, were cared and provided for by the band as a whole, sex & sexual pleasure become the "property" of each individual, bestowed or withheld as the individual woman or man is so moved. Men seek sex with women they are attracted to; women seek sex with men they are attracted to. Goose and gander all get the sauce. All of this is part of the mutual support complex, a complement to everyone gathering/hunting food, and then pooling and sharing it. 

So the second reason why there is no bashing is that orgasm is more fun. A band of strangers, recognized as like us, can provide information about food -- and it could provide another slew of potential lovers. After all, whatever our own mores, it seems fairly clear that "falling in love", "being in love", infatuation, is a chemical-based condition that predisposes us to seek sexual pleasure with the person we are infatuated with. And it can certainly be an "at first sight" phenomenon, just as it is chemically transient. Infatuation is not, therefore, in evolutionary terms, a first step toward monogamy, a snare for commitment. It is rather a positive, genetic, condition to facilitate sexual pleasure, and thus maybe conception. That is, it is a biological occurrence that promotes us being selected; in this case selected as a group, since any product of sex is nurtured & raised by the band. (To be clear, I mean a child as product; were there STDs 30,000 YrsBP?) And of course, the more variety in copulating pairs, the more diverse the children, and the more secure the group's genetic health. 

So, two bands meet (perhaps warily; perhaps with good will foremost), exchange food, information about food and the country round-about, eat around the fire, stay near each other for a period of time, maybe have some matings, maybe exchange gifts & songs & stories, and then go on their ways. 

The question "why are those ways no longer ours?" brings us to our species-wide Faustian bargain, the invention of domestication and the Agricultural Revolution, the next post. In other posts, I want to sharpen up the debate with several examples from current writings that deal with these matters of migration and monogamy.

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