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As long as humankind has walked the plains of Earth, from our origins in the jungles of Africa to our great Diaspora out of savannas and into all corners of the globe, we have had to wage ceaseless battle with the demons living inside the human condition. Embedded in our psyche, ingrained in our being, passed down generation after generation like a torch of eternal damnation lighting the way through the deep caverns of perpetual human tribulation, our demons have haunted us from the beginning, continuing to plague our existence with the dawn of each new generation and the passing of those previous who without success failed to exorcise from their midst the corrosive energy that until this day refuses to dissipate from our less than perfect nature.
From the beginning humanity has been afflicted with a thirst for violence, barbarism and savagery, born in the billion years-old primordial ooze from which all Earth creatures emanated from, out of the necessity for survival, mutated over time with our continual evolution through the epochs of ceaseless sunrises and sunsets, from our manifestation as infinitesimal bacteria to our development as primitive fish to that of amphibians gasping the first breaths of oxygen, to small lizards, rat-like mammals struggling to survive in a world of dinosaurs and finally, after an incalculable and incomprehensible passage of years which the human mind is incapable of comprehending, to our arrival as primates not more than a few million years ago.
In our human brains lie the layers molded in our evolution, of constant battles for survival, of ceaseless competition and mutation, of wars for territory and hierarchy, of fights for genetic supremacy and the procreation of offspring, of competition for food and ecosystems and sexual mates. Our brains and bodies are the product of this constant fight for survival, molded through every epoch of life on Earth and every organism we ever were. In our physical bodies and our psychological minds can be seen the end results of hundreds of millions of years of what we have been and how far we have come, where in nature only the fittest survive and the adaptable thrive.
The world of nature is harsh, brute and not easily survivable, where to get left behind in the constant war of genetic mutation means near certain extinction and where natural selection is the ultimate arbiter of success or failure. We are the product of this endless battle in the animal world, where the fight for life, food, territory and genetic supremacy is waged on a daily basis. The human primate, along with his animal cousins, is shackled to his animal instincts and his mammalian psychology, unable to escape our behaviors or our emotions no matter how hard our theology-induced ego wishes them away.
We are a product of Earth, of hundreds of millions of years of life, of ingrained behaviors and mutated bodies, an entity formed from the innermost reaches of our primordial brain to the outer extensions of our more modern, primate shaped minds. In body and mind, creatures chained to nature we remain, unable to escape an evolution millions of years in the making, a work in progress whose end result is the human body and mind we possess today. For evolution of man has taken hundreds of millions of years, from primordial ooze to our African Diaspora, scattering to all regions of the planet, creating the diversity we see today, based on environmental factors, the mixing of genetic combinations, ethnic segregation and a plethora of genetic mutations.
We must remember that modern man is only a few hundred thousand years old, and civilization is perhaps 10,000 years in the making, both a fraction of time in the long journey of Earth and of life itself. We have changed little physically during this time, and our psychological alterations have been minimal. We remain the primates we have always been, for evolution works in long epochs and not centuries, in hundreds of thousands of years and not through the decades of modern man.
Evolution cannot be fast forwarded, neither by fundamentalist fable or a doctor’s scalpel, not through Botox, silicone or corporate capitalism, not by living the delusion of Hollywood fiction or perfection. It works through nature and not religion, in scientific fact and not primitive mythology, in tangible evidence and not metaphysical fantasies. It can be seen, studied and proven in the quite obvious historical layers of geologic soil and in the reality of nature’s wonders, by reading books, not burning them, by using common sense, not blind faith, and by understanding that we are products of a very long evolution of life on Earth, molded from the mammalian world of tens of millions of years, not created out of instantaneous appearances or blessed clay or male ribs in the image of a male god that has never been seen or heard from.
We are creatures born to survive, feed, live and procreate, like every organism in the planet instinctively passing our genes, through the selection of the best possible mate, to our progeny, assuring our lineage survives at least one more generation. Like other mammals, we compete for power, for mates, for territory, for resources and for hierarchy. We are products of natural selection, the most aggressive hominid to ever evolve in the history of the planet. Our species was best at adapting to a changing environment, best at mutating to the tunes of evolution, therefore thriving as social groups, out-competing fellow primates for territory and resources, outlasting those species made extinct either by environmental factors, their inability to evolve or from our aggressively violent domination.
We were so successful, so aggressive, using our collective brain so well, that in a historical blink of an eye we helped make extinct competitors, predators and prey, everywhere man migrated to, every land we journeyed into. Our aggressive nature and our ability to dominate the natural world through our group interaction guaranteed success over fellow competitors. We helped make extinct the Neanderthal, a sub-human species that lived and thrived in Europe for hundreds of thousands of years until their disappearance about 40,000 thousand years ago. Coincidentally, and not unexpectedly, their demise and disappearance from the face of Earth surfaced around the same time as the arrival of humans onto their lands.
Throughout every continent, in every region, regardless of time, the arrival of man has signaled the gradual extinction of many other species. Forests are decimated, ecosystems assaulted and species hunted to extinction. The order and balance in nature quickly vanish upon the introduction of the human species into a land. Today this can be seen with the unnerving and gradual evisceration of entire ecosystems, countless forests, jungles, deserts, oceans and rivers under tremendous pressure from the insatiable needs and wants of 6.3 billion humans slowly gorging themselves to death in a feeding frenzy the Earth cannot sustain for much longer.
The human condition, that behavior of the powerful group brain acting in unison, combined with our seemingly perpetual aggression and violent inclinations, helped us prosper at the expense of everything else, including our fellow humans. It assured us of becoming the supreme rulers of Earth, as well as its destroyers. In the natural progression of man it was those early tribes who were most adept at laying waste to other tribes that were assured, thanks to natural selection, of thriving, surviving and continuing along the harsh road that was human societal evolution. It was only the most aggressive, violent and warlike among us, those who outfought, outthought, outflanked and outwitted others that continued into the future.
Those that lacked the precepts of savagery, aggressiveness or the tendencies of war were either destroyed as a culture or assimilated into those that were, becoming entities lost to the dustbins of history. Natural selection therefore rewarded the most warlike among us with survival while those lacking in aggression were erased from memory. These traits, behavior and characteristics of survival were then passed down generation after generation, assuring that only the strongest, most warlike prospered and survived into the future. Competition among tribes, like that among sports teams, escalated tactics, aggression and technology, slowly eliminating weaker tribes and eventually pitting the strongest armies in battle. Again, natural selection among early tribes and later eventual city-states, empires and nations assured the rewarding of aggression with survival. For hundreds of thousands of years evolution has worked its magic. Ten-thousand years of civilization is but a manifestation of this reality, for evolution does not work in centuries, but in long epochs.
Thus, the extinction of the weak was made possible by the survival of the strong and over time, the tribes we descend from learned that to continue living in a world brutal and savage they themselves would have to become as warlike, aggressive and as violent as any other tribe. Out of self-preservation thousands of generations of our ancestors have had to unleash the human animal upon the world of man, feeding a vicious cycle that has forever accelerated the ever-expanding arsenal of weapons, their technological innovation, the war strategies of armies, the defensive strategies of those threatened and the increased inevitability of human self-annihilation.
In a world of tribe versus tribe, competing for finite land and resources, only those who developed the deadliest weapons, the most savage battle plans, the most creative contingencies and the most aggressive and violent tactics against fellow competitors survived, thereby assuring their continuance as a tribe. This process would be repeated constantly, over the course of our history, as new competitors entered an area, as new powers emerged or as the tribe expanded. The principle of natural selection and survival of the fittest applied for hundreds of thousands of years to human tribes just as it does today in the animal world. Consequently, humanity today is the end result of this macabre form of evolution, the descendants of those tribes who out of necessity had to evolve the violence and aggression needed to survive in a world of perpetual fighting, brutality and slaughter, where tribes either killed or were killed.
For hundreds of thousands of years humans have had to fight to live and survive, learning, evolving and adapting in growing aggressive sophistication to the dictates of war and of man fighting man. Our ancestors before and our descendents to come have been and will continue to be immersed in a ceaseless battle pitting tribe versus tribe, making the most wicked organism on Earth ever more violent. We have been bioengineered over entire epochs of humankind’s evolution to unleash violence and war upon our fellow humans, making aggression an ingrained tribal and human instinct much the same way other species evolve traits and characteristics due to their need to survive. The exigencies brought on by millennia of tribal competition and perpetual war have made sure that we have the potential to become the most violent manifestation of humanity the world has ever witnessed, a byproduct of all that has come before.
We have been bred throughout our existence to wage war upon our fellow man, trained through natural selection to kill, maim, destroy and accept violence as a normal human activity. Much like we breed animals to suit our pleasures, wants and needs, choosing particular behaviors, characteristics, sizes or colors through careful genetic manipulation, so too in similar circumstances have we been bred, over the course of our existence as a species, by a Pandora’s Box opened by humanity itself, in a vicious circle that only assures that our progeny continue carrying the human animal inside. For one more generation, then, the flame of eternal damnation will be lit, carried as a burden and as a reminder of what humanity truly is, until yet another generation takes the place of the one before, inheriting a flame that might soon light the world entire in nuclear holocaust.
In our wake destruction, violence and suffering soon follow. It is the human condition that makes it so, for in our exceptional survival lies a fusion of aggression and lack of forethought unmatched by all other species on Earth. Our condition has assured us of the dying planet we live in today and of the ceaseless violence and destruction that has followed us everywhere humankind has walked. It has forever condemned our species to a world of war, genocide, ethnic cleansing, death, destruction, maimings, rapes, razing and burning of cities, and of untold levels of suffering.
In every corner of the planet, in every century of our short rule on Earth war, conquest, invasion, occupation, fighting and battles have been waged, perpetually afflicting every generation to ever open its eyes in birth and close them for the last time in death. Aggression against our fellow humans seems to be a historical constant, a human imperative whose consequences are never learned from, as prevalent and as old as anything else ingrained in the human condition. This propensity towards violence seems like an instinct enveloping our psyches, an attached aggression unleashed at the expense of our fellow beings that are seen as different in ethnicity, color, culture, religion, tribe or belief, or those that have become competitors to territory, resources or to the prevailing order of power and control.
We are ruthless to each other, oftentimes unleashing the human animal upon entire armies of men as well as on innumerable innocents living in towns and cities, indiscriminately destroying the beauty of humanity as well as the beating hearts and thinking minds of men, women and children. Our barbarity and savagery is unmatched by any species on Earth, proven over and over again both by the slaughter and violence every generation is witness to and the violence that refuses to dissipate from our short yet tumultuous history.
In history recorded and history lost can be witnessed the ceaseless propensity toward human violence and wickedness through the preying upon by one tribe of man onto another. For plunder, wealth, expansion, power, sexual mates, land, resources and the overall thirst for ego and selfishness, tribal violence is as endemic as the continued plague-like expansion of the human race, as unceasing and unstoppable, as ingrained in our existence as our greatest achievements and triumphs. Through the passage of human time, in every continent, in every land, the battle between tribes has been unending, a ritual of passage granted to each new generation.
There is a pattern to this incessant behavior, one manifested throughout time immemorial whose evidence can be seen in ancient cities razed, in the rubble and ruins of once great coronations of civilizations, in the evisceration of entire cultures, in the writings of historians, in the images recorded in photos and videos, in the rise and fall of powers, in the archeological record and in the worldwide building of defensive walled fortifications enveloping a vast number of old cities, in every corner of the globe, whether they still stand or have long since been buried by the sands of time.
Walled fortifications, more than anything else, show us the historical insecurity and fear gripping humans the world over. From the Americas to Asia to Africa to Europe and all points in between, our ancestors feared their fellow humans, building walls around their dwellings and their centers of commerce and political activity. It was fear of human tribes, those enemies, rivals, competitors and invaders always lurking that demanded ingenuity and communal undertakings to, at least psychologically, portend an aura of security from which to live in some semblance of comfort. Fortifications show us the constant threat of attack, invasion, violence, destruction and war humanity has been under for most of its history, weather living in savannas or caves or city-states or feudal estates or castles or towns or kingdoms or empires or nations.
In these walls surrounding many cities, some still standing, some crumbling, some seen only through the investigations of scientists, can we see our species for what it has always been, regardless of time, regardless of circumstances and irrespective of region, namely, a most violent and wicked race of primates whose human animal lingers inside, possessing us from within, embedded as an instinct of survival, unleashing aggression against our fellow species.
It has never been contained, for it continues to decimate just as it has from the beginning. The human animal prospers inside our psyches, for evolution of mammal, combined with that of man, has given birth to an animal both intelligent and savage, with brain still primitive in thought yet sophisticated in ingenuity. As long as the human animal remains possessing over humankind, as long as we fail to exorcise it from our existence it will be the purveyor of wickedness and war, death and destruction of everything human. The human animal needs to be purged from within, for it threatens the very foundations and future of a species that continues to self-destruct in ways no organism ever has.
Our only salvation lies in understanding our evolution, our animal selves, our evolutionary psychology, our history and the mammalian world, of which we are part of, regardless of what primitive fables and thought tell us. These are the keys to unlocking the mystery of why violence is as old as humanity itself, and why it remains unending, even when we can see, thanks to history and growing awareness, that it continues to plague us seemingly without a rival putting a stop to its corrosive actions upon our world.
For as long as we have existed the human animal has been around, laying waste to billions of human energies, inflicting unending suffering on humans the world over. Why can we not control it? Why can we not stop it? Why must war and human carnage be a constant in humanity, becoming perpetual and wicked, unable to be contained even when the books of history scream ominous warnings and lessons in their chapters? All around the world ruins of cities lost to human malice and to time litter the landscape, built and rebuilt, only to be razed again and again. All around the world the histories of every region show a pattern of the human animal failing to stop the virus afflicting it. If it has never been stopped, what makes us think it will be halted overnight?
Across oceans, across jungles, across mountain ranges, across the scorching temperatures of deserts history records similar patterns among different races, cultures and ethnicities, all pointing to one unmistakable reality: the human animal transcending time, place, distance and societies to resurrect violence and war and death and suffering and human wickedness onto all peoples at all times. It is all-encompassing, a pestilence upon the world of man and upon the lands of Earth, similar in time and place, seemingly unstoppable, a demon chaining humankind to the dungeons of the abyss.
The human animal is us, never stopped, never contained, never understood and forever destined to control the lives we lead and the course we choose to take. The human animal is the catalyst that makes the inevitability that is human self-destruction a reality. From our long evolution as a species the human animal was born. Only in humankind’s enlightenment and rebirth will we be able to celebrate its death.
Coming Next Week: Part II and III: No Country, No God
Mr. Valenzuela’s new novel is now on sale through Authorhouse.com at Echoes in the Wind Sales Page. A philosophical, educational and spiritual story on humanity and our civilization, as relevant as today’s headlines, this book is almost 600 pages in trade paperback form on sale internationally through secure web page transaction. Additionally, the novel is now available on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, as well as other online book sellers. If preferred, the novel can also be ordered at any local brick and mortar bookstore worldwide through the book’s ISBN number, 1418489905.
Manuel Valenzuela is social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst, Internet columnist and author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel now published by Authorhouse.com. A collection of essays, Beyond the Smoking Mirror: Reflections on America and Humanity, will be published in early 2005. His articles appear regularly on www.informationclearinghouse.info . His unique style and powerful writing is read internationally and seeks to expose truths and realities confronting humanity today. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at [email protected]. A collection of his work can be found visiting his archives and by searching the Internet
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