The consensus model of human evolution is that we originated in Africa and from there migrated to the rest of the world. The phantom concept known as “race” is the result of adaptation to environment, isolation, and cultural favoritism toward certain traits. To oversimplify, if your gene pool lives in a cold, cloudy and remote place and your culture thinks blue eyes and blond hair are pretty, eventually you get vikings. Race is just a way to categorize people by how they look even though we’re all the same species.
As a result of transportation, communication, and changing attitudes, interracial marriage rates are on the rise. We are well on our way to returning to our origins — a single “race.”
Most rational people understand that anyone obsessed with racial purity is a prejudiced, backward-looking, dangerous numbskull. Race has all the significance of a fashion trend. Trying to preserve racial purity is like fighting to keep bell-bottoms forever in style. Only way more dangerous.
In prehistory, before cities, governments, and agriculture, when we wandered out of Africa as hunter-gatherers, we were in familial bands with the same politics and religion. Agriculture came into fashion and we began to settle down in one place, which gave rise to the idea of city-states. At that point we were still able to say with some certainty that our neighbors were of the same basic political and religious persuasion. But still, there was increasing friction. It’s no coincidence that the world’s oldest city is in Sumer and that’s also the home of the world’s oldest legal code.
Technology is having the same affects on politics and religion that it is having on race. Every technological advance has had an impact. The printing press ushered in the democratization of knowledge (without Gutenberg there would be no Protestantism) and that trend has continued and intensified, now culminating in the modern internet.
Just like “race,” the idea of the city-state is dying. Not only can we no longer rely on our neighbors to look the same, we can no longer rely on them to be of the same political or religious persuasion. Just as we are returning to our original “race” we are returning to our original social structure — family units with overlapping views on politics and religion. In fact, we’ve progressed so far so fast that even that isn’t a certainty. According to this Washington Post article, “15 percent of U.S. households were mixed-faith in 1988. That number rose to 25 percent by 2006, and the increase shows no signs of slowing.”
The idea of a nation united around a single set of cultural beliefs is an obsolete fashion. Trying to preserve it is like trying to keep everyone riding penny-farthings instead of mountain bikes. Only way more dangerous.
Our political and religious systems are not keeping up with our evolution. Religion is doing better, I suppose because it’s far easier to change how you think about God than it is to change how you’re governed. Religions that are adaptive and forward-thinking are doing better than those that refuse to let go of the past. The fastest growing Abrahamic religion is Islam at 1.84% annually. Compare that to Wicca at 143%. No, I didn’t forget the decimal. That’s 77 times faster than Islam.
Politically we’re still holding onto outmoded notions, and it shows. Here in the U.S. we have a deeply divided congress and we just had a presidential election that, for all intents and purposes, was a tie. Trying to force half of a country to live the way the other half wants to live is as ridiculous as making everyone wear leisure suits and platform shoes. Only way more dangerous.
Economics is faring just as poorly. For generation after generation the growth model of economics has been the black tie of the ball. Now that we know that there are too many people on the planet, resources are running out, and climate change is a real threat, the growth model is looking pretty mush busted. Old ideas about economics failed to predict the 2008 financial collapse and only a handful of people are questioning why nobody is rewriting the economics textbooks. Nobody’s talking about how to get everyone employed and fed without growth, or talking about how to reduce our population.
Across the world there are people holding on to the old ways, and they come in all colors and styles. Sometimes they’re plainly outfitted as fundamentalists or conservatives, but other times they dress up and play progressives. It’s all so tiresome and outmoded. Politics today is like a fashion show from the 1950s. Only way more dangerous.
Let’s embrace our evolution and move on to new ideas — shrug off our old outfits and put on some fresh clothes.