Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mark Twain, come home!

"I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can't be any worse. "

The older I get, the more I understand Mark Twain's disappointment with the human race. In a time of historical challenges to human society, those near the top of the heap continue to scramble for the very pinnacle, grinding the rest beneath their silver heels.

That would be bad enough if those below were capable of grabbing the climbers by the coat tails and dragging them back to the rest of the rabble. Each and every one waxes rhapsodic about "the equality of man," goes to church on Sunday and swoons over profound sermons about loving their neighbors as themselves. Yet, not a one of them, or very few, less than 10%, is willing to stand up to the petty tyrants, government toadies and corporate sycophants in defense of life and liberty.

Humans have made a graveyard of the globe in pursuit of pitiful profits, power over others and mere material excess. "Enough" and "sufficient" lie forgotten in the dust, trampled under greed and profligacy. The noble aspirations of our immigrant forefathers, some of them at least, are forgotten, relegated to quaint pageants and epic historical tomes.

At one time I was an anthropologist and archaeologist, a student of the human condition through the lenses of time and space. I studied the lives of ancient peoples and marveled at the clever social systems they devised to live in harmony with the natural world, and with each other, mostly. Of course, they didn't have much choice then. It was either get along with the powerful forces of Nature or get kicked out of the gene pool for bad behavior.

Now, with the advent of Man the Transcendent, we think we no longer have to pay attention to the whistle blast at the edge of the pool, the sharp warnings of the Life guard. We'll cleverly invent a submarine to avoid the increasing depth and inhospitality of the pool. Our cultural stories, that once guided us through the waves, no longer provide a rational course of action in a world over-occupied by our fecund species.

My one solace is the sure knowledge that Nature bats last. My soulmate daily reminds me that a thousand years from now, all will be well. Those who survive will, of necessity, be living in harmony with natural cycles and processes. The economists, the social climbers, Pentagon fear mongers, and the growth maniacs will have have passed into history, or, like the dinosaurs, evolved into humans who fly free in a clear blue sky.

1 comment:

  1. Twain probably wrote his best stuff before age 35. After that, even the second half of Life on The Mississippi, the writing isn't as good. Some scholars attributed it to his drinking.
    The Mysterious Stranger was really good, but some don't believe he wrote it.

    I hope all you say is true, Michael. It will mean that man will have made a lot of real "progress," if we can call it that. I just wish it hadn't taken us so long to figure it it out.