Thursday, October 19, 2006
Some parts of human behavior, I think, can probably be traced back to the earliest days of man, traits and behaviors selected out by evolution because they have been effective in increasing the human chance for survival, thus increasing the likelihood of their perpetuation through procreation. That means "doin' it."
I'm thinking of simple things like the flinch-and-swipe response to any light touching of the face or neck while sleeping. That's not something you learn, it's something we just do. Those among us who lacked that response in the shady days of long prehistory missed out on swatting away the ancient face-lizards who would climb on people's faces while sleeping and lay eggs in their throats. The people who (briefly) woke to find their necks exploding with mature face-lizard hatchlings tended not to get the chance to pass those numb-face genes down to another generation. All to our benefit, I'd day.
And that's how evolution works.
Of course it's not a perfect process. The ability to tolerate some contact with the face while sleeping is necessary so that we might be able to sleep and disregard things like wind or dust or whatever. It's also one of the two founding evolutionary gene-marker exceptions around which collegehumor.com was founded. What's the point of survival as a species if we can't write VAGINA across the foreheads of our passed-out drunk friends with permanent marker?
The other founding exception is obviously the willingness of fertile young women to expose their breasts in exchange for some brief faceless notoriety. I think we're all grateful for that. Collegehumor does God's work.
Of all the basic hard-wired responses we carry with us from the bad ole days of cave dwelling and 17-year life expectancies (fear of spiders, sleeping covered up, general suspicion of the motives of face-lizards, internet porn), the most most basic is the ability to run away.
Is it cowardly? Sure. But as responses to threats go, I'd say it's hard to argue with. Mostly because of the rapidly increasing distance between yourself and those who might wish to engage in said argument.
I run from lots of stuff. Oncoming traffic, mice, snakes, anyone wearing a hockey mask, dogs I don't know, strangers, Burmese pythons, Burmese people, the po-po, committment, responsibility and an honest days' work.
The only thing I can think of that is a danger to me or my own sense of self that I don't run from? Bears. They'll just run you down from behind, knock you over with one paw, slice your belly open with the other and before you know it, they're muzzle-deep in your guts, chewing on your delicious fatty liver. They're kind of blocky and large, but don't be fooled. Bears are built for speed. If you see one, you're supposed to play dead. As a secondary defense, I've had a cyanide pill surgically strapped to my liver. The bears might kill me, but I'm taking one with me if I go.
It's a dangerous world out there. We need to make sure we keep our instincts honed. And a notebook handy so we can record the suspicious words or actions of all our friends and neighbors. Are they putting in a new patio or just cementing over the place where they buried those they kill? You don't know. Write it down, make a call and let the FBI decide.
But mostly the instinct thing. That's why I am distraught that an elementary school in Massachusetts has banned games of tag or any kind of play chasing.
It's outrageous. These aren't games, people. This is training. We know we're not safe. Terrorists want to blow up football games. State and County Fair vendors are trying to sell "Fried Coke". Threats we need to identify and put some space between, pronto.
Elementary school is where we learn the basic skills of reading, writing and fight-or-flight. Fear of "cooties" might sound harmless and silly, but it's not so funny when suddenly your years of anti-cootie training kick into gear after your office is hit with an anthrax bomb. Those cooties will kill you. You'd better know what to do.
Now kids can't play/practice the ancient art of running from shit what tries to catch you. Because it's "too dangerous."
Hey, you know what's really dangerous? The underwater army of stingrays bent on killing us. Steve Irwin was just a warning shot. He was swimming toward it. Now they're jumping in boats to get to us. How long before they sprout legs and waddle ashore?
And what will our kids do? Nothing. They'll just stand there, gawping at it as it plunges it's evolutionary advantage in the shape of a poison-tipped razor barb right into their chests, killing them instantly. We'll all shout out, "Run, you fucking dumbass kid, run!" but they'll just stand there, crying, terrified, completely paralyzed by a system designed to beat out of them their Darwin-given ability to be irrationally scared of shit.
If that's nurture over nature, I'll take nature every time.
This post on the Narcissus Scale: 4.1