Holed up at a friend’s house in the usual avoid-reality post-festival freakout. Avoiding TV like the plague, watching stupid movies, and being enlightened by one DVD in particular: the PBS documentary Journey of Man.
We grew up soaking in Southern Baptist rhetoric, and while everyone else was busy learning evolution in junior high, we attended an evangelical Christian school where they taught us that people and dinosaurs walked the Earth at the same time … because the Bible says they did. So, for people like us who never got the full scoop, here’s a rundown of the show.
Everyone alive today is related. Think about that. It’s possible to work out the past by blood type, and the key lies in distant populations. They’ve traced it all using DNA samples and whatnot. Blood.
The Earth now holds 6 billion people. Our species only numbered 10,000 when a small band left their African homeland on a journey into an unknown, hostile world. Those people are the ones we’re related to. Evidence shows they were superhuman — resilient, strong, fast, and adaptable.
We’re all descended from the San Bushmen tribe in Namibia. We all live in grass and mud huts. We don’t give a shit about the newest coffee table. Do we? …
We do now. We do it, and we don’t even know why. We spread like a virus, at the tippy-tail end of the ape-to-human transformation. And here we are, crapping all over everything where we live. No evolved animals do that but us.
The supernova of flesh and pollution is ready to transform into destruction and nothingness — or to pare back down to a manageable level. We are due for an extinction-level event, you know. Everyone says so.
Anyhoo, this migration also heralded an explosion of creativity. Ritual burial of the dead. Art in caves. Use of materials like bone. The first sensitive artist was born around this time.
(Maybe he lost his girlfriend in a tragic raft-building accident and picked up a stick and started writing poetry … maybe she got mad at her tribe for telling her girls weren’t allowed on the hunt, so she fashioned a fake buffalo out of straw and mud and destroyed it with a spear.)
Every archaeological dig of that era shows a balloon of consciousness. When our first cousins left Africa, they had state-of-the-art hunting technology and a brand new language with which to communicate ideas. It used clicks. The Bushmen are still the only people in the world who click.
Between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago, the global ice age came. There was a sharp drop in temperature around 72,000 years ago and the sea retreated. Deserts in Africa grew, sea levels dropped, and ice appeared everywhere.
Lush pasture turned to desert, and hunters who used to have easy pickins found themselves searching desperately for food. Between 60,000 and 30,000 years ago there were so few humans, plants, and animals on the planet that scientists have trouble finding any archaeological record of homo sapiens during that period.
Humanity was on the verge of extinction, and a small band of smart and daring revolutionaries decided they needed to raise the fuck up on out of there in order to survive. So they turned up in AUSTRALIA, of all places.
Our next relatives on the timeline all hail from aboriginal Oz. How do they know? … The only primate species ever to have lived in Australia is homo sapiens, so another tribe of us did not evolve there from primates. We had to get there from Namibia.
But how? … We traveled onshore from Africa through India and along the coast to Australia. No evidence remains, because the route was easy — just beach, aside from only 150 miles of open ocean. It has since been buried by water.
Then Europeans, Asians, and Native Americans were next to appear.
Everyone else besides the Aboriginals shares a common ancestor in one man they can trace back to those of the same (or a similar) group who left Africa but went the other way — to the Middle East — 45,000 years ago.
One branch of migrants from the Middle East made its way swiftly into India. They were so successful that their numbers quickly multiplied and swamped the original coastal migration evidence.
Another group went to China, remaining in isolation, sealed in by moutains and the sea — and developing a distinct culture, language, and appearance. Two groups went to China via different routes in a pincher type movement.
But nobody lived in Europe yet, even though it was a hop skip and a jump from Ur. We took 10,000 years to reach Europe from the Middle East. Why?
Cro Magnons were the first northern Europeans, the first cavemen with an artistic side. The original cave-painters — ostensibly because they were new arrivals, and the caves became a sort of sanctuary. The paintings look like postcards of an ancient world … a journey that lasted through the beginnings of the Ice Age.
They drew woolly mammoths, bison, ibex, and other creatures not found in the Middle East — so where had they been? Wherever it was, they toughened up. They took over caves where bears hibernated for the winter.
The Cro-Magnons generally cut an impressive figure, towering over 6 feet tall. They arrived with African body proportions, adapted to warmer conditions, and grew long and skinny. They made clothing and housing to adapt to the colder weather …
… and then the Ice Age cut them off from the rest of the world. Their hair color changed, the shape of their noses, even their height. That’s why honkies look so different. Not enough UV rays got through to let us synthesize Vitamin D from sunshine, and we wore clothes, so our skin was forced to lighten its melanin in order to absorb more.
So why did we take 10,000 years to land in Europe? The answer to the mystery: We took a detour to central Asia. Kyrgystan. That’s how come we drew bison in the caves. The African hunters followed the grassland into central Kyrgystan before going West.
Then, 20,000 years ago, some left central Asia to migrate to the Americas over very arctic conditions during the height of the Ice Age. Some stayed along the way, and became the Chukchi (Russian nomads), the Inuit, and Eskimos. Living inside the arctic circle 15,000 years ago, these humans became shorter, with shorter appendages and fingers to keep a furnace of one’s own body heat stoked at all times under heavy animal clothing.
Thirteen thousand years ago, a group of 10-20 people made it past Alaska across the Bering Strait after the Earth heated back up. Yes, only 10-20 people. After 10,000 years of struggling through the tundra, this small band of nomadic hunters hit the jackpot with America.
In only 800 years, these nomads’ numbers swelled to where people lived all over North and South America. The Navajo are directly descended from the Chukchi.
According to James Kunstler‘s book The Long Emergency, peak oil passed in the ’70s, and as an industrial society, we are screwed. Things are about to fundamentally change, for good.
Those without nearby land to grow food (and, some would argue, the firearms to protect themselves) would shortly be f’d … likely by members of the “former and aggrieved middle class” who are used to the whole give-me-convenience-or-give-me-death lifestyle.
And haven’t we all met certain members of country clubs who would probably open fire on anyone who stole their china or told them they had lost their life savings due to the machinations of their beloved ruling class.
Recent studies say that in our short time on the planet, HUMANS (not mammals) have used up a staggering 60 percent of the world’s resources. We have altered the planet more quickly, jarringly, and irreversibly in the past 50 years than at any other comparable time in human history. And America burns through … how many percents of the world’s resources?
Blah blah blah. Boring boring boring. Everyone knows this. Right? Like Agent Smith says in The Matrix: We are a plague. So what do we do?
Nothing? Is it too late?
Why did the first San Bushpeople leave? Were they driven out, like Lucifer from Heaven and Eve from the Garden of Eden? … Did they have no choice, or did they see it coming? … Were they hungry? Were they just bored? Did they crave knowledge, or different people to make out with? Something beyond themselves and their immediate experience? … Sinners! Also: Those who enabled us to survive!
Nothing makes a body fight like the struggle for food, shelter, and breeding partners. And isn’t that when stuff starts to really happen? When you get so hungry you imagine a world beyond your everyday life, and you venture out into the unknown?
Convenience is all around us, but only when we make ourselves uncomfortable can we truly learn anything.