The Theory of Devolution
Even now in the 21st Century, there are still those who don’t believe in evolution. I know, it’s astonishing. These people and many others actually seem to be going the other way, which is to say, de-volving. I think there’s a good argument to be made for this hitherto unknown hypothesis. Around the world, sectarian violence is increasing like never before, there are more and more wars, torture, butchery, and atrocities in the millions.
Throughout the Middle East and Africa, fundamentalist Muslims are turning the clocks back to the 8th Century. They genitally mutilate young girls so they can never feel sexual pleasure, cut the hands off thieves, and so on.
Nowhere is devolution better displayed than right here in America, where people seem to be getting dumber by the minute. Devolution means going backwards, being the opposite of evolution. When you move a nation from its founding principles laid out in our Constitution, to a national security police state, then you are moving backwards. The lines by Emma Lazarus inscribed on the Statue of Liberty say in part: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddle masses yearning to be free . . . “ That sentiment has turned into the xenophobic term for immigrants: “illegals,” as if human beings could somehow be illegal. I’d say that’s moving backwards.
When I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s it was really cool to be smart. We had an entire generation that went to college, with help of the GI Bill for veterans. People took pride in public education, learning, and being politically aware. Today you’d have difficulty finding school children who can find America on a map of the United States. I just saw a recent poll of college students. 36% of them couldn’t name a single Justice on the Supreme Court. This is appalling, but it shouldn’t surprise us. Critical thinking isn’t being taught much anymore, because teachers are too busy teaching for the next standardized test. These days you’re more likely to find people who are proud to be ignorant; nobody likes elitist smarty pants intellectuals. This is a very dangerous road.
One of the choruses sung by the tea party is “I want my country back!” They mean back to when blacks and women knew their place, and didn’t give you no sass. The Right’s incessant attacks on the reproductive rights of women are taking this country back fifty years, to when countless women died of septicemia from back alley abortions, or coat hangers. They’re also attacking the rights of black voters, and the recent ruling against the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court, also takes us back to Jim Crow days, when black Americans had to pass literacy tests or pay poll taxes. They want to take us back to when gay people had to be ashamed of being who they are. Back, back, back. It’s always back.
Religious extremists, which some call talibangelists, would like to take us back, too — much further back. They’ve ignored the New Testament, featuring that guy — what’s his name. You know, the guy Christianity was named after. They want to get back to a collection of Bronze Age Jewish fairy tales, and even replace the U.S. Constitution for the Bible. They want gays to go back into the darkness of the closet, and never be heard from. I’m afraid they’re going to have difficulty getting American women to wear burkas.
So-called reality shows on television exhibit the most primitive, savage behavior. People behaving badly are good for ratings. Who would want to watch people treating each other with courtesy and respect? How utterly boring.
These people have already gone back. They’re operating with the most primitive, reptilian part of the brain, the amygdala. It controls fear and aggression, that fight-or-flight reflex. They’ve made the trip all the way back to the Jurassic Era. All that hysteria we hear, the screaming and wailing, those are the desperate cries of dinosaurs, furious that history has passed them by, about to go extinct.
The fossil fool industry wants to take us back to the last time the average global temperature was about five degrees higher. That was called the Permian extinction. Corporations and the rich want to take us back to the robber barons of the Gilded Age, or even further, to the days of Charles Dickens, and a vast majority of the working poor who were happy with any crumbs that fell from the table.
The rest of the civilized world looks at America, and they think we have gone completely nuts. Nearly 150 years after the Civil War, we still can’t get past this racial thing. More and more Americans say they believe in creationism, 46% in a recent poll. The evidence for devolution seems overwhelming, but appearances can be deceiving. The majority of Americans are evolving, but that is a slow and gradual process, and not really newsworthy. The whackadoodles are what the media wants to cover. It’s the empty wagon that makes the most noise, my dad used to say. Most of us want to go forward. We don’t want to go back to the Founders, who were all wealthy white landowners. We want to take those principles of the Founders and apply them to all people, which I believe was the Founders’ intent.
Unfortunately, the wealth and power is mostly in the hands of the devolvers. We need to find ways to neutralize these people if we are going to survive as a nation and as a civilization. That isn’t going to be easy. People are waking up, though, and rubbing the sleep from their eyes. This is happening on a global scale, as evidenced by the Arab Spring, protests throughout Europe, and elsewhere. We will eventually get past wars and dinosaurs, if they don’t take down everything first. And as we do, we can wave to them, as they recede into the shadows of the past.
”Ignorance is curable, stupidity is forever.” — Robert A. Heinlein