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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 6/17/17

A Better Human Story #4-- Humankind's Perilous Step into Terra Incognita: The Rise of Civilization

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Which means that humankind has stepped into a terra incognita, something that no species on this planet had ever created for itself.

The essential characteristic of this new situation is that it's an evolutionary territory in which an unavoidable and significant set of interactions will be wholly unregulated.

Life had never done that before. Not, at least as part of the unfolding of the living system itself. Yes, there had been times of some chaos--but those were from asteroids, or from the movement of continents. Things outside the domain of life.

On this new kind of occasion, that space of chaos was reached because of something emerging in the living system itself.

Something from within the living system itself was breaking out of that system's established order into an inevitable and painfully consequential disorder.

And what would be those consequences? That's the question that "the parable of the tribes" answers.

In the next installment, we will look at the dynamic that arose out of the new system of unregulated interactions among societies of this new kind--a dynamic that drove the evolution of civilized societies in a direction that people did not choose, but could not avoid.



I have claimed that "the parable of the tribes" -- as an argument to explain a crucial part of the human story -- is a Big Deal. Before laying out that argument, in the next installment, let me ask you:

If that argument makes a compelling case

  • that the ugliness and torment we see in human history are not a function of human nature, and
  • that we perceive our species as innocently having been put into an impossible situation,
  • that we therefore do not have to face our considerable challenges weighed down by a burden of guilt, and self-disgust, or despair,
  • that we are entitled to imagine ourselves to be finer and more worthy creatures, by nature, than we have been compelled to be, through no great fault of our own;

would that be a Big Deal?

And if what it showed also led us to understand that

  • that it is not some idea of "human evil" that we should focus on, when we look at the evils of the world, but on the force of brokenness into which we have been swept;
  • that we should focus on correcting how the systems of civilization -- because of their own inherent dynamic-- warp our world, and thwart our flowering; and how the strengthening of the human good can lead humankind into a future that is healthier and more fulfilling;
  • that seeing the reality of the drama in the human world will make us stronger as actors for the good. Stronger because the human drama is far more dramatic (possessing a meaningful dramatic shape) and is "spiritually" deeper than we generally perceive--which empowers us through inspiration. And stronger because the clarity of the battle makes it so much easier to know where to put one's passion;

would that be a Big Deal?


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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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