And Now for Something (Almost) Completely Different

men-fighting-sketch

My blog is devoted to advocating for animals, our fellow sentient beings who are tormented and slaughtered on a daily basis and whose suffering is largely ignored except for the growing movement on their behalf known as veganism.

But when a dear friend shared the following article with me, I had to include it here, because although there is no mention of animals other than mankind (except for distinguishing them from “livestock” or not), nonetheless I believe that the author nails the problem with humans: their incessant desire to dominate and exploit (for which of course animals pay an enormous price).

(For the record: I will likely vote for Clifton Roberts of the Humane Party, the only party that really speaks my language).

“When some years ago I was asked to write a regular column for a chain of local newspapers, one of the editors brushed off my proposed title and said that title should be “Joe’s Take.”  He was right. Here, then, is my own highly individualized take on the election.

I write today as a liberal, progressive Democrat, at a time when we are finally at the end of the longest political campaign in the history of the world. I voted for Hillary weeks ago by mail and hope she wins big. Whether my hope will be granted is unknowable until Election Day, and maybe for months afterward if you believe the turbulence of the polls.

It is tough to make sense of the 2016 Presidential race, but only because we live in a modern world of split-second news cycles, each one potentially reversing its predecessor like an electronically-amplified and speeded-up Tower of Babel. But I rebel at the assumption that we are so shallow a species that we must accept the flim-flammary of pollsters, political consultants and TV commercials, reported to us by a media drunk with a mistaken belief in its own omniscience. It seems important to wrestle today’s lunacy into some rational context.

Let me begin with that great Eddie Jacobs quote. Eddie is a well-known local lawyer, who, asked how a complex case arose, answered drily: “Well, first, the earth cooled.” The  question we hear today, given the high unfavorability ratings of both candidates is: “How did it come to this?”

As Jacobs said, first the earth cooled. Then the human species came into being, either as the evolutionary product of eons or as God’s creation of Adam and Eve; take your pick. Either way, the time came when the earliest humans assigned their highest priorities to violent pillaging, to violent sex, and to killing strangers, roughly in that order. We haven’t changed much, which explains Donald Trump’s appeal. He is a natural-born pillager; he is a sexual predator, he wants to bar strangers from moving in on his turf, and he wants to “bomb the shit out of” strangers elsewhere. Trump is a caveman eager to trade up from wooden clubs to nuclear bombs.

But our species has evolved, however slowly, which explains Hillary. It took a long time for the women of our species to get laws against rape, to tame their cavemen, to get us to church on Sundays and to insist on nurturing children to adulthood. For this they need stability and peace. When there is no peace, women and children die. Hillary fights for women, children and a nurturing peace.

It oversimplifies greatly, but not too greatly, to see this election in terms of a contest between cavemen and women. Many of us men still have cavemen instincts, but are civilized enough to avoid real violence. Many get their kicks backing Trump and supporting stuff like the World Wrestling Federation. Most women insist on peace, but some still think they need a  strong caveman to protect the home from other cavemen. They back Trump because they believe him when he claims to be strong.

This election may be a tipping point – when we’ll learn if women have civilized the cavemen enough for humanity to move forward, at least here in America.

Too simple for your taste? Consider this: Xenophobia, a Greek word for fear of strangers, is a fundamental human trait. It is perfectly understandable as an evolutionary device to keep us from harm. Outgrowing it is a necessary prerequisite to world peace. Trump has based his campaign on Xenophobia. That explains building a wall against migrants; banning Muslims; nuking the Arabs; suppressing black and Hispanic votes.

Part of the unholy stew you get when you combine Xenophobia and brute strength is slavery. For centuries the strong enslaved the weak. When one tribe conquered another, the women were raped and the men chained up as slaves. Brute power ruled. Racial hatreds were important, but not eternal. Even the Romans granted their Greek slaves a chance to gain freedom and citizenship.

Eventually white on white slavery-by-force faded out, often replaced by such developments as feudalism (peasants in service to the noble owners of castles and armor), nationalism (ordinary men and women under the control of the politically powerful), unfettered capitalism (workers, including ladies garment workers burnt to death in factory fires, children as coal miners exploited in pursuit of profit)  and other “isms” that permitted the rule of the powerful over the weak. All of these developments were eventually brought at least nominally under the control of democracy.

Black slavery was vastly different. When America’s tobacco proved tremendously profitable if only free farm labor could be found, the whites of Europe and America had guns and ships; the blacks of Africa had spears and mud huts. The old formula still worked; force ruled.

As one ditty boasted:
“The reason Britain rules the Hottentot
is we have got the Maxim gun and they have not!”
Or as another put it:
“The good old rule, the simple plan;
Let those take who have the power
and those keep who can.”

Slavery persisted, but the concept of permanent and absolute ownership of another human being didn’t  come easy to people. It required challenging the idea that a black slave was human. That was easily accomplished. Blacks clearly were savages captured in the wild, ignorant of white civilization’s ability to read and communicate in writing, fit only for brute labor; to be drawers of water and hewers of wood; not fit for citizenship.

When the implications of that idea and the reality of black slavery were made clear, as in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in 1852, moral revulsion quickly followed. Within two years outraged abolitionists gathered in Ripon, Wisconsin and formed the Republican Party to fight slavery. Three years later the stubborn, all-white Supreme Court declared that a black man had “no rights that a white man must respect.” Three years later the new Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln for President. And the war came.

It has been 162 years since the Republican Party sprang from the moral fervor of men who opposed the concept that one man could own another, and that the color of your skin determined whether you were a human being or livestock, doomed to have the fruits of your labor and the children of your loins taken from you to be sold under the color of law.

The great Civil War that followed ended slavery by overwhelming force, but it did not erase the beliefs of many whites that blacks were inferior beings to be hated and feared. Racism has proven as powerful and all-pervasive as the physical law of gravity, and carries just as much a power in human affairs.

In my own opinion, the phenomenen of the Trump candidacy rests on the stubborn influence of the caveman that lurks in so many of us.

Next week we’ll find out if we prove civilized enough to keep it on its leash.”

Joe Wilkins, N.J. Press Association award-winning columnist, is a semi-retired lawyer and former municipal judge who lives in Smithville, NJ.  His most recent book is “Kennedy’s Recruit”. He is also author of “The Speaker Who Locked
up the House”, an acclaimed historical novel about Congress set in the Washington of 1890, and “The Skin Game and other Atlantic City capers”, a richly comic account of the stick-up of an illegal card game as Atlantic City’s casino age began. All 3 are available on Amazon’s Kindle. To send Joe your comments,  Email him at wilkinsjt001@comcast.net, or  visit his website at www.josephtwilkins.com.
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Posted on November 7, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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