Saturday, November 26, 2016

Humans Are All the Same Species! No. 3 in my New Series of Mythmaker Posts

DNA: Humans are all the same species!
From Pixabay

I had decided to review some of my notes on who the Mythmakers were before I wrote about the Precepts, but this distressing upsurge of racism and bigotry during the campaign and after the Presidential election made it seem imperative to touch on that subject first.  Suddenly we’ve once again received a license to hate the unlike, a really ominous phenomenon.  Who would have thought the progress made during the last half-century was so fragile?
I’ve touched on this subject before in one of my earlier posts (You Say Alien and I Say Extraterrestrial) and I’m going to begin by quoting from that piece:

“‘Alien’ carries a lot of unfavorable connotations.  If you look it up in, it means a person who has been estranged or excluded; and as an adjective, it can mean "unlike one's own, strange" and also "adverse, hostile, opposed."  Of course, it also means an extraterrestrial.  What gets me is that we have so many aliens living among us right now -- all those human beings who moved without permission from one geographical unit of the Earth to another.  How can a member of our own species be an alien?  Why should being from inside another nationalistic boundary make such a person "estranged, excluded, strange, adverse, hostile, opposed, unlike one's own"?  Why should stepping across an imaginary line alienate a person from his or her fellow human beings?
“On my future Earth there are no nationalistic boundaries.  Earth is united and while administrative regions exist, freedom of movement is universal.  No passports, no visas. One currency.   If you come from Scandinave and you want to work in Ostrailia, all you have to do is buy a ticket on a flyer, disembark, find a place to live, and go to work.  People may be encouraged to move to certain parts of the planet in order to equalize the distribution of the population, but nobody is forced to do that.” 

Now I’m going to present the last three Mythmaker Precepts (nos. 18, 19, and 20):

No. 18: There are creatures on this planet who speak, form symbols, and share emotions; these may be called human.
No. 19: The humans of our planet are all the same species; therefore they should care for one another and avoid the destruction of their own kind.
No. 20: Since humans share their genetic heritage with all the bio-organisms of this planet, they should always seek to preserve life.

And then I’m going to quote from Part One of The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  In this scene fifteen-year-old Robbin Nikalishin has made an unfortunate mistake and is being counseled by Prf. Alise Doone, the head of the Humanities Dept. at Epping Science Academy and his moral philosophy teacher.

“The final three Precepts deal with the basic evolutionary nature of the human being.  Which do you think epitomizes what the Mythmakers were trying to say?”
Robbie took a deep breath, desperately dredging his brain.  “The last one, I suppose.  About how humans should always try to preserve life because they share their genetics with all creatures.”
“Well, that awareness is central to the survival of our planet, of course.  But it’s Number 19 that takes precedence – The humans of our planet are all the same species; therefore they should care for one another and avoid the destruction of their own kind.  Until Earthers accorded this reality an emotional acceptance, they were doomed to oppose each other along racial and ethnic lines.
 “And you should also keep Number 18 in your mind: There are creatures on this planet who speak, form symbols, and share emotions; these may be called human.  The entire thrust of the Mythmaker philosophy is about what it means to be human.  Keep that in your mind, Robbie.  It may not mean so much to you right now, but possibly it may at some later point of your life.”

This passage encapsulates what I’m trying to say here.  I put the salient points in bold face and I’ll stress this one again:


Anybody who has been acquainted with me for a while has seen that statement pop up on a FaceBook post or elsewhere.  Here’s the definition of a species from Wikipedia : “A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which two individuals are capable of reproducing fertile offspring, typically using sexual reproduction.”  There are various ambiguities related to this definition, which are discussed in the Wikipedia article, but for our present purposes, let’s accept this definition given above. 

HUMANS ALL SHARE THE SAME DNA.  Any human can breed with any other human. 

It doesn’t make sense for groups within the same species to try to destroy each other.  While animals of the same species do kill each other at times, their basic motivation is to ensure the survival of their species.  Therefore, they kill to gain mating rights, to protect territory, and to ensure food resources.  Some primates do mount internecine group attacks, but again it’s to protect territory.  Humans, however, practice mass killings of their own kind all the time and the motivation can be for territory or food resources (hardly ever to acquire mating rights, at least in our modern times; courtship is more an individual matter in our species), but the most common motivations are to acquire power, to gain revenge, and (most unfortunate of all) to forcibly spread their religious beliefs.  Animals never kill for revenge, they don’t give a fig about gods, and they don’t organize wars (except for some insect species, certain ants, for example).
Humans evolved to be different from other animals.  Supposedly we acquired a mind capable of reasoning out our difficulties and resolving them through language and empathy (Precept No. 18). The minute differences in DNA that exist among the various races and ethnic groups of humans are inconsequential; WE’RE ALL THE SAME SPECIES.  I have predicated the Mythmaker ethic on an innate ability of the human consciousness to recognize and act upon the fact that peace and cooperation are better than conflict and destruction at structuring a world where our species can ensure its survival and even thrive. 
But first we have to get past the outer shell of our fellow humans.  Dogs and cats differ widely in appearance, but they all recognize each other as a fellow dog or fellow cat instinctively, regardless of color or hair length or size.  For some reason human beings have a hard time getting past the outer shell and appreciating what’s on the inside.  Skin color, eye or nose shape, hair texture – these characteristics are of no value in determining a person’s worth.  Yet the fear of the unlike – fear of the alien – seems to be part of humanity’s genetic makeup.  I suppose this also had something to do with survival when we were evolving, but it’s essential for present-day humanity to rise above this misperception and learn how to subdue this instinct.

Lately, I’m not so sure whether I was right about the fundamental ability of humanity to discern what the Mythmakers called the Right Path.  We have made progress at eliminating discrimination based on race and ethnicity, but too much of that has been just lip service and political correctness.  What we must do now is achieve that emotional acceptance of the fact that among humans there are no aliens!


 That is my mantra, and I will keep repeating it as long as I can utter words.

Links to other posts in this series:

Saturday, November 19, 2016

How Will Humanity Lift Itself Out of the 2nd Dark Age? No. 2 in my New Series of Mythmaker Posts

I don’t want to waste effort reviewing all the things that went wrong on Earth during the 21st through the 24th centuries, since you can read about that in the above summation of My Future History.  I will only say that the effect of “radiant” bombing and also of an uncontrollable new weapon invented by the Techno-Warlords – a pseudo-organism called a self-replicating nanobot – put the finishing touches to the destruction in the period called the Apocalyptical (last half of the 24th century).  At that point much of Earth became uninhabitable, leaving only a gaggle of disconnected entities, with some areas remaining less damaged than other (the British Isles, Australia, Japan, portions of North America and other continents).  These areas existed in isolation, without the ability to trade or even communicate with other parts of the world, and they were ruled mostly by tyrants who jealously guarded whatever remnants of technology they could glean.  There was no longer an internet and most libraries and seats of learning had been destroyed.
So how could any vestige of civilization and knowledge be kept alive?  Here the easiest thing to do is to quote from My Future History:

“Throughout the Second Dark Age there endured a minority of people who valued reason, compassion, freedom, and order and who never entirely lost their faith in human nature.  Overwhelmed by the misery of the time, these people had to go underground, communicating by a primitive shortwave radio relay network in places where parts for the equipment could be fabricated or scavenged.  These people had acquired a name: the Underground Archivists, composed of teachers, writers, librarians, scientists, and information technicians.  ... The Archivists took inspiration from works of 20th century Fantasists like Fahrenheit 451 and The Mote in God’s Eye and began to collect and secrete any knowledge of the past that seemed to them useful for the future.  They would hide books or any format of compressed electronic information that they could acquire; they would even scrounge pencil stubs and stray scraps of paper from old middens and copy out by hand material they thought worth preserving.  They placed their hoards in any container that they thought might protect them – oil drums, shell casings, coffins, the husks of now-useless refrigerators and electronic devices – and hid them in old bunkers, caves, bank vaults, abandoned subway and utility tunnels.  Then they died, leaving their caches behind for subsequent generations to rediscover.”

This is why you’ll find passages in The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars like this one (from the incomplete second part):

 “Robbie sprawled on the couch and started scrambling idly through the links.  For a while he listened to GovNews’s daily review of the contents of the most recently discovered Underground Archivist caches; the wide-ranging nature of what those remarkable people had thought worthy of preservation never ceased to fascinate him.  This time there were 22nd century maps of a Devastation Zone city called Atlanta, along with the blueprints of some of the commercial buildings built in that era.  There were photocopies of a dozen 20th century publications called “comic books” (although the commentator noted that the name was mystifying, since the content of these works of graphic fiction appeared to consist almost entirely of depictions of horror and violent crime, with very little humor).  In Nipon a collection of vids had come to light illustrating an incredibly grotesque sport called sumo, accompanied by a book detailing its history and rules.  And there was a unique vid that had bioscientists quite excited; it showed the extinct three-toed sloth moving through a sector of the Amazen rainforest that was now a dry wasteland …
“And, unearthed in an archaeological excavation that was ongoing in the Safrisco salt marshes of the West Ammeriken Coast, an especially significant historical find – original records from the late 23rd century detailing the last days of an institution called University of California.  The cache included a five-year diary written by the last Chancellor of the University.  The journal ended abruptly at 22 March 2290, the day when the series of earthquakes had commenced that brought an end to civilization on the Ammeriken Pacifik Coast.  The Old Ammeriken States had been facing continental civil war at that time and no resources were available to rebuild anything destroyed by natural calamities.  It was all prime stuff.”

But there was more to the salvation of civilization than simply the preservation of data and artifacts.  Among the ranks of the Archivists were some inspired, genuinely creative individuals who chose to produce a new canon of literature and other art forms that could form the basis of a new. humanist ethic.  Not a single one of these creators ever signed any of their works so they remain eternally anonymous.  Their works were preserved by the Archivists in the same way that more prosaic knowledge was preserved – in those secret caches. 

The writers of these works came to be known as the Mythmakers.

I have a lot of information on the Mythmakers in the documents where I preserve notes for my writing.  What they wrote was mostly fantasy fiction or variations on fantastic themes, but they also composed poetry, dramas, and music, and produced graphic art.  On Facebook I recently viewed Ursula K. LeGuin’s acceptance speech when she was awarded the National Book Foundation’s medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In it she “explained how authors, especially fantasy writers, have a special opportunity to stand up to the corporate system because they can portray a world very different from the one we currently live in.”  I think the same is true in a broader sense – that fantasy writers have a special opportunity and even obligation to influence the way we think about the fundamentals of our lives.  They can become the Mythmakers of our future.
The 26th century, when civilization was coming back to life, was a time of vigorous philosophical ferment.  By the 27th century, the Mythmaker’s humanistic philosophy had taken root, and a set of 20 Precepts had been formulated, not as prescriptive laws or commandments but as a rational guide to right behavior.  People accepted this new way of thinking and this enabled the unification of Earth, which had proved impossible in earlier times, and hence qualified Earthers to attempt to fly to the stars and take their place in the greater Galaxy.  So perhaps the Second Dark Age will be worth all the losses.

So what are the Mythmaker Precepts all about?  Next time, we’ll begin an analysis.

Link to earlier post in this series:

Sunday, November 13, 2016

What Can We Expect from the Future? My New Series of Mythmaker Posts

The current stressful political climate in the United States has stimulated me to make a new  attempt to expound on my concept of future history and how the Mythmaker philosophy fits into it.  The best (and most painless) way to learn about my thinking is to read my books, particularly The Termite Queen, v. 1 and 2, and Fathers and DemonsThe Man Who Found Birds among the Stars still hasn’t been published, but it will contain the best exposition yet of my vision of the future.  Even my termite series The Labors of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head contains passages that reflect my thinking. 
The Termite Queen contains a somewhat lengthy section that encapsulates the future history of Earth.  I’ve excerpted that in a separate page of this blog.  Find it on the Pages cross-column above.
Lately I’ve seen three foreshadowings of elements that I predicted in my future history.  The first is obvious – the prevalence of religious fanaticism leading to vicious wars. To quote my own writing in The Termite Queen: “The militant religionist movement that began early in the 21st century resulted in a succession of conflicts known as the Zealot Wars.”  I’ll address that problem in later posts. 
 The second element is what I called the Fractures, and the third is the rise of the TWLs (the Techno-Warlords).  To quote again: “In the 22nd century the period known as the Fractures began, when time-hallowed nation-states – the ironically named ‘Great Powers’ – of Earth began to break apart and make war with each other and within themselves.  It was the time of the Techno-Warlords – the TWLs – dictators who sought to seize for themselves the remnants of the petroleum reserves and who lived by advancing technology exclusively for the purpose of producing an increasingly horrific war machine.”
So are the Fractures already beginning?  The European Union is in trouble, and lately there has been secessionist talk in California, which is certainly big enough to be a country to itself.  Texas has always wanted to be its own country.  French-speaking Canada might like to go it alone if it were encouraged. 
And then comes Donald Trump, who wants to wall off the United States and ban immigration as much as possible (or at least so he says – no telling what he will really do).  At a time when we should be encouraging globalization and a unified Earth, he and a lot of people whose livelihoods are threatened want to retreat from it.  We need to become expansive and inclusive – to learn to work together, not bicker with each other and fight and kill our own kind.
Fractures encourage the rise of the TWL.  In my conceptualization, Hitler is considered the first Techno-Warlord because he was the first to use rockets as weapons.  There is a passage on this in Fathers and Demons (laid in the 28th century), where Chaim Oman is recounting the history of the Jewish people post-20th century:

Everybody stirred a little, because the atrocities of the 20th century were tenaciously included in the history curriculum.  Linna said, “That marks the onset of humanity’s descent into the Second Dark Age.  It’s not only because the first radiant bombs were exploded then.  It’s also because of that Uropian dictator – I don’t recall his name right off – who set out to cleanse the human species of elements he judged inferior.  I think he murdered around ten million people.”
Dr. Yow added contemplatively, “His name was Hitler.  He used the primitive technology of the time for his racial purification and he was the first tyrant to use rockets as weapons.  For those reasons he’s known as the PTWL – the Proto-Techno-Warlord.  He wasn’t the one who exploded the first radiant weapons, though.  That honor goes to the government of the Old Ammeriken States.”

That’s why anybody with a sense of history is afraid of Donald Trump, because he has seemed to encourage his followers to commit violent acts and to hate those who are unlike, and because he exhibits demagogic tendencies, to want to be able to dictate rather than cooperate and legislate (his overweening battle cry “I alone can fix it.”)  Again, I’m not really sure whether he is serious in these statements or whether he is a clever actor, playing the “sucker born every minute” card, and playing it very well.  After all, Mr. Bloomberg didn’t call Trump a conman for nothing.
Basic to my future history is the depletion of the Earth’s oil reserves.  When I first wrote my future history (around 2002), I checked on the amount of oil that was left and it was about 50 years worth.  I was appalled.  Do you know how short a time 50 years is?  It passes in an eye-blink!  I’m 76 and it seems like just the other day that I was 26.
So just now I checked the figure again to see if it had changed.  See this post from BP where it is stated  “In June, BP provided an intriguing update to its global oil reserves estimates in the company's yearly review of energy statistics. It raised its reserve estimate by 1.1% to 1,687.9 billion barrels – just enough oil to last the world 53.3 years at the current production rates.”
So I figured that unless the Earth gets its act together, we’d better find other means of producing the power that our ultra-high technology consumes, or we’ll be in real trouble.  My view is pessimistic.  We’re going to use up all the oil and have nothing ready to replace it by the beginning of the 22nd century.  At that point the electrical grid collapses, communication and transportation break down, and we head for a return to the Stone Age, or very near.
Of course, run-away climate change plays its part, too, with coastal cities disappearing under the sea, along with drought and water-famines and the rise of mutated disease organisms ...  However, I’m not getting into all that here.  Let me just say that all that will feed into the Fractures and the rise of the TWLs.

So, yes, I’m a pessimist about the future of Earth – in the short run.  But I have not been pessimistic about the nature of humanity (although I’ve been having my doubts lately).  There will be people who keep the best aspects of humanity alive throughout the coming Second Dark Age.  And that will be the subject of later posts.