, being a response to the #metoo Facebook meme I hope you will read before making comments:
‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it’ are perhaps the only two commandments of Elohim that have been obeyed. (The suggestion for vegetarianism that followed, not so much.) These were commandments for all folks , the Elohim not yet having any favourites, but it developed that some folks had more trouble following them successfully than others.( I have no moral position here, unless following data is a moral position. I will mention Germs, Guns, and Steel.) These two commandments were encoded not just in the writings of the ancient middle east, but in the genes of all humans and all living things. I live next to a flock of ducks. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see the drake trying to be fruitful and multiply. And three wild ducks recently entered the flock in an attempt, it seems, to subdue more quackish territory, even attacking the flock’s companion puppy.
For millennia, following the primal urges was how one kept one’s genes in the pool, and one that ensured the survival of the species and also countering inbreeding. If Paris had not made sexual advances towards Helen, Homer would have had no reason to describe the wine dark sea. If Abraham had not been desperate for an heir, no one would make the Haj. If sexually aggressive men had not been considered prize catches for politically aggressive women, Canterbury would still have an archbishop appointed by the pope.
The politically-incorrect-this-week thing that I am suggesting is that the behaviour over which the internet is upset this week is the sort of behaviour that has long been biologically advantageous to the survival of the species, a species which is made uncomfortable this week by having been able to adapt to a very wide range of environmental circumstances through the development of what we embarrassingly call races. (Insert if you wish a condemnation of the Field Museum’s display of ‘The Races of Men’ exhibit I used to pass on my way to the Egyptian mummies.)
For me, the most interesting thing about the current sudden disapproval of millennia of behaviour is not the possibility that we have suddenly become morally purer than any previous generation–something our grandchildren will refute, no doubt. It is that we no longer need to worry about been fruitful. We, at least in the modernized world, don’t need women to bear twelve children to make sure the chores are done and to carry on the family name and business. Health care has kept our children alive, and for the most part the family business is irrelevant in the 21st century. The struggle to replenish the earth is no longer being fought, in a really meaningful sense, between the Greeks and the Persians but between Alibaba and Amazon.
What I think we’re seeing is an evolutionary shift from meatware (pun intended), biological life, to something that we can only begin to describe, which will make most of our previous morals and values as useful as Confederate money. (That is, keep them in a trunk or a flash drive somewhere because in a universe where everything is possible, the South and the family farm could rise again.)
One example of this change, which I would suggest is part of human evolution for our next epic epoch, is the growing number of people who do not find sexual orientation necessary or compelling. Once it was necessary. Now, it’s becoming meh. (This development is I think even more important than the number of folks who are tran-sexual or openly homosexual.)
Of course, as William Gibson reminded us, the future may indeed be here, but it’s not evenly distributed. I may, indeed I do, see the evolution from the sort of life and society in which I was born as an exciting thing to behold and as having great possibilities for a future, a near future, in which goodies are much more equally distributed. But there are folks out there who do not find a brave new world with creatures such as Chelsea Manning so attractive as did Miranda find Ferdinand. Indeed there are many who would banish the new world with it’s new institutions as Antonio did Prospero. Many of those folks are from my own generation, the generation which grew up learning to fly rockets to the moon from teachers who had only recently started driving Chevrolets to the supermarket.
So, unpopular as this suggestion may be, I encourage a disinterested view towards the immorality of folks in the past. I understand that many of us have been hurt by the sexuality of Genesis and the Iliad. I am a gay man who grew up in Arkansas, who was so steeped in Ozzie and Harriet that I never realized until I was 50 that the Iliad is more about Achilles and Patroclus than about Helen and Paris. I came out of my closet (and one Christmas when I was forced to see my real sexuality, I actually hid in a closet to avoid everyone) and then I was harassed at work. I particularly remember one fat black female co-worker who repeatedly rubbed her various bulgy parts against me and tried to convince me that she could convert me. I now realize she was playing the role the culture of Genesis had given her.
I make no claim to be able to predict the future. The United States having elected a poster child for rape and pillage as president, it could possibly end in a series of very big explosions. I hope that doesn’t happen, but then Nicky was sure that his cousins George and Willy would not go to war against each other.
What I try to do is to understand the forces vying to shape the future and to make as informed speculation as I can about what their outcomes might be like. And I look at the world with such bright thinkers as Jensen Huang or Daniel Zhang or Sundar Pichai or Elon Musk–the list could go on for a long time–and I find myself agreeing with Miranda:
‘How beauteous mankind is! O brave New world that has such people in ‘t!’
I know that her dear old Dad responds ”Tis new to thee.’ But I am quite certain that it is new to us all.