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Friday, August 27, 2010

Continuing the Discussion: Antje and Karla

Blame it all on Darwin, I mean the use of race, nationality, and the idea that competition between the sexes is a key evolutionary mechanism with the consequence that man has ultimately become superior to woman. The National Socialists played with it and gave it a slight twist, namely, the idea that competition between races, nationalities, or ethnic groups is a key evolutionary mechanism with the consequence that Nordic man has ultimately become superior to all else.

It is a great achievement that civilization, by means of World War II, decisively defeated Darwin’s twist—Darwin’s twisted cross. That defeat is an empirical fact achieved by the phenomenon we have largely overlooked—I mean, allied Cooperation.

Here I must refer readers to a fascinating paper by Kathleen Boiling Lowrey published in Anthropology Today, vol 26, no 4, August 2010, pp 18-21 entitled “Alfred Russel Wallace as ancestor figure.” Lowrey puzzles why it is that Darwin won the upper hand in evolutionary theory when anthropological research shows overwhelmingly that not competition but cooperation is the more powerful mechanism behind human evolution. She finds part of the answer in the following: (a) Darwin’s explanation was more congenial to his era than was that of Alfred Russel Wallace, and more importantly (b) while Wallace was by far the superior fieldworker who spent years living on his own in the Malay archipelago he was rather spiritual. Wallace “considered the lush complexity of human thought a serious mystery, one inexplicable within the necessity-driven framework of natural selection” (ibid:21). In other words, while Darwinian evolution answered the question, “Is this all there is?” with “Yes,” Wallace answered “No.”

When Antje responded to my last post, she showed that she was a superior fieldworker and being such brings valuable insights. Regarding the question of nationality and collective guilt of “the German”, she addressed her peers as follows:
So next time you talk to somebody about their nationality or their country you should realise that the moment you do that, you jerk them right out of who they are and force them to look at themselves from the outside and through your eyes. You force exteriorisation on them. That’s not a horrible thing to do, not for you anyway; but know that you always lose a bit of the person you were talking to when you do that. As a result, you will never know them for who they are, you will only know them for who you want them to be: Foreigners.

Wallace by being a superior fieldworker went beyond mere empathy; he became aware of what he called “aesthetic sensibility” as the marker of humanity. He did not force “exteriorization” on them nor impose on them racial or national homogeneity. He saw their depth and beauty and the individual variation thereof. Most amazingly, “Wallace attributed this definitive human capacity to some sort of higher power.”