In my “Changing Our Species Name” I question Homo sapiens as an appropriate name for our species, and suggest an alternative that I believe to be more appropriate.  The reason that I give in that paper is not the only reason, however, for changing our species name; in this paper I suggest another reason.

Let me preface my remarks here, though, with the following facts:

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported [date not given] that (a) there have been 134 homicides locally in 2020 “so far,” (b) gave data on those homicides, and (c) included a map that shows where the homicides have occurred.  (These facts are of interest to me because I live in a Milwaukee suburb.)

The fact that homicides occur in our society has not, of course, gone unnoticed; it has resulted in the creation of police forces, lawyers, judges, and jails/prisons.  That is, it has resulted in substantial job creation!  The question that I address here, however, is this:

Has the way we have responded to the occurrence of homicides (and other anti-social behaviors) been the most rational way to do so?

Our minds have “told” us that we have responded in the best possible manner; but all that indicates is that we have feeble minds!  Actually, it would be more accurate to say that our response indicates:

  1. A lack of imagination.
  2. A lack of knowledge regarding the history of our species.

Of those two factors, I regard the second one as having special importance.  Below, I explain why.

My starting point here is with the fact that “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” was our “decision” to abandon hunting and gathering,[1] as the sources of our sustenance, for agriculture.  That change in the basis of our sustenance “was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered.  With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.”   And:  “Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity:  deep class divisions.”  A fact that implies that the exploitation of some, by others, began after agriculture displaced hunting and gathering.  After, that is, civilization[2] began.

What was it about the adoption of agriculture that led the occurrence of problems that had not plagued hunter-gatherer bands?  Here’s the explanation that I would offer:

  1. Whereas hunter-gatherers had been mobile, agriculture imposed a sedentary way of life on those who adopted it.
  2. Having a sedentary way of life is conducive to growth in population size of the group.
  3. That growth tends to weaken the bonds that connected one member of the group with the other members.
  4. Whereas hunter-gatherer bands had developed practices that enabled them to retain their egalitarian ways, those practices lost their power as the group grew larger in size.
  5. That fact provided an opportunity for those with dominance tendencies to begin to exercise those tendencies.
  6. Therefore, exploitation began to occur, and the eventual outcomes were the emergence of social class systems—and civilization.  And the need for police, lawyers, judges, and jails/prisons!

If my “theory” is correct, the implication is that the concept of “human scale” has merit.  And insofar as that concept has applicability to human settlements, the implication is that if modern societies would make an effort to “de-size,” the need for police, etc., would decrease.

An example of what might be done is for the national government to create a program of initiating ecovillages.[3]  Here is one definition of “ecovillage”:

An ecovillage is an intentional, traditional or urban community that is consciously designed through locally owned participatory processes in all four dimensions of sustainability (social, culture, ecology and economy) to regenerate social and natural environments.

Doing so would not, I should add, be a “new thing” for our society; for during the New Deal period of our history the national government created “resettlement” communities, “subsistence homestead” communities, and three “greenbelt” towns.[4]

If the national government were to initiate such a program, and if many of the society’s discontented individuals were to be attracted to the small communities created, this could have an important impact on anti-social behaviors.  Reducing them substantially, and thereby reducing the need for police, etc.

Is that likely to occur, however?

If some individuals in the law enforcement field perceive the implications of such a program, they are likely to fight its occurrence.  After all, they have a vested interest in the continued occurrence of anti-social behaviors; their jobs are dependent anti-social behaviors remaining a problem!  Granted that from a societal standpoint it would be best to decrease the rate of criminality, and develop more productive occupations for those who now work in the law enforcement “industry.”  But our leaders—in both government and the corporate realm—are too lacking in imagination, intelligence, and wisdom to recognize this, and then act on it.

Thus, that portion of our species, at least, living in the United States (but not only here, I suspect!), the species name Homo sapiens (meaning “wise”) warrant the species name Homo stultusStultus means “foolish, stupid”!

Being stupid in the modern world is not advisable!  Given the very real possibility alluded to by the title of this article:  “Human Extinction by 2026?”!

A point that I should add before closing is this:  We live, today, in a dangerous world dominated by a few state powers.   Because of that fact, “wise” de-sizing has its limits.  However, given that de-sizing is unlikely to go “too far,” that’s not a problem that should concern us.  What should concern us is the fact is the fact that Earth is getting hotter, and:

An international team of scientists has published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.

The fact that “The Planet Is Dangerously Close to the Tipping Point for a ‘Hothouse Earth‘” is what should most concern us.  And the fact that it isn’t being given the priority that it deserves is worrisome, indeed!

[1]  Regarding this “abandonment,” this article—“Why Humans Took Up Farming:  They Like to Own Stuff”—offers an interesting perspective!

[2]  For an analysis of “civilization” see Christopher Ryan’s Civilized to Death:  The Price of Progress (2019).

[3]  Many such villages now exist in this world, as this map demonstrates.

[4]  This article discusses the “green belt” concept.  Related to this is the “garden city” movement.

Alton C. Thompson is an independent writer


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