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A Brief Review of the Struggle Between Man and Nature... for those who've so conveniently forgotten!
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I write this addendum to the site because so many folks have sent me angry-grams regarding my statements about the development (or rather underdevelopment) of the native American tribes upon the arrival of the first Europeans. I figure a brief history lesson is in order, and if it stops even one more stinking pile of hippie-drivel from polluting my inbox, it will have been worth writing!
Most of Mankind developed at nearly the same rate during the last few million years, though this was primarily dictated by those who lived and those who perished. True natural selection has a way of ensuring that you either keep pace with those around you, or die trying.
About a half million years ago, man's first true breakthrough occurred. It came in the form of harnessing fire. This was the first time that man could control any aspect of nature. Fire allowed heat and light when nature provided none, and allowed people to inhabit the relative safety of caves and other rudimentary shelters. The era of the early "caveman" had arrived.
About 100,000 years ago, the first stone tools were developed, and with these came a lot more control over nature. The first dwellings were built, and the first clothing was crafted from skins and pelts. Soon, basic grass and fiber weaves were added to the clothing lineup.
Over the next 80,000 years, these additions to mankind's communal knowledge caused a population explosion. During this time, mankind could travel far and wide, as he had clothes to protect against foul weather. Mankind no longer relied on nature to provide shelter, he could build it and even carry it with him as necessary. These factors caused a major expansion of the areas inhabited by mankind, which extended throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and eventually across the Bering Straits to the Americas.* (see addendum below)
Here is where the story nearly comes to a grinding halt. The onset of a glacial period wipes out a huge percentage of humanity and forces most of the remainder to migrate southwards. In many parts of Eurasia, the hunter/gatherer lifestyle was no longer able to support the small communities of humans. In essence, this period forced many technological advancements in the form of the first villages, complete with domesticated, fenced-in livestock and nearby crops to feed them. This communal living allows large groups to survive and flourish, and also brings many other advancements in the coming years.
Perhaps most notably, the glacial period effectively and completely isolated those tribes in the Americas for almost a hundred thousand years. Domestication of livestock, farming and permanent settlements do not develop. It appears that the abundant plant and animal life in the Americas was capable of sustaining the very small population of hunter/gatherer tribes that inhabited the continent.
With the end of the glacial period about 10,000 years ago, much of the world experiences the following breakthroughs:
10,000 years ago - Copper (metal tools end the Stone Age), true agriculture, ploughs and other farming implements are developed, and the first civilizations are formed.
6000 years ago - Invention of the Wheel, followed by oxcarts, chariots, carriages and many other forms of conveyance. Major advancements in navigation follow.
6000 years ago - Writing Systems are developed. Recorded history begins.
5500 years ago - Bronze Age begins
In much of the world, what was known as the "Stone Age" came to an end with the first extraction of copper from ore. Metal tools launched a new age in which much of the world enjoyed a prosperous and technologically explosive period of development. Those areas that were isolated from this knowledge and growth were left far behind, and were (quite literally) still in the "Stone Age". I do not use this term as a derogatory statement, I use it merely as an honest historical assessment.
The last 5000 years of human history has seen many significant breakthroughs in what was essentially a long-term technology explosion. The advancements include iron, steel, glass, sundials, timekeeping, modern cloth & clothing, paper, sailing ships, windmills, chariots, carts, carriages, horseshoes, stirrups, hammers, saws (and many other construction tools), stoves, lamps, gunpowder, cannon, firearms, etc etc etc. All of this happened throughout Europe, Asia and northern Africa as a wide variety of cultures and civilizations competed for dominance and learned from the advances of their neighbors.
None of this reached the Americas until about 350 years ago. The seclusion of the tribes that had migrated to the Americas was complete, and the isolation effect was devastating to their cultural development. When the European settlers arrived, the indians essentially had the same elementary survival tools that they had arrived with 100,000 years earlier (fire, stone tools, basic pelt and grass clothing, etc). With no catastrophic events, no cultural exchange, and no outside impetus to advance, their technological development had all but stopped.
When the first European settlers arrived in North America, the indian tribes were indeed nomadic stone age hunter/gatherers. There was no true agriculture, towns, livestock, written language or any other signs that Europeans would have recognized as a civilization. The tribes had no metal tools, no horses, and had not yet invented the wheel. They had no cloth and wore mostly pelts or rudimentary woven grass and fiber. One wonders what the indians could have thought of the strange, pale newcomers who had incredible tools and technology, mastery of the oceans, and foremost... seemingly complete control over animal and plant life (livestock and agriculture). In truth, the indians were living almost at the whim of nature, and the settlers had nearly mastered it.
What happened to native tribes over the next 200 years was tragic, but it is exactly what had been happening worldwide since mankind's earliest advancements. In reality, the tribes in the Americas (through their seclusion) were able to avoid the more savage periods in world history, when empires were wiping each other off the face of the earth. What happened to them was almost a foregone conclusion. Every single historical instance of a more technologically advanced society colliding with a lesser one has resulted in either assimilation or destruction of the less technologically advanced society. These are the well-established rules of nature and are also made evident in the history of man. The strong and the well-adapted survive, while weaker and/or less adaptable species and cultures either die out or are incorporated into the advanced culture. In the case of native Americans, many died and the rest assimilated.
These aren't my rules folks, and I played no part in what happened, so stop trying to shoot the messenger! I'm simply reporting obvious facts. What I will NOT do is rehash history in effete, politically correct terms simply to prevent imbecilic, thin-skinned fairies from getting their panties in a twist. History is rarely nice, and those who don't learn from it will repeat it... ad infinitum.
* I was watching an interesting special on the Discovery channel the other night. There’s a team of scientists who are now doing DNA tests on early native American remains. They think they can trace the ancestry back... but not to Asia as commonly accepted. They are now focusing on Europe as the source of American colonization, and a North Atlantic ice bridge as the earliest route of emigration. Further evidence is obtained in that “Clovis points” (a type of flint spearheads commonly knapped by early native Americans) are almost identical to those found in site excavations of early Salutrian encampments. The Salutrians were a tribe who inhabited Eastern Europe in an area that is now modern day France.
What I’m getting at here is... was all of the fighting and eventual conquest of the native Americans just Europeans fighting Europeans... and can this be counted as yet another French defeat? (That's an attempt at humor... stop sending angry-grams!)
The true essence of the modern naturalist and environmentalist movements is not the protection of mankind. Neither is it the protection of animals or even of the environment. Their true quarrel is with the order of all things. In their heart of hearts, they believe that mankind should still live and die at the whim of nature. They spend every single day feeling deep-seated guilt, or even rage, over mankind's near mastery of the natural world. They experience guilt when they (or others) eat animals, guilt over killing plants whether for food or warmth. They even feel guilty for using the stored energy of plants that died millions of years ago... (fossil fuels).
These feelings are irrational at best, and I believe they constitute a form of mental illness. The individuals who suffer from this illness usually lead miserable existences, and the guilt doesn't stop with nature. These folks typically feel guilty about all manner of things including race, gender, wealth, class, politics and religion (among many other imagined injustices). The fundamental reason for their discontent is the basic premise that the world (including nature) is a highly competitive environment where some win and others lose.
My advice is to be happy and thankful for any and all creature comforts you have in your life. They were all hard-won victories in an ongoing struggle that has cost billions of human lives. Your parents, grandparents, and generations going back millions of years struggled every day to give us the dominion of nature that we enjoy today. We as a species are where we are today because we developed wits rather than claws or fangs. Use the wits you've been given, for they are evolution's ultimate survival tool.
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