Wednesday, April 05, 2006

From another blog....

I hope Yrautca doesn't mind, but he posted this the other day, and I responded to it, but it was kind of far down on his blog and mine and somewhat fragmented, so I consolidated. Here's what's been said so far,
Yrautca posted -

The Replicator
Back in 1999, I was finishing my MBA and although I had had almost five years of working experience, in retrospect I was naive. I admit that at the turn of the century I was under the impression that the 21st century would be without war, that human beings would come together as a community, help and love each other, nobody would ever sleep hungry or in pain again. Surely the 21st century had the promise to bring forth an enlightened human race. So when our president declared war, I could not believe it for the longest time. I have always been a pacifist but to witness a war after the year 1999 was like blasphemy to me. Like I said, I was naive.

I don't understand my life. I don't understand the world. I tend to think a lot about what it all means. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that human beings are not meant to exist in a state of harmony and peace. No species is for that matter. It broke my heart at first but now I have accepted it. We all take our time to come to terms with the reality.

Wikipedia describes a molecule called the replicator that came into existence at the beginning of life on earth. "This had the bizarre property of promoting the chemical reactions which produced a copy of itself, and evolution proper began." The funny thing about this molecule was that it competed with other molecules and promoted its own kind, sometimes at the expense of other molecules. This theme is all too obvious in the theory of evolution. Survival of the fittest is a fancy phrase to describe the process. Basically, its annihilation of the weaker. What doesn't look like you must be beaten in the race of survival.

Millions of years of evolution and we are still living, and dying, by this one principle. No matter how hard we try and convince ourselves that we can all live in peace, it is not possible. We are not programmed that way. Socialism is not a part of the software called human species. Its not in our Operating System.

In today's day and age this translates into a battle of races and religions. My race is better than yours and I will make sure that I survive and you don't. My god is better than yours and I will kill you in his/her name. This will go on. We will never see a peaceful earth.

One thing struck me when I was thinking about this. Evolution theory is a racist theory. Intelligent Design is a socialist theory. I found it very interesting that most liberals would subscribe to the theory of evolution and most conservatives would embrace Intelligent Design. After all Intelligent Design is synonymous to the existence of god. Yet, most liberals are socialists and most conservatives are not. How does one explain this apparent conflict of ideas?

I reached the conclusion that people use god to further their own cause. God, in his/her current shape and form, is an instrument for the advanced replicator - the human being. All religions preach peace and harmony but today's world is an obvious proof that god has become merely a tool for one race to subdue and eventually annihilate another race. See, evolution would make a case for the survival of the fittest race and Intelligent Design would make a case for coexistence. Yet, those who believe in Intelligent Design and in god as an extension of it are the very people responsible for waging wars against those with a different god. In the end, their idea of god just feeds their own ego and gives them an excuse to replicate their own kind and eradicate all other molecules, species, and humans. If you are a socialist, an atheist, and a believer of the theory of evolution, you essentially believe in racial and ideological superiority of one people over another. If you are a religious conservative, in principle you should believe in coexistence but in practice you feel superior to those who don't believe in your version of god. Such is the hypocritical state of existence of us humans.

Then I replied in his comment section -

Jennifer said...
What makes you think that evolution theory is racist? I don't understand. Darwin shied away from applying evolution to people at all and nobody in their right mind would argue that different races are different species - so where are you going with the whole racist angle? Please explain.

I agree with you about competition and conflict in society, although I tend to think that the begining of our problems came with the time we left the gatherer/hunter lifestyle and became sedentary and started farming rather than focusing on life in general.

Then he replied in my comment section -

Yrautca said...
Off topic:

About your comment on my blog regarding evolution, I admit maybe I was too quick to join the dots on race. My mindset was look at Africa fighting for their survival and look at the West unhappy because they dont have an iPod. In the end, one race may survive and the other might not. Maybe one race is more adept to surviving and advancing its own kind. I admit this in itself sounds a bit racist but you can look at the world today and can see some races doing much better than other races.


yrautca said...

This is a controversial issue and I may get in trouble here.

But think about it, the African nations are killing each other whereas we stop at a red light at 3am in the morning. Some would say the west (includes Europe) exploited the African countries and other 3rd world countries.

Hmmmm let me think, you get exploited if you are stupid, which is exactly the point here. You can say the west used underhanded tactics. Hmmmm.. nation that lets underhanded tactics against itself is stupid, which is the point here. You can say Afirca doesn’t have that many natural resources. I doubt it. And if they don’t then why did they not move thousands of years ago. It would only have been a smart thing to do.

I am only thinking out loud here. I don’t necessarily agree with myself.

And Jennifer you forgot to include my posts where I was shamelessly hitting on you. You are such a shy girl. I dig that.

Jennifer said...

I don't even know where to start with everything that's wrong with this argument - but I'm sure that everyone will be thankful to know that I'm not hot under the collar about it and I won't swear at you this time.
Often times I end up seeming like a wet blanket when I try to explain the scientific theory of evolution to people who are just throwing their mistaken concept of social Darwinism into an argument for the sake of spice or to seem smart, but I'm going to delve ahead anyway.
Evolution is a scientific theory (a theory which most people don't actually understand, but we'll cross that bridge only if necessary). Race is a social construct not a scientific theory. I can't impress upon anyone how important this distinction is.
Science once looked at race as a scientific qualifier and anthropology had a sub-discipline called Race Science, they used to measure heads and use equations to quantify and scientifically determine race .... the Nazis adopted this technique to try to identify Jews who were trying to pass as gentiles. You have to understand that anthropology - my academic discipline - was also the discipline that produced the crackpots who came up with this whole thing, also came up with a categorization called the 7 levels of savagery, for classifying the races they encountered during colonial explorations. Yes, this is the academic discipline I chose, shameful, but no point in trying to hide it - I am not a race scientist - although I often joke about it, much to the horror of others.
So, my point in mentioning this is that a lot of stuff has been written about race and race science over the years and all of it is crap.
It is impossible to quantify race.
Now, is race a factor in social interactions? yes. Do many people perceive racial characteristics in each other and act accordingly? Yes. Do some groups, at some times, try to annihilate those they perceive to be of a certain race? Yes, it's called genocide. Are these things related to evolution? No, not any more than anything else is related to evolution.

Now onto current politics and the history behind them.
Shit is going down in Africa and other third world countries, but there are reasons why.
Before colonialism things in Africa were happening without European interference. People rose to power, wars were fought, business as usual.
The Europeans arrived and between bouts of malaria they played groups against each other, offered weapons to both, and in the guise of friendship and trade, undermined any peace or prosperity that they had.
So, once they had turned everyone against each other, and shipped huge numbers of young people out on slave ships, and subdued some of the problems they were having with tropical diseases with new medications, they convinced everyone that these places where basket-cases and took them over as protectorates. Then once they had done that, they started shipping the natural resources out of the countries. You'll notice that all the colonial era railroads don't go from one place to another, they go straight out to the sea so that the Europeans could very efficiently strip resources and bring them to the coast and ship them away. Eventually they took over as government altogether and the places became colonies. European colonists started to move to Africa in larger numbers at this point. They threw agriculturalists off their lands and they squeezed pastoralists off of grasslands that they had been using for thousands of years. Many Africans were relegated to marginal lands or ended up working for the colonials. The problem for the colonials was that not enough Africans were prepared to work for them, preferring to scratch out an existence on whatever marginal lands were left for them, rather than break their backs in mines or weeding cash crops, so the colonials introduced taxes to force them into the cash economy. Taxes of a pound a year were enforced, you went to jail, or were beaten, or had to do forced labour if you didn't pay, therefor you couldn't just exist off of the land any more because you had to get a job and enter the cash economy in order to pay the tax. Large portions of the arable land were taken up with growing coffee and palm for palm oil production or sugar cane for export. This land would have otherwise been used to grow food.
Fast forward to the end of colonialism proper in Africa, resistance movements start, there are uprisings, ya da ya da... The colonial powers decide bit by bit to close up shop and leave. They want get out as easily as possible and preferably without having to admit that what they did was wrong, and the only way to get out without a huge backlash against them was to stir up local issues amongst groups of Africans. This was pretty easy for them, because it was a tactic that they had been using for a long time to maintain power. I'll cite an example. Rwanda and Burundi, two countries, side by side, in Africa - you may remember these names from news clips about Hutus and Tutsis killing each other. Here's the deal, one country has a majority of Hutus, and a minority of Tutsis and the other country has the opposite configuration. Where did these stupid borders come from? Well it was those crafty colonials, Belgians in this case, who drew the border in such a way to lump two groups together so that they would use the tactics they had learned from the colonials to keep each other down, and fight amongst themselves, and stay basket-cases, for long enough that the colonials would seem justified in being there in the first place and would be able to make a clean getaway.

I could go into the ways that colonialism is continuing in an economic form today, or how some of the former colonials are still getting involved (namely the French who meddled in the Togolese elections last year among other things) We could talk about the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and Structural adjustment etc etc
but I've gone on long enough. And if people were really interested in this kind of stuff, then they'd know a lot more about it, and it would offend their sensibilities and they wouldn't allow their governments to keep doing it. Or maybe my fingers are just tired of typing.

yrautca said...

Very well said Jennifer. You indeed have complete mastery over your prose and ideas. However, what part of “you get exploited if you are stupid” did you not understand? You did not either read or understand my post above. Europens colonized Africa. Why did the Africans not colonize Europe? Europeans made Africans fight each other. This statement does not even warrant acknowledgement. How stupid must you be to fight your brother because some white guy said so.

Maybe you are making the presumption that the Africans were inherently good people and Europenas inherently evil, in which case, my dear jenn, you are a racist pig, now arent you?

Now if it were the case that same Africans exploieted some Europians and some Europians exploited some Africans, we could have concluded that yes there are good and bad people on both sides but the playing field is even. However, as you mentioned in your post, the exploitation was a one-way street.

It just makes us feel a little better thinking somebody did bad stuff to us instead of accepting that we deserved it.

Having said it all, you know that if you called the sun the moon or an elephant a donkey, or if you asked me to write a thosand times on a piece of paper ‘jennifer is always right’ and looked at me a certain way, that I would say yes to all.

Jennifer said...

It's very American to assume that, if something bad happens to you, that it must be your fault. That's why your country has such huge social problems and not much hope for fixing them. See the irony there? Did ya? Did ya?

Seems like you do agree with yourself after all.

I think the part here that's making me cringe - well all of it is making me cringe, but this part in particular - is your generalizing of all Europeans and all Africans into one big group, assuming that they are all the same. The essence of racism is to assume that all members of a race have similar qualities. There were African slave traders, opportunists on both sides, there were white people who were being exploited too .... I was attempting to boil hundreds of years of African history down to the highlights.

yrautca said...

I don’t agree with you that I agree with myself. The big question is why some races are doing better than others. The argument makes me cringe too. But the fact that it makes me uncomfortable should not stop me from thinking about it, even if in the process I start doubting my sanity.

My closest tie to the Right wingers is that I do believe everyone is masters/mistresses(?) of their own fate and most worldly bad things are brought on us by ourselves. Don’t expect and wait for others to come and help you out. Get out there and fix things that you can fix. Hey, I come from a poor family.

Anyway, didn’t mean to be a headache to you. Will send some cool lotion for the fingers if you provided me with a street address.

Jennifer said...

Bah! Now it's you not listening to me - racial generalisations! Racial generalisations!
Here's the thing, there are plenty of people from every race doing just fine, and plenty of whities who are doing badly. And there is no connection between how well you do in life and what race you are other than the possibility of being treated better or worse by others as a result of your looks.

Systematic racism from governments and international bodies do keep people from living up to their full potential. Perhaps I should have gone into the stuff I skipped about the IMF and Workd Bank, but I have to go to physio now, maybe later.
Anyway, it's fab that you dragged yourself out of poverty, but you've said you're a guy, I assume that you're probably white or whitish considering your attitude and poverty in North America is nothing compared to real poverty. I don't want to start a poor mouth competition with you about how poor you really were - because really it's irrelevant - I was in Bangladesh a few years ago and the poverty I saw there could not possibly compare to any of the poverty I see living next to one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada.

paul said...

from neal stephenson's crytonomicon:

Let's set the existence-of-god issue aside for a later volume, and just stipulate that in some way, self-replicating organisms came into existence on this planet and immediately began trying to get rid of each other, either by spamming their environments with rough copies of themselves, or by more direct means which hardly need to be belabored. Most of them failed, and their genetic legacy was erased from the universe forever, but a few found some way to survive and to propagate. After about three billion years of this sometimes zany, frequently tedious fugue of carnality and carnage, Godfrey Waterhouse IV was born, in Murdo, South Dakota, to Blanche, the wife of a Congregational preacher named Bunyan Waterhouse. Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo--which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead.

As nightmarishly lethal, memetically programmed death-machines went, these were the nicest you could ever hope to meet.

yrautca said...

I don’t know this paul bloke but this post made me burst out laughing hard at work to the extent that coworkers including boss man looked at me suspicious and one colleague insisted I tell him what’s so funny. I said, your ma. Please refrain from posting such messages while I am at work. Thanks.

paul said...

ahem, "cryptonomicon", not what I said earlier. stephenson is one of my favourite authors, and this is one of the best books I've read.

Jennifer said...

It's cause Paul's the nicest badass you'll ever meet.

paul said...

and I should mention, continuing with the stephenson fetish, that in his book Snow Crash the [half-japanese] main character is named Hiro Protagonist.

Jennifer said...

Did I ever talk to you about "Calculating God"? Good book, bang on regarding the museum.

paul said...

no you hadn't! I'm glad you enjoyed. it gets a bit trippy at times but I enjoyed it. I thought the political references were a bit didactic though.

tokyo tintin said...

yrautca, if you are really interested in learning why people from some part of the world did better than people in other parts of the world (of example, why northern europeans colonised africa and not the other way around), you should read jared diamond's excellently written "Guns, Germs and Steel".

perhaps jennifer with her big brain will dismiss this as hopeless, wishy-washy psuedo pop science, but he comes up with the most convincing theory that i've ever heard. while there are some points for debate, he certainly does a great job eplaxaining why the first humans came from africa, but the first civilisations started in the middle east (mesopotamia, egypt); why the chinese spent about 2000 years being top dog, wondering what shade of vermillion lacquer tray would best match the almond cakes for the plum-blossom party while everyone else was up to thier eyeballs in filth, squalor and pesilence; and then how the europeans managed to take over from them, basically overnight.

i haven't had a chance to read his latest book "Collapse" --about why civilisations fail-- but i'm sure it would also add some light to the equations as well.

Jennifer said...

Actually, TT, I have been planning on reading that book for years. Then the NG movie on the subject came out and I was planning on renting that too, but every time we are at the video store the boyfriend vetos it, maybe I'll get around to both now that I'm unemployed.

yrautca said...

TT, just read your message. I will definitely check out that book. Thanks for telling me about it.