Evolve Already!

In a sad comment on these times, I feel obliged to begin by declaring the “theory” of evolution in its most basic sense entirely correct, despite the fundamentalist religious zealotry preventing many of our fellow humans from learning or understanding it.

Valid debates remain over important but relatively subtle points of evolutionary theory, such as the degree to which organisms inherit behavioural as well as physical traits, the maximum speed with which evolutionary changes can occur, and the impact of individuals versus groups in the evolutionary process.

One measure of adaptivity to our environment here on this planet involves the transition from nomadic gatherer-hunter clans to city-states requiring agriculture to remain stationary and support specialized societal roles. Gatherer-hunter is more appropriate terminology than hunterer-gatherer due to the relative frquency and importance of the two activities for clan survival. Aggregation of city-states through cooperation or conquest produces nations and empires until experiments with genocidal destruction prompt species-level thought and action. Finally, potential catastrophic worldwide resource depletion lays the foundation for planetary ecosphere consciousness.

Today, humans on this planet have made it virtually impossible for any remaining gatherer-hunter societies to continue. Agricultural production is at risk from corporate monoculture methods, threatening the food supply of humans. Nations regularly wage wars at an unimaginable cost in human suffering and empires explore every avenue for exploiting natural and human resources through corporate dominance over representational governments with no regard for “externalities”.

As a species, only a minority have attained species-level thought and action and even fewer are operating with planetary ecosphere consciousness. Imperatives toward clan, nation, empire, and species loyalty will have to evolve rapidly to awareness of our perilous self-manipulated environment if we are to adapt to 21st century realities on planet earth.

The only way to avoid species suicide, dragging many other species along with us, is by learning as much as possible about the ecosphere and our effects on it. Can we navigate a trajectory that provides a basic quality of life for all of us? Is it possible to retain notions of basic human rights and justice? I believe the answer will come through increased education and communication, acts of compassion for our fellow humans and those of all species, and decisionmaking structures that push representation to individuals to the degree each decision impacts each of us.

Slave Culture

Sterling Stuckey’s Notes on Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America is an impressive survey of the roots of African-American nationalism from the earliest slave period until the mid-twentieth century. The book weaves accounts of African rituals, customs, and spirituality into historical accounts of events in the United States. By drawing on the lives of Simon Brown, Denmark Vesey, David Walker, Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, William Hamilton, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Paul Robeson, the book provides access and perspective on the ongoing debate within African-American communities about integration versus nationalism. The author masterfully documents and explains the connections between African and African-American culture, both slave and free, and how they drive the political awareness and action of African-Americans and, to some extent, Africans everywhere.


Crash” (2004) is a powerful portrayal of contemporary racism. Directed by Paul Haggis and set in contemporary Los Angeles, the film is reminiscent of Lawrence Kasdan’s “Grand Canyon” (1991) and should not be confused with an earlier “Crash” (1996) based on the book by J.G. Ballard. “Crash” follows an impressive cast of characters through a tightly woven story about how the slightest tendency to judge others by their color, religion, or culture, can have a disastrous impact.

The most powerful scene is the actual crash. Ordinarily when I cry watching a film, I know somewhere inside the reason why I’m so moved but, in this case, a rising tide of intricate emotions overwhelmed me. Other important scenes include the surprise carjacking, the angel and the bullet, and the rookie cop picking up a hitchhiker.

A Latino friend points out that the film tends to polarize black-white conflict, leaving Latinos less visible than one would expect in Los Angeles.

However, it is no coincidence that “Crash” is picking up a lot of awards and nominations along with Ang Lee’s and Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). Both films describe the horrifying impacts of prejudice and intolerance, an issue of extreme importance in today’s society. A subtle tension in both films is whether they intend to portray the enmeshment of hate and ignorance in American culture simply to reflect and bring awareness, or as an indictment whose remedy is both personal and societal introspection leading to creative change.