Sunday, September 09, 2012

Cultural change and resources

In my last blog we have dumped the stupidity of failing to understand why cultural changes take place.  We now know that in the world according to Jack (me, although most people call me John I like 'the world according to Jack' better) changes are caused by the group perception of a problem or the group perception of an attainable desire.

But problems are solved differently, why is that?  People, or beings, perceive things differently and apply different solutions.

Supposedly, some millions of years ago, two groups of nearly similar primates handled the same problem differently.  One group handled cold weather by running south and another group handled cold weather by killing something and wearing its skin.  The group that ran south turned into gorillas and chimpanzees and the group that killed stuff became us.

This is a simplification and a paraphrasing of what may have happened, but, correct in the essential ideology behind the concept of evolution.

So what was the difference between these two groups?  Why didn't they solve the problem the same way?


The first probable resource would be some charismatic leaders.  One convinced their people to run when it began getting cold.  The other convinced people to stay.

The second probable resource was a psychotic nutcase (in our current slang) who came up with the idea of killing something and wearing its skin.  If my previous assumptions are in the right ball park those killed were probably members of the same group.  So what probably happened is some psycho killed a member of their family, or the member was killed in some way, and the psycho used a rock to skin that person and wear their skin.

Yeah, our species "evolved" from that.  Maybe, remember that I'm a Christian so I think God placed us here on Earth some time ago (no particular time frame go shove that stupidity) and the worst among us came up with wearing people's skins for as a solution to their particular form of a problem, not for survival.

In any case the theory of evolution is a valid scientific theory and well worth spending time on.  I couldn't be a physical anthropologist because I have a problem thinking of one being killing another and wearing its skin as anything except kind of sick.  And yes, I own leather and I even have a military hood with a wolf fur trim around the hood.  Hypocritical I know.  There is a big difference between picking something out at an Army surplus store and killing something, hacking off its skin and wearing it.

Back to resources.  In my opinion the members of the species that ran south were probably the more intelligent and more physically active of the two groups.  Yet, we as a species, probably evolved from the second group that procrastinated and used the resource of dead things and their skin.

Lots of circumstantial evidence for that idea around.  As a species we are constantly talking about labor saving devices and improving productivity using the resources we have available.

The group that ran south evolved in a different way because once they were in a warmer climate they didn't have a problem that required cutting off somethings skin and wearing it.  Truthfully, the group that evolved into gorillas probably never even considered that as an option and they still don't.

That is the point.  A being has to recognize a problem, have resources available and come up with a solution that applies the usage of particular resources to a particular problem.

So the world ends, zombies crawl out of the wood work and millions starve to death because they can't eat foods that are past their expiration date.  Essentially they will starve to death because the societal or cultural taboo on eating foods past their expiration date is stronger than that individuals will to survive.

The ancestors of gorillas probably never conceived of wearing a dead somethings skin which is why they evolved into a fairly peaceful species of hunter gatherers which lives in harmony with the environment that our species spends its time destroying.

Our ancestors, on the other hand, found the idea of wearing a dead somethings skin preferable to being cold which is why we evolved into something that spends most of its time destroying other things and the rest of its time whining about it.

Different groups solve problems differently because they have different resources.  These resources include different ideas from different individuals within the group and the group acceptance of these ideas.

Did some gorilla ancestor some millions of years ago decide for some reason to wear some dead thing's skin?  I think they probably did and I think the group probably found the idea so abhorrent that, as a group, they took the unheard of action in beating that individual to death.  The ancestors of gorillas probably did not think any problem could be solved by wearing some dead thing's skin.

The group that eventually evolved into gorillas rejected the concept of wearing some dead thing's skin.

We have seen similar things in our history.  Aristotle (again with geocentric versus heliocentric!  shut up already, we get it!) comes up with the idea of a geocentric universe and the idea that the great Aristotle could be wrong is so abhorrent that not only do we kill people who disagree we blame the whole adoption of the idea of killing people who disagree with the great Aristotle on a religion that wasn't even organized until about 600 hundred years after his death.

In fact, hardly anyone tells anyone how stupid Aristotle must have been to believe in a geocentric universe.  People are still telling each other how great Aristotle was and hardly anyone ever talks about Aristarchus.

 The group perceived a problem or believed that understanding the motion of the universe was an attainable desire.  The group had access to a charismatic and intelligent person as a resource.  The group used that resource to create a solution to their perceived problem/desire.

Was the solution correct?  I think everyone agrees that the geocentric model is incorrect from anything other than a relativistic viewpoint.  Yet the solution was accepted by the group and defended against challengers.

Problem/desire >>>resources >>> Solution >>>> Group satisfaction (sans Mick Jagger) and stability

Notice that the solution does not have to be "correct" it only has to satisfy the desire/problem that the group perceives.

If the solution is not satisfactory to everyone the group may split or even kill each other to determine who is "correct" in their evaluation of the solution.

All this anthropology stuff is pretty simple from a high level overview and it really amazes me that this Theory of Jack, as I call it, wasn't adopted hundreds of years ago.

The tough stuff in every discipline is not the high level overview though.  The tough stuff is in the details.  I can explain how to use a vertical knee mill to someone in minutes.  It takes years to develop the skills to work on complex pieces.  I imagine the tough stuff in Cultural Anthropology is in the field work, ethnography, etc.

I'm better with theory although I am pretty good in the technical application of theory I kind of suck in the humanistic application of theory.

I therefore imagine that while I find high level, broad stroke technical theories easy to review and develop most anthropologists are more comfortable with focusing on the humanistic details which is why the Theory of Jack, the problem/desire>resources>solution>satisfaction theory, has not been applied.

And yeah, I call it the Theory of Jack as humorist twist on the idea, "you don't know Jack" which could be applied to both the student and the teacher.

Amazingly we all find ourselves in both of those roles throughout our lives because sometimes our problems are solved or our desires are satisfied by being the student.  Other times those problems and desires are solved by being the teacher.

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