Binary Biology and Blame
How abstract thought and assumptions affect all life on Earth
At first glance, protecting our life support system, the biosphere, may not have anything to do with gender and sexuality. But, for those who explore connections, assumptions and the “norm”, there are several points to consider.
Earth is in trouble because we evolved with both binary and abstract thinking. Examine your beliefs carefully. They create our world.
Our ancient binary programming goes like this: “Og ate plant. Og dead now. That plant not good. Eat this grass, it good.” Aside from being a possibly, politically incorrect, or appropriated, stereo type of paleo human (Sorry Og), there is truth in this binary good/ bad judgement system.
Also aiding our early tribal communities to survive, is an altruistic selection that favors the novel, giving rise to resistant biology that selects for healthier — and therefore more viable — offspring.
On the other end of the spectrum is selfish selection, which avoids the unfamiliar. Most of the time, the early tribe protected kith and kin, and came to find that ‘the other’ or non-conforming individual, was not worth the risk. Say, those individuals evolved completely different techniques for avoiding the smiledon, or bringing down the mammoth. It is reasonable, for the sake of tribal protection, to avoid most unfamiliar things. But it can also lead to trouble, as we shall see with Og.
As humans, and as organisms, every living thing adapts some aspects of seeking both the biologically diverse and a more ‘selfish’ behavior that favors familiarity.
Then comes a critical aspect of our larger human brains. Over time, Og and all surviving kin, adapted a binary consciousness that is very reliant upon abstract thinking. Let’s look at Og getting very sick, rather than dying from “bad plant.”
“Og see in head dream that plant very bad. Og tell everybody plant bad. Do not eat. Og have magic dream of see bad plant in head and warn us.”
Okay, so Og and the plucky clan learn abstract thinking, the ability to not only visualize, but to project into the future a risk to be avoided. Eventually, they see that these beneficial head dreams give them cohesion, expectation and finally, contribute to create religion and culture.
Religion serves to provide explanations for how and why some plants, and some people, are “good” and some are “bad.” It also centers existentially, the realization that something larger than our selves must exist as creator. At first, this was nature and her many animated beings and systems. But after the advent of agriculture, tribes settling into the first cities found they wanted bigger tribes, requiring rules, regulations, and hierarchy.
What often comes right after rigid hierarchy? Corruption and abuse of power, disconnection from our natural world, and a dominating Social Darwinism rears its ugly head.
All animals, as we know, posture and struggle to win the most food, mates, resources and power. However, only human primates, with large, complex brains, learned to use extreme abstraction and binary simplicity to drive forward a system that, daily, is either is inclusive, or exclusive of the “other.” Still, symbiosis and cooperation, even compassion are also survival traits.
Og, whose survival of the bad plant made Og a shaman and wise elder, finds abilities of interpreting the head dreams into explanations, and even favored status, for the tribe.
Now something weird happens. Og is killed by Unc, a bigger, physically imposing male who also has visions, interpretations and wisdom. Now Og is dead, and Unc takes charge. He explains that she (Og) was not favored by the gods, and the gods intervene in everything, so Unc is the right leader.
Now, you, the modern 21^st century Unc descendants, realize that you too, were using abstraction, visualization, and even a sort of abstract assumption when you saw Og as a male. Because, now you learn Og is a female. You are surprised. But Unc is not surprised. He sees clearly that the male is ‘destined’ to control others’ lives. The ‘strong’ man justifies domination of the ‘other’ and assures the tribe that only “I alone can fix it.” Scapegoats are suddenly seen at every turn, and even well-crafted democracies can crumble into orange dust.
Next stop at the clan’s new ultra-modern, earthen hut settlement: sexism and racism? ‘Otherism’ — it’s what we do. Those whom you instantly blame reveals your binary bias. And, that is something you have power to influence.
Yes, of course this is an extreme simplification of the whole messed up system we socially inherited, but if you view the world today and see hierarchy, patriarchy, exploitation of the ‘other’ for resources and power, you can clearly see why binary systems and abstract thinking blend into a perfect storm wherein the mighty social club of inclusion smacks down tolerance, acceptance, cooperation, altruism, and strength in diversity.
The entire world is now suffering from an extreme, and intolerant social system in which other beings, such as orangutans (not you Donald Trump, but the “natural” orangutans) lions, and tigers, and bears became a resource at best, and a threat at worst, so our kind has banished their kind. Forests, oceans, plains and entire species are destroyed to promote our species — often called ‘Mankind’ as the chosen species.
Human labor, and human sexuality, is also exploited and dominated by the conquest model arisen from binary and abstract thinking. So, we get to homophobia, sexism, extreme xenophobia, things such as expected domination, manifest destiny, and everyday exploitation.
Nowadays cat-calling does not involve sabre-tooth smilodons. Homophobic bullying does not involve examining an actual bull. Religious exclusion abstracts to a hereafter wherein only ‘good’ souls will play harps, but not drums. It’s rather absurdly other-worldly, but the problem is we live in this world.
The good news is that the domination expectation has been exposed. People, with our diversity driven better brains can have head dreams in which we visualize more effective, and inclusive, behaviors. Apparently, John Lennon, although a distant descendant of Og, had this head dream and shared it with the tribe. That is both the reason why he is very loved, but also very dead. It is true of almost every social reformer and progressive, inclusive thinker, from Jesus to Malala. They are both reviled and revered for their inclusion ethics. They are a threat to the status Quo.
An overthrow of a domination model that co-evolved with our binary and abstract consciousness is not easy, just necessary.
Oneness, whole system thinking, and awareness of strength through diversity is now promoted in most parts of the science savvy world, even those that are war-torn and oppressive.
Religion, for all its faults can be envisioned to be an inclusive team effort. For now, religious intolerance gives us counter-productive hate, intolerance, body shaming nonsense and too many sexist and racist remarks in the comments section.
Those of us who are optimists however, garner extreme strength and hope from realization of both biodiversity and human social diversity. We realize including more people in our tribe gives us an edge. We know, that our treatment of Earth suggests that if we can create something as destructive as climate change, it means we can also create clean energy, more choice and person-hood for the disenfranchised, and more Earth tribe (all of life) resilience for our planet.
Finally, we can admit that most straw clutching, bat-crappery, attitudes of social domination can be influenced, and challenged.
Blather that says gays are a threat, or birth control destroys morality, trans-genders are out to rape our kids in bathrooms, or belief that: “all _______(insert hated minority here) are ‘bad’, destroy them!” eventually falls away.
Next time someone asks you to check your privilege, or consider whether your plastic bottle is destroying marine life, think about Og. Think about how she, and her wisdom, however ancient biologically — and environmentally — affects and influences human behavior, and life itself.
Every day, we are given choices to be part of a grander whole, or to be part of the problem. Make your choices with a side of understanding of binary judgment and abstraction. We can thank Og for improving survival of sapiens, and we can thank Unc for doing the same, with forgiveness for our planet-destroying foibles, and for inclusion in our planet redeeming diversity.