• We’re coming out of the trees… again

    by Jesse Loren

    The dichotomy of the night started somewhere during the second can of paint. My son came home to work off the cost of a parking ticket by doing chores around the house. The Chore du Jour is painting sealant on the new good neighbor fence.

    We came in to cool off and my son started talking about intelligence. One theory, he began, is that we descended from a primate ancestor. Not a monkey, that would be stupid. The landscape was changing. We developed a diet based on variety, not just one food. Did you know the butterfly exists on milkweed. Milkweed. No milkweed, and there is a massive die off. Humans adapted. We climbed out of the trees and foraged.

    I interrupted him with something stupid.

    He continued enthusiastically. We could have foraged and one theory is that we ate a diet of fish … rich in fats, which increased myelination in the brain and increased visual acuity. Another theory is that we might not have just foraged, and hunted by chasing prey. Imagine what those big brachiating arms could do with a stone. We could act upon an animal in the distance by hurling objects.

    Me: Like spears?

    Him: Of course, but stones, projectiles, being able to plan cause and effect… a diet rich in fish and foraging for grubs like animals do, and making weapons.

    Me: I imagine a human-like being with big arms raising a fist.

    Him: Yes, and well, you know animals would have lifted dung to eat the grubs underneath. Humans would have to forage; they would eat grubs and mushrooms. We would have to be smart enough to eat the things that didn’t kill us. We developed language, but mainly we became highly adaptable. We were probably still pretty stupid, but our adaptability led to our success…

    Me: I think the lasagna is done.

    Him: Can you make it to go, I really have to go do homework.

    Me: Okay

    Him: You know mom, if a baby was snatched from thousands of years ago and raised in an average household today, it would adapt. It would be stupid in some ways and really excel in others. Like us…

    After he left and the sadness of longing for his company wore off, I began to do what I mainly do at night — read depressing news about Wall Street, the economy and emails from parents about why Johnny didn’t do his homework. One article cited the police brutality and illegal arrests from the Republican National Convention of 2008, another article was about the distressed woman who murdered a woman and cut out her baby with an Exacto knife. Another article was about the 99 Percent. Debra De Angelo’s article about the 99 Percent hit me with an epiphany.

    We evolved, and right now in America, the 1 Percent evolved to dominate the resources, gain power and keep the 99 Percent from being able to thrive. We can still be stupid in some ways by letting them. We can adapt to having less, working more and cowering in a mud hut somewhere like much of the world, or we can make a stand.

    We can still make fists right?

    I think the metaphoric moment of coming out of the trees and foraging is happening in our society. The landscape is changing. Part of it is the way we have abused resources, but part of it is the way the middle class has been squeezed out of living a comfortable life and being able to provide that for our children. If we learn anything from history, even primitive history, it’s that when we are motivated by a lack of resources, we will do what it takes to survive, thrive and make sure we are safe.

    I, too, am the 99 Percent.

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