A World Built, Part III.

Stonehenge in 1877
Picture of Stonehenge from 1877, public domain, courtesy Wikipedia

We’re not sure exactly how it started, this world we have now. Archaeologists and other scientists are still figuring that out, and they’ve got theories. Some of the latest at the time of this writing can be found in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari, if you want to dive into it.

So far, the story of our past has been revealed as far as our origins and migration from what is now the Southern part of the continent of Africa. Were we hunters and gatherers? Were we tribes? Probably, though the tribes were most likely opportunistic in what we ate. The world provided. Migration was part of the survival of our ancestors, since we didn’t cultivate things.

While theories may vary, our ancestors wandered around, ate, and procreated. We figured out communication, and while we likely communicated about that saber-toothed tiger at the watering hole nearby, it’s also likely we communicated about what was happening in the tribe. “Biff is out hunting, so Alana is entertaining Atouk in the cave.”, perhaps with a knowing wink. Gossip, which supported the social organization of the tribe.

The Internet shows not that much has changed in that regard. In reading updates on Twitter today, in the middle of all the things about Ukraine, troubles of democracy in the United States and the United Kingdom, Russian propaganda and the latest things escaping China’s iron firewall, there was some silly article about someone I don’t care about wearing Versace. That it showed up in my feed is likely because other people I know found it popular enough that Twitter offered it up as something I might be interested in. It’s gossip about what people are wearing. Nevermind the odd fetish with Elon Musk’s every bit of reverse flatulence.

The point here is not what we talk about, but that we do. While times have changed and every now and then the metaphorical saber-toothed tiger pops up, most of the time it’s about other people. The technologies have shifted, from our discovery of writing, to radio, to television, to the Internet. We communicate about things that are important to us as individuals even though they may not be important at all, at least on the surface.

Let’s go back to those tribes migrating from what we know as the southern part of the African continent. Certainly, some left because other tribes were eating their own food, perhaps even establishing territories. Some may have left because they wanted to see what was over there, the part of us that enjoys exploring. Or maybe Biff caught wind of Atouk and Alana and, in an early version of a romance novel, they eloped and made their own way up north without Biff, forming their own tribe. Nobody really knows how that all went, and the likelihood is good we will never know.

This continued, trekking across land bridges, going here and there. Of course, Homo Sapiens weren’t Homo Sapiens yet, and we encountered variations of ourselves. We’re not sure what happened there, whether they integrated or not, but as an example neanderthal DNA has shown up in some people. We were busy eating and having sex in the caravan of life, scattering across the world for whatever reasons we had.

We would later figure out agriculture and form societies in place. This required more structure, and our language evolved as our structure did. Everywhere there were people, people did things at least a little bit differently, and having moved beyond basic twig technology, we built cities. Some of us built early ships to fish, or to see what was over there, or to trade. Trade likely happened before our societies became stationary, but it truly evolved when we stayed in one place. Some places had some things, other places had other things, and so societies traded. Currencies became a part of this.

Other things happened. We developed nations with borders that were usually demarcated by what we thought were permanent landmarks. Water was a great boundary, or so we thought. The border of Guyana and Venezuela proves that this is not so even to this day. Other boundaries were negotiated, agreed upon.

Borders are fictions we created to keep us from them. It’s territorial, and while a fiction it’s an agreed upon fiction. It’s real in that regard, but the concept of borders themselves is something we just made up so that the influence of the fictions of one nation don’t overlap into another. What’s more, it became recursive with personal property, where there are borders between properties, with associated drama. Currencies are much the same thing.

The laws societies chose to live by were also agreed upon fictions. Some would say that there was morality involved in these laws. Some theologians claim that the morality came from some omnipotent being that no one has evidence of other than someone millennia ago scribbled something down, and work from that faith – which is perfectly fine. I’m of the camp that morality is based on empathy, and theology reinforced it. Fighting over that doesn’t seem productive so I don’t bother. The point is that we found ways to live in larger groups rather than splitting off all the time into tribes that wandered off to find somewhere else to be – though that does continue to happen, albeit rarely and not in a while. The Mayflower comes to mind.

Our societies are based on mutual agreements, social contracts, that are mutually agreed upon fictions. We see this now as Russia’s unprovoked aggression continues to cost lives in Ukraine of not just Ukrainians, but people from around the world who answered the call for the ideals of democracy. Maybe it was too much Sesame Street. Maybe it was too much Disney. Maybe it was too much about how good democracy is when it’s just the best choice we’ve come up with, and we haven’t figured out how to institute it homogeneously. Where wars of the past have been less clear, the war for Ukrainian sovereignty has a ring to it that we find right, whereas the actions of Russia – unless you have a steady intake of Russian propaganda – are wrong.

This is an interesting example not because it’s happening now, or because I’m solidly in the camp of supporting Ukraine. It’s because for at least a hundred years, Russia has written the history of those within it’s empire which, unlike most European empires, was landlocked. Rather than going to visit old relatives and subjugating them, as European empires did, Russia’s history is one of picking on the people it could get to once the Tsardom of Russia gained prominence after the influence of the various Khanates that were derived from the Golden Horde were defeated or waned. The Tsardom was that of war and expansionism, Imperial in nature, and was brutal as most empires were at the time. What Spain was doing in South America in the 1500s against indigenous peoples, the Tsardom did to it’s neighbors to expand. This is a simplification. To get into it completely, I offer you should read any history about Eastern Europe not written by someone from Russia.

Empire is about getting rid of those that disagree with the empire, or subjugating them. Language, religion… all of these things are a part of colonialism that a large portion of nations suffer a hangover from to this day, with borders drawn by former empires that those who lived there had no say in. The history of Eastern Europe is largely overlooked in this context because the rest of Europe was busy fighting with their neighbors over lands far from their shores.

That colonialism extends to this day, though it’s more popular to talk about hegemonies now. Most of the world has moved on from colonialism though former colonies, their riches depleted by former empires, have not done as well – which is understatement.

There is something awkward about some humans using sailing technology to go visit old relatives and subjugate them, but then at the same time people were still figuring out that the world was not flat despite the protestations of religion. You’d think that might have made it into a religious text. Perhaps there will be updates on the religious texts soon, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

With all of this going on, people were forced to look at the world through the eyes of those that ruled them, and if you decided to go back to nomadic roots, you had to pick the place with the fictions you liked or, if you were lucky, go start your own somewhere – as happened with the United States.

Then we have the ideologies of government, with Communism, Socialism, and Democracy. Democracy, while imperfect and hardly standardized around the world, has been adopted by the majority of nations on the planet not because it’s the best but because it’s the best we have. Yet even in a democracy, the systems are gamed.

All of these things are, at their core, things we agreed upon to an extent. One may be better off having been born into a democracy by accident of geography, but that hardly means that what that nation does is something the individual agrees with because there are gaps in representation.

A lot of this is at least appears broken right now as the world, which doesn’t agree to any of our fictions, dances across borders with pandemics and climate change. When there should be more work as a global society, we see more isolationism. When our species could be considered an organism living in an ecosystem, we hardly act it.

Yet we remember how to play with toys and are guided by them, and our methods of communication are influenced by a few outside of democracy.

Maybe it’s time to revise some fictions.

10 thoughts on “A World Built, Part III.

    1. We know how they think. They’ve been feeding the West for roughly a century at this point through news outlets in Moscow and revisionist history. Thus, that line.

      The countries around Russia have very different histories, and they haven’t always gotten along, but they all pretty much agree on the details of Russia.


      1. The Current US admin is pedling a Cartoon version of what Russia is & How Putin thinks – thus since 50% of Americans still believe whatever Pap MSM feeds them – They Also have a CARTOON version of Russia/Putin. This is a problem.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s a LOT to unpack there. And I’m not going to disagree with you, but expand on it briefly.

        Part of the problem is that ‘the West’ (How I hate cardinal directions as terms of reference!) sees imperialism and colonialism as color coded systems. Colonialism, when we talk about it in the United States and most countries outside of Eastern Europe, tends to be color coded. To be crass, it revolves around ‘white’ and ‘unwhite’.

        In Eastern Europe, it’s more of a ‘white’ and ‘white’ thing, with increasing ‘brown/Asian’ as you creep Eastward through the ‘Federation’ of Russia.

        So there’s that aspect. Ukraine and Eastern Europe is waking up to that problem as they talk about colonialism there – something I have been ‘researching’ passively through Twitter as I follow some well read people. We have to bear in mind that in that area of the world, it’s still a part of living history, whereas in former Eastern European colonies it’s passed out of living memories and resides in books, which people don’t really read.

        Then there’s the other aspect, which is the United States foreign policy itself, which seems to have a makeover with every change of administration. I have lived as much outside the United States as in, and on the outside some psychiatrists might describe United States foreign policy as bipolar. We still have colonies (Puerto Rico being an example), yet we’re against colonization. We’re against racism, but there are plenty in the United States who see the systems otherwise (and I see no reason to argue). We illegally invaded a nation ourselves, lied to the public about it and for the most part, we got away with it – but we haven’t really apologized for that, either. So unpacking that mess is another thing we need to do. The unquestioning commitment to Israel, too, is a problem at least in the eyes of some of us.

        Nevermind the January 6th hearings, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, Citizens United just pouring billions into ‘free speech’, the mess of health care… so when we have a domestic population that is largely unhappy with domestic policy, meanwhile our education system is not even a single shot on the rocks, I suppose we get cartoons.

        On top of all of this, we Americans are protected in 2 cardinal directions by oceans, giving us a sense of security that kept us from entering World War II until one of our States was attacked (and the history of Hawaii is worth looking into as far as colonisation) – Japan poked the bear.

        So you’re absolutely right. I don’t know how to fix it without fixing a lot of underlying issues, and that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg.


  1. Some interesting a wide-ranging points. I would say USA with becoming the mercantile controlling force (i.e. polices shipping routes) post ww2 it no longer needed to create “colonies” in the traditional sense – it moved to a Puppet Master system where it essentially became distant Govenor’s of essentially half the world & post USSR’s collapse – All the whole world. The Governor comes down hard when ‘rogue state’ doesn’t play by it’s script. Of course, with the slow debacle of IRAQ & Afghanistan (which had an Ugly exit a year ago) I think the USA halo has slipped dramatically & rightly its is much less respected. In saying that the rise of Russia/China is the ‘devil we don’t know’ as well. But I think over and above all those matters, I see the rise of Fascist tendencies across the world as the MONSTER that is totally out of control & seems to be creating a gigantic civil war. This Civil War is mot like USA 1860 but is a Worldwide one based on a Technocratic CLASS WAR – The Poor & tech Surveilled ‘Workers’ (A new Serf Class Vs The Moneyed and Non/less- Tech Surveilled ‘Asset Flipper classes’ (A New Noveau Riche based Aristocracy). Of course, This new Embryonic Worldwide Civil War is being multiplied by things like Pandemics/War. Worse than this – I can’t help but feel that this is setting up the even bigger deception that will be the emergence of “A Third Party Who Creates Peace In the World Civil War” – this sounds biblical @ I am not convinced that this “third force” might be the end of us all. I will add the final point that the future History books of the 22nd Century will likely say this era of flux & seimic social change/Disaster/World Dictatorship/ww3 (call it what you will!!) started with the Neoliberal Doctrine ushered in under Thatcher & Reagan and then so foolishly & heartily adopted by the Worlds governments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we’re seeing the start of what you describe in Ukraine. And oddly enough, part of Pelosi’s remarks in Taiwan today was a tidbit in the battle between democracy and autocracy.

      Very thoughtful comments! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Pelosi thing is def. a Poke in the Eye to China…But I am always sceptical re “Sabre Rattling” China Needs US to Buy It’s Stuff / US Needs It’s Stuff/US Needs China to Park Its Cash in Bonds so it can use it for core domestic expenses. This is why I think the PelosiVisit /China dont like Pelosi Visit thing MUST be theatre / Sabre Rattling


  3. *Ultimately I think they (US & China Govts) serve the same Masters – Elitism for those in High Office/High Society – ‘The people’ are very much lower down on concerns. This is simply Tribal reality of Human beings….& Politicians/High Society are the MOST Tribal Machiavellian of them all!


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