Sunday, November 28, 2010

Making a case for Evolution

If anybody today wanted to understand evolution, or at least, appreciate the phenomenon without necessarily believing it, the worst place to start is man’s transition from an ape to homo sapiens, or not.

Mankind has discarded the thought with utter contempt. However, what stands out is that most discarding has not been as much a result of research and evidence showing that man did not evolve, but rather, mainly a result of an emotional reaction; after failing to reconcile the seemingly appealing human form to that of the otherwise repulsive apes.

But that, like afore mentioned, is the worst possible place to start. If we looked around us a little more closely, we could realise certain transitions in the lives of human beings that at the very least, point to the direction of a species in change.

On the whole, it is almost obviously true that a 25 year old man in the nineteenth century is way different from his age mate from 2010, even if the only change in setting is time. Give the former an iPhone, a Play Station, an iPad or even try explaining to him the wonders of DNA and he could have good enough reason for insulting you. But the life of his age mate in 2010 is almost dependant on the above mentioned.

One way to best exemplify these gradual, and still very existent changes in human behaviour, is through generation changes.

Generations provide us the best way to divide humanity in terms of history and time sequences. Generations present different sets of human conditions in which mankind has been bred. And never has one generation’s living conditions been similar to that of the next. The simple ideal that man tries to make better lives for their offspring than it was for them, makes for different living conditions than their offspring will grow into.

One clear example here is the sheer amount of freedoms children born in the twenty first century have as compared to those born between 1970 and 1990. Most children born in the older days will testify to stricter parental controls over what they watched on TV, over how they dressed, over the type of music they listened to, and the sheer number of toys they were allowed to have. There are many tales of children born within this group that were forbidden watching sitcoms like Club227 simply because they screened kissing scenes.

The 10 year old child of 2010 however has The Simpsons, Family Guy and Johnny Bravo as some of their favourites; bought by their very parents.

While a 10 year old African girl could have found it hard to ask her mum to buy her pants in 1990, her colleague in 2010 will not wait longer than her second birthday for her mum, and the long list of well-wishing aunties, to do so.

It was very easy to control what your 11 year old son watched in 1994; because you had the keys to the VCR and you also trusted the video shops not to lease pornographic video tapes to the boy. But hey, what do you now do when you realise that your son is just a computer or cell-phone away from pornographic content; and that he probably knows how to operate the two machines better than you do?

It is obvious that human beings bred in the 2000s have undergone a different set of living conditions from that of people bred in the 1980s. But what should be noted is that these differences in living conditions are strong enough to permanently change the course of human behaviour.

Any body that has watched the African movie, Sheena, will remember the white bush girl who told a man that tried to kiss her thus; “The mouth was given to us by God to eat...” She did not even comprehend the concept of kissing. That tale however is not limited to that movie alone.

A large section of the current generation of ageing African parents, stuck some where from 55 years of age and above, comprises of people who have either never kissed, let alone disapprove of the idea completely.

But look how different the setting is today. There is now hardly a romantic relationship worth the name that does not accommodate kissing, in all its forms, way up there on the agenda. Tell a 23 year old boy today that he can’t kiss his girl and he can almost leave the whole project for good.

If there is a clear line that comes through in this surge, it is the humankind’s mass exodus from the world of the conservative to a more liberal approach to life. Children today are more open to reasoning and questioning almost everything that comes their way. This is mainly attributed to the setting they were raised in.

Let’s consider sex for a moment. At least in Africa, sex over 40 years ago was wholly about penetration. 40 years later however, things like oral sex have come into the picture. And they are not going away any time soon. Actually, many a sex therapists have written essays detailing that oral sex is a must have, if the real sex is to be pleasant.

And while you are still grappling with that, sex toys have also secured their spot in human life. This is especially in cases where human beings have found ‘natural sex’ (if we may call it that) to be less pleasurable.

While man needed a partner (of the opposite sex or not) for sex some time back, they can now do it all by themselves. A recent Oprah Winfrey show hosted a woman (with some scientific qualification or other) that advises mothers to help their daughters to discover their sexuality; at the ages of 15. This discovery, it turns out, is somebody else’s definition of masturbation. This, the scientist argued, would help girls not to leave their ‘discovery’ in the hands of manipulative men. It would be unwise to assume that she is the only one with such views in the world today.

Homosexuality has never, in all its existence, had the chance to flourish as it does today. It’s now being legalised in constitutions and the church, yes the church, now has some of its leaders as proud gay men. 100 years from now, anti gay rights activists will definitely be fighting a losing battle, if they are not doing so already.

The waves of change are around us, and are charging faster than usual. Scientists spend endless hours in laboratories seeking breakthroughs which humanity will get addicted to. You only need to look at the euphoria that grips consumers at the shops when let’s say Apple or Microsoft launches a new product.

And when any given change props up, the sheer speed with which humanity gets used to it is alarming. You can almost sense the hesitation and reluctance to go back to the status quo. It is an analogy of adaptation, with man changining his ways to suit what the conditions now demand.

It’s now almost hard to think of life without the internet or cell phones and yet, economies managed to make billions without them over 25 years ago.

While it was embarrassing for a woman to live unmarried, it is now becoming fashionable to be a single mother. Man now even has the choice between either being male or female. We are lucky to have lived at a time where we could witness racism and slavery turn from universally accepted actions, even by religions, to now achieving criminal status.

While a girl could grow into a woman and a mother without knowing the pleasures of kissing, she now grows up knowing that it is one of the most intimate symbols of affection; and she ardently looks forward to her first kiss.

Although the sight of the car shocked and terrorised many 100 years ago, man now can’t live without the automobile. And although air transport is still expensive, it would not be a surprise if by 2080, middle class people can have breakfast in London, lunch in Lusaka, and then spend the evening in a New Delhi night club, on the same day.

If there is anything constant about man, it is change. And it is in there that the true evolution might be; at least the one we can ever get to see.

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