Us And Them: There Really Isn’t That Much Different Between Us . . .

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When I looked at this photo of the neanderthal man on the left and a ‘modern day human being’ on the right I realized that there really isn’t much difference between us as specimens of planet dwellers. We have been taught and convinced that we are far superior to ancient men in every way. I disagree.

True that life spans were certainly different. Neanderthals’ life span was about 30 years give or take and humans are now likely see their lives going well into their 70’s. Part of the reason for modern expanded life spans is most likely due to medication. Obvioulsy N.Men didn’t have access to the same medical benefits. I wonder how big a difference there would be in life spans if Modern Men didn’t have access to modern medication? Of course there were obvious physical differences as well but brain size was about the same. We have the luxury to devote different parts of our brain to different functions. We can focus on things like creativity and innovation for instance. N.Men used more of their cranial capacity to develop visual skills, survival skills and body control skills. They had to hunt to live and they needed to visualize danger earlier in order to survive.

The point here is that as far as we have come as a modern community we are not that far removed from our predecessors. Although we have made amazing progress technologically have we really developed a species that is far beyond where our so called ancestors were on the scale?

Abraham Maslow pointed out that there were basic needs that ‘man’ needed to realize in some way in order to eventually self-actualize. I take that to mean when we were able to become all we could be–when we had maximized our potential as a human being.

Let’s consider  how much is/was different from N.Men and Modern Men:

We start with primary physiological needs to secure food, shelter, clothing, air, drink, warmth, sex and sleep. I suspect that N.Men had very similar needs.

Without these basic needs being met it is difficult to achieve the next level of development which is attaining a sense or feeling of being able to protect ourselves against the elements and other beings, stability and security. Modern man has added laws and limits.

Then comes a sense or feeling of belonging, collegiality and creating or being a part of a group with common needs such as hunting and providing sustenance for the clan or family. N.Men likely needed to feel as though they had meaning and a place in the tribe or ‘family.’ Modern man has very similar needs in this regard. We could add the need to experience affection to the side of modern men. There is no way of knowing how important this was to N.Men but I’m thinking that, on some level, it was important as well.

Self esteem has been important since day one. According to Maslow this includes achievement, status, responsibility and reputation. Both men–N.Men and modern men would need to feel the same accomplishments. The N.Men would realize this level of development by becoming known in his group as the best hunter or provider. The toughest or strongest or most durable. Modern men would develop this sense by being the quickest to the top or the smartest. Perhaps it would be financially related but it would be about being successful and seen by his peers as better than others in certain areas of life.

Personal growth and fulfillment is the last rung on the ladder. The N.Men would get here by achieving top dog status-sort of like an alpha-male. He would be known throughout the group as the ‘best’ or as good as . . . He would have recognized his worth to the group and to his ‘clan’ or family when he could constantly provide for his family through all seasons and trials and when he had successfully defended his place in the groups hierarchy. Not much different for the modern man. Different challenges or goals but the same outcome.

So before we go thinking that we are so much further ahead than those who came before us we need to stop and think about how far that really is. If we have progressed further and faster then how come we still haven’t found a more satisfactory way of resolving our differences besides killing those we consider enemies or those who disagree with our way of seeing the world? We just use different ‘clubs’ now. Why haven’t we found better ways of helping those who are ‘weaker’ in the family of human beings? Our predecessors took care of their sick and nursed them back to health. We put folks in nursing homes or hospitals letting the system take care of them. To be fair if we do not have the expertise or the resources to tend to the sick then we do OK finding places and people who will and who can. If we are so different then why haven’t we moved from the mindset that some human beings are not worthy of our time and resources–let them get their own we say.

I’m not convinced that we are the more commendable exhibits of progress and advanced thinking. Perhaps there are some lessons to learn from our counterparts of past centuries. They kept things simple. They seemed to focus on the basics. Provide for family and community and look out look after each other.   

Anyways, that’s how I see it. All the best, Jim

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