Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In Which Historians Are Made Obsolete

I saw this on the Daily Dish this morning:
While we may not hold athletes to the high of standards we hold politicians, we clearly hold them to higher standards than musicians . . . For our distant ancestors, athletic skill was much closer to political power. Small forager bands feared that the few most physically powerful members would attempt to dominate the band by force. Foragers had much less reason to fear domination by the few most musical folks in the band. So it made sense for foragers to hold athletes to higher moral standards than musicians.
So I suspect our tendency to hold athletes to higher standards than musicians is a holdover from our forager days . . .
Well, my job just got a lot easier. Why bother with 10,000 years of history when we can just explain the nuanced peculiarities of modern American culture in paleolithic terms? Robin Hanson is probably right — 21st-century Americans' expectations for athletes and musicians most likely have more to do with the politics of "small forager bands" than with the 1960s.

I think the United States has a bicameral legislature because hunter-gatherers recognized a  hierarchy of earth and sky. This belief in two realms of influence — the "upper" and "lower" spheres of power — is reflected in the structure of our legislative branch.

See? Easy.

No comments: