Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Another 9/11 Anniversary

September 11, 2001. 


Regardless of how you say it, the events of this day will forever have an impact on the people, politics and future of America.  Today marks the twelfth anniversary of that fateful day.  And, as was true of all past anniversaries, memorials are taking place all across the country.  We remember where we were when we heard the news, what we did as he horror unfolded, how we united in our suffering, and, to this day, how the lump in our collective throats is just that much bigger when we hear our national anthem played and recall the sacrifices made by both the victims of that terrible event and their families.

Coincidentally, we are also involved in a national debate about Syria. Despite the history of the citizens of this great country to respond to injustices throughout the world, polls indicate that we are not all that eager to get involved in punishing or otherwise addressing the horrendous treatment of the Syrian people by President Assad and his military.  Would we be so reticent to slap down a bully like Assad had we not spent the last dozen years in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to a past bully?  Have we grown tired of our role of world policemen, especially in face of the vengeful response of those we have labeled terrorists, the indirect assistance that these groups have received by countries like China and Russia who are supposed to be our friends, or at least not our foes, and the unappreciative attitude of those countries that claim to be our allies but are loath to contribute monetarily to the ever increasing bill we face to "keep the peace"?

Interestingly, I just finished reading an article in this month's Smithsonian about the muriqui monkeys.  See link below.

A remarkable woman named Karen Strier has been studying these primates for the past thirty years, and in the process has helped focus the world of primatology on animals other than just gorillas and chimps.  In so doing, she has also opened up this field of study, and in conjunction, the study of the most evolved of the primates, man, towards the consideration that competition, aggression, and territorialism, all the precursors of war, are not necessarily common among all primates.  That there are other traits that primates share that are not based on violence.

In the world of the muriqui, cooperation, and physical and emotional support are the rule of the day.   They do not compete for food, but share it with each other, old, young, healthy and infirmed.  Males do not fight each other for access to mating rights, but are invited to mate by the females who do not appear loyal to one male over another.  As a result, infant muriqui do not need to be protected from males eager to kill off another's progeny.   Hugs and embraces have replaced fighting and killing.

As a believer in evolution, specifically that all primates evolved from a common ancestor millions of years ago, it is uplifting to think that our aggressive traits may be the result of environmental pressures and specific situations as opposed to the more common belief that we they are inbred and  impossible to avoid, or worse, some type of "original" sin that God has inflicted upon us.  Perhaps if we stopped for a second, took our heads out of the swirling sands of materialism, greed, and winner takes all cutthroat competition, we might begin to understand that helping each other, those in our direct "pack", those in neighboring packs, and even those in packs that have different customs, language, skin color, religion, is a better way towards species survival. 

If we believe that primates do what they do, the good, bad and the ugly (sorry Clint) out of a desire for access to food, shelter, and sex, then we need to address what forms this desire might take, and what methods provide the most food, shelter and sex for the most people.  Clearly, killing all the competitors can produce this result, but only if you are willing to accept the possibility that you, as an individual, will be killed by someone with bigger muscles, whether those muscles are the ones on a body or in the form of tanks and bombs. 

But, if we decide that peace through war is the ultimate oxymoron, then perhaps we might imitate the muriqui who do not measure their wealth by how much one has more than another, but by the collective resources and happiness of the group.


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