Anthropology is the science and study of humanity and it may be the most important study we’ve got. Most sciences become useful in everyday life because of their results, but anthropology can improve your life right now with only an initial assumption: humans are something to be studied. We aren’t elite observers. We aren’t impartial intelligences. We weren’t magically disconnected from all the other animals when we added a sapiens. We’re stunningly sophisticated animals, but absolutely still animals, and that’s a fact we forget at our peril.
Some historical anthropology has been a bit “problematic”, which is how white guys say “We done fucked up that time” without ever admitting anything. People made the mistake of picturing others as bizarre species of exotic animal while forgetting that the exact same thing applied to themselves.
The lesson of anthropology is that our intelligence didn’t appear one day as an incredible biological computer. It emerged from millions of years of animal programming, and all of that increasingly obsolete garbage is still in there. We don’t start from zero, filling ourselves with wonderful knowledge to become ever smarter. We start several million years in the hole, stuffed with urges and impulses, a skullfull of biological bad wiring which would fuck our entire future for five minutes of oral sex and a pizza, because that’s all the needs it understands and as far as it knows we might be eaten by a jaguar tomorrow.
When we stopped risking death the every day, when we made it possible to stockpile food for the forseeable future, we rendered most of our own thoughts obsolete. But we’re still being driven by them. Every system we invent to serve us is screwed up by those screaming “MORE” and “MINE!” The acquisitive instinct alone has expanded beyond all conception and to warp the world like a societal black hole.
The mistake me we make is always thinking we’re thinking. Just because a thought is expressed in words doesn’t mean it isn’t animal. We’ve upgraded our ability to do everything with language, but the effects aren’t automatic. The improved decision-making systems using this most powerful of tools costs energy to employ. Logic, science, philosophy: they’re all specifically designed to work out the truth. But they do that by preventing us from making the mistakes we want to make. And we never want to be told we’re wrong.
But without these tools our internal dialogue devolves into an endless stream of psychological sexts and excuses to eat an entire bag of chips in our underpants. Because we call ourselves homo sapiens, but it’s still easier to be the masturbating monkey than the wise human. We have to make the effort if we want enjoy the benefits of both.
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