Back to the Start
by Shannon Duong 12.12.18
Humans are curious, creative animals – we constantly question the world around us and attempt to put an answer to every question that we ask. We are taught to believe that we are more evolved, more intelligent, more capable than any other living forms of being. We are superior to other animals, but at the end of the day, we are still just animals. So exactly how did we crown ourselves and claim the thrown to the universe? Once upon a time, like any other animals, we lived by the rule of nature with a single purpose of life: survival, reproduction, and recreation of our own livelihood. Then the plain old theory of “Survival of The Fittest” kicked in, we evolved and developed cognitive skills that put us ahead of the race. We no longer just adapt to the environment around us, but we learned how to use it to our advantage. Back then, life was not that complicated, right? Putting our psychological needs aside, we only need these five most basic things in order to live: air, water, food, sleep, and shelter. Now, most of us have taken these things for granted, but millions of years ago we did not have that but we created that. We crafted tools to help us better hunt for food, acquired the necessary skills to build shelters, and developed a common form of communication. We evolved faster than other animals and that is why we advanced in life. Unconsciously and consciously came together to form groups with those who shared similarities and taught them how to survive. Our current way of life is a construction and a production of generations worth of knowledge.
In life, there is never a single path that everything follows. The process of human’s evolution works the same way. Once we established the different tribes that were scattered around the world, each individual group upheld different values and beliefs. Early on, humans figured out that hunting for food is not guaranteed and unsustainable. Thus, we started to grow our own food in order to have a constant stream of food supplies. Different groups evolved at different rates and then competition aroused between colonies because each had adopted a different way of survival. In general, we resulted in three main methods of interacting with those who are not directly a part of our colonies. Some societies became self-sustained, so they closed themselves off from outsiders. When strangers approached their harmonious system of survival, the insiders viewed that as a threat and tried to the fight off those who did not belong in their circle. While some tribes would only attack others as a defense mechanism, other tribes sought to dominate and went to war at will. That is another form of interaction between groups. On the other hand, two tribes who were relatively close to each other but each had a different abundant of food could conform to a more civil interaction. These two tribes saw that by collaborating with each other, they would both benefit. As a result, instead of fighting each other, they chose to work together and trade goods. These simple examples showcase just how diverse and the divided human race can be.
We are all different but all the same all at once. Society has often conformed us to see differences between people in order to distinguish one from another. We see different individuals, different races, different classes, and different cultures. We frequently distance ourselves from those who are different from us and that is an indirect result of evolution. When humans first formed tribes, competition for survival between groups arise so we learned to single out those who did not belong in the same crowd as they might be a threat to our own existence. That same knowledge carries on with us to the present day. No human babies are born with the skills to differentiate between races but all are taught later on in life to subconsciously judge people by the way they look and by the color of their skin. However, at the core of it, we are all the same – just human beings. If we disregard our phenotypes, all of us share the same genetic make-up and build that make us humans and not just any other animals. Individuals’ looks and personalities vary depending on their diverse backgrounds, upbringing and psychological characteristics. Two different human beings can be very similar, but never exactly the same. There is so much beauty in the differences between us, and that is a part of what makes humans unique. All other animals look very similar to their own kind. On the other hand, all of us have a distinctive look, even identical twins have their differences. Yet, we constantly chase after the idea of a homogenous society with a superior race. From advancing above the animal kingdom, humans fell in love with the idea of world domination and the power it entails. Embedded in human history and the present is the story of colonization and the hunger for power. For instance, during World War II, Adolf Hitler introduced the ideology of a “pure race” consisted of those who were tall with blonde hair, and blue eyes. Anyone else who did not fit the description was violently slaughtered. It is ironic that Hitler himself did not inhere these very same traits that he was promoting. Around the same time, Josef Mengele, a Nazi doctor, performed cruel experiments on twins and other children with an objective of decoding how to increase the population of the “pure race”. They both used fear and violence as a means to obtain power. We claim that we are above the animals, but animals kill different species for food, while we kill each other for power.
There are many ways that one can rise to power besides using just violence and fear. Ever since religion was introduced to society, it has become a popular mean for colonization, for one group of people to gain power over others. People always need something to believe in especially in times of weakness and uncertainty, and religion provides just that. When there are unexplainable phenomena, we turn to religion to find the answers. Religion unites people. All over the world, there is a variety of different religions like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism to name a few. For some cultures, their beliefs and practices are their traditions, their history, and their identity. Now Christianity predominantly dominates the world of religion with the Pope having the highest power among the living, just below God. The Pope reigns the world of Christianity from Vatican City where the laws do not apply to him. The power acquired through religion puts one above all others and above the laws that everyone one else is constraint to. Religion is not simply just a belief that unites people but it can also instill fear. Christianity was spread throughout the world as a part of colonizing tactics. For example, before they were colonized, the Mayans had their own religion, beliefs, and view of how the universe work. These principles were passed on through their various performances. In the early 16th century, when the Spanish came around, the Mayan race experienced genocide and for those that survived, they were banned from continuing their own practices, connecting to their roots and imposed a new religion. Religion paved the way for colonization and it worked. The Christian Bible paints a vivid image for those who disobey their God. During the Apocalypse, a series of tragic event happens and God’s followers will get to heaven and live with God, while others remain on Earth and suffer. When continuously placing images and thoughts like that into someone’s head while that person is going through the genocide of their race, the teaching in the Bible is no longer just meaningless words, but it becomes a reality. The Spanish used religion as an excuse to wipe out an entire race and a way to align the Mayans objective with their own.
The society that we are currently living in is only getting more divided as days past. Right here in the United States, one of the world’s most powerful countries, the president is proposing to build a wall at the border with Mexico. At the same time, thousands of Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorians are fleeing their home countries and attempting to come to the United States and Mexico in search of a better future for their children. If domestic American affairs in relation to immigration were to stay as they currently are, as described above, during the apocalypse, the existing differences and fears between Americans and the Latin American people that currently fuel our country’s hateful immigration policy would suddenly cease to exist. Despite the presence of generational wealth amongst certain individuals, despite whatever perceived racial hierarchy one may have, and despite the scarcity of resources that drives geopolitics in the world today, everyone would abruptly become equal in the event of the apocalypse. To rebuild society, survivors of the apocalypse would inevitably have to work together, share resources, and ignore racial politics for an extended period of time – all of this due to necessity.
In effect, humanity would be rebuilding itself similar to the way civilization itself started. However, the difference here would be that the humans creating this new world would be doing it with the knowledge, perspective, and lessons that the last 2000 years of human history has already provided. This way, a new society that rises from the ashes of the apocalypse would likely avoid many of the pitfalls of its predecessor – genocide, colonialism, terrorism, maybe even racism and sexism. Although this viewpoint is optimistic, it remains logical due to the fact human societies are self-preserving, and do not ignore lessons from the past. If we are to imagine an alternate future for humanity given that the apocalypse occurs, the most fundamental changes to the human world would occur in terms of ethnicity, nationality, and economics. Specifically, a post-apocalyptic future in the long-run would be more unified politically than the one today, less ethnically ambiguous due to racial interdependence, and economically interdependent due to necessity. To make this reality possible, humanity’s organizing principles for cultural production would have to dramatically shift away from the focus on individual power, personal economic gain, and national differences. Instead, these seemingly inevitable traits of human civilization would have to shift towards cooperation and the ultimate truth that despite race, socioeconomic standing, or gender, we are all ultimately similar and are stronger together.
When we break down the world as we know it and things that we take for granted, all of a sudden, we level out the playing field. Imagine a world without shelter, without technologies, or without the basic tools needed to survive, how many of us would really have the knowledge to make it through the days. We are back to ground zero, with no accumulation of ancestral knowledge. Then, there are two ways that society can start over: either outcast and sabotage others who holds valuable knowledge like in the play The Unplugging by Yvette Nolan or combine our forces and knowledges to recreate a better world. Now, evolution is given another chance, another twist. Instead of fighting against each other for power or survival like how we assume other animals would, cognitively intelligent beings like us would choose to work together, despite our differences. Knowledge in the current society is scattered between different people. Individually, no one has enough knowledge to rebuild an entire civilization from ground up. On the other hand, together, we each are master in a specific sphere and lack knowledges in other fields. If we depend on and help each other to navigate through times of hardships, we would all survive. For instance, a successful firm in the current capitalist system is made up off different individuals, each plays a role in the success of the firm. A CEO alone cannot put the firm above others, since us human all have a cap in our knowledge capability. No single person has the knowledge of the entire universe and even then, the entire human race itself do not know everything about how the world works. Like how a successful firm needs different managers for different departments working together with the same goal, a society needs to have a united goal of survival knowledge transfer in order to recreate its livelihood.
After a tragic event, humans have the tendency to put aside our differences, feel empathetic for others, and help one another. Walk a mile in each other’s shoes to feel their pain. For instance, during the tragic event of 9/11, when the World Trade Towers were knocked down, not only the entire New York city, but the entire world tuned in and found ways to help in anyways that they could. Numerous people lost their lives on that day, not just the typical “Americans” but people from all different nationalities, different races, and different ages. Only then that we experienced universal empathy. From a different angle, one may argue that humans are all still just heartless and cruel creature after all. Only in times of mass destructions and despairs do we unite as a race. Even then, as soon as the tragic event was over, we were quick to point finger at a specific group of people to blame for what happened. We are incredibly divided, even to the subatomic level - from the level of the human race as a whole, the level of each nation to the level of individual family or households.
Moreover, people often neglect events that are not directly affecting them or events that are not of their interests. More often than not, disastrous events that are broadcasted on national television typically prioritize events that happens to the wealthier, more privileged to the poor. Looking at the circumstances of the recent wildfires in Paradise and Malibu, given the death tolls, Paradise has a much higher number. Yet in the media outside of California, the fire in Malibu is made known to the public more often simply because Malibu is home to a lot of celebrities who has high net worth and nicer homes. So, given the case of the apocalypse where disaster struck worldwide, each and every single person would be affected by the event and must be forcefully care about the situation. The apocalypse is described to be an almost “natural” phenomenon and not caused by an individual or a group of people so no one is to blamed for. When a natural disaster occurs, humans are more compassionate towards each other and more willing to work together. Currently, there are too much prejudgments we place on each other without thoroughly knowing their back story or who they are as a person. We are prejudice to what we are not familiar with or what we do not understand. We fall back to your comfort zone and what we know. Race, gender, language, and socioeconomic standing are now often the criteria of determining whether a person belong in our group or not. In a post-apocalyptic united future, we would be forces to put these differences aside and rely on our common roots – just simply the fact that we are all human beings. In times of despair, how could one indulge hatred or prejudice on another. Would we rather trust another wild animal to help us survive or trust our own race? The rational answer would be to depend on another human being. Then and only then, lines separating races, cultures, and countries would be blurred. Lines that mark territories and the same lines that are keeping people away from each other will no longer exist. Let’s put it this way: when we are on a plane, flying between countries, when we look down to the ground from high above, it is difficult to tell where one country ends and another begins. Only when we look at the maps that are drawn by human beings could we tell where each country is and where it ends. Borders and territories are human construct. We draw these lines to fence ourselves off from competition with each other, when we should really be helping each other out of misery.
An ideal future that humanity should strive for must be a society where everyone is given equal opportunities and everyone is treated is equally, but at the same time we retain our differences as individuals. Our post apocalypse future should possess certain aspects from the society presented in the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. The community in the book has great values that revolves around the idea of equality, but at the same time some characteristics that we should not replicate. The society strips away everyone’s differences – colors, fear, pain, hunger, illness, conflict, hatred, and even the freedom of choice. Each person’s life and the role they would take is predetermined at birth. Once a child is born, he or she is automatically assigned to a family and would never get to know his or her own biological parents. A society like that is both a utopia and a dystopia. While realistically speaking, we would never be able to achieve a uniformed society as described by The Giver and we should not strive to create a systematic equality like so either. In the post-apocalyptic world, differences in our knowledge, ability, and characteristics can make a significant impact on our path to survival and the restructuring of our civilization. Everyone should be given a shot to demonstrate their capabilities and allow to choose how to life their lives. Race, nationality, and socioeconomic standing should not be a barrier to new life-changing opportunities.
Imagine that you are in a plane, thirty thousand feet up in the air, and looking down onto the ground. On the surface of the Earth itself, there are no physical lines dividing between adjacent countries or even just lines dividing between different states or cities. Border is a human construct. We built it to distinct ourselves from the rest of the world. Without borders, there is no mean to colonize or genocide an entire culture because we would all belong to the same place, Earth. We are all citizens of the same planet and we are all fundamentally the same. Why would we rank ourselves in a hierarchy power system when we can all coexist and collaborate for a better future.
If we can establish a united society in terms of ethnicities, politics, economics and power, no individual or a group of individuals would be able to dominate over others. We would be able to embrace our individualities and diverse knowledge to rebuild a better society. There is so much love to go around the world, but we often forget that. Instead we choose to cling onto our prejudice and hatred. Truthfully speaking, we are the way we are partly due to how we what were taught growing up. The foundation for the modern society was built upon the idea of dominating others and the search for power. This underlying norm that we live by is flawed. I personally do not think that we really do need an actual apocalypse to realize how unnecessarily divided we are. The first step is to recognize and understand that we are all just humans. There is no point in hating or looking down at each other for our different backgrounds and attributes. An individual chopstick can be broken without much force, while a lot of chopsticks stacked together is almost impossible to break all at once. We are stronger together and we should remain together.
“Chapter 3 - 6.” Pagans in the Promised Land: the Roots of Domination in U.S. Federal Indian Law, by Steven T. Newcomb, Fulcrum Publishing, 2011, pp. 23–72.
John, John the Apostle. “The Book of Revelation.” The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, American Bible Society, 2000, pp. 22–48.
LOWRY, LOIS. GIVER. HOUGHTON MIFFLIN, 2019.
Nolan, Yvette. The Unplugging. Bloomsbury, 2017.