Let me start this by admitting that I had a rather religious upbringing. I dived into it really young and by the age of 3 had the desire to become a Christian minister. I maintained that goal until my late teens. Even if I considered other careers, I intended to be a minister as well. I did not see the ministry as being exclusive.
Religion was my own security blanket, I could say. Yet it did not provide answers that I sought, so I left Christianity behind. I did still study philosophy and other religions extensively for years.
I will also admit that my religion held me back in some ways. Not nearly as many as some people because I could never accept the concept of not asking questions, as Christianity mandates.
In addition, I grew up in Texas and come from a family of veterans running in an unbroken line for centuries. So I had no shortage of Conservative views in my repertoire. Never a right-winger, though.
So, when I speak of personal evolution and the challenges involved, I do not come from a perspective of someone has never personally experienced those challenges in a direct manner. I have known the ethical and social dissonance, fear of rejection, and general doubt that comes from radical change to your entire world view.
People have strange views of evolution. Even Christians have to realize that we have evolved as a society over centuries and millennia. We find it unacceptable to nail people to crosses, burn them at stakes, feed them to lions, stretch them on racks, seal them in dungeons. Yes, some still believe in these things, always thinking it is they who will be in charge, not the victims. Once again, I am talking about our evolution as a society, not the random few who have never evolved past single syllable words.
Evolution can be curious. Physically, we evolve over centuries and millennia. We can adapt to different environments in shorter periods, either as individuals or communities but that is not evolution. It is not a permanent change to our biology. We can move to colder or warmer climates, drier or more humid, higher or lower elevation. We can develop a taste for different foods. Our digestion does not always keep up, as we can see from rising instances of food allergies, much of which comes from exposure to foods not in our genetic history. No, I am not getting into the GMO or glyphosate debate here. Take it somewhere else. I am sticking to the subject.
What I am focusing on is social/behavioral/ethical/cultural evolution. People seem to have some belief that social evolution is an organic process that just magically happens. Or that it occurs on a sudden mass scale. None of this could be further from the truth.
Social evolution begins with one person or a small group. That person or people have the bravery to talk to others, often sparking an initial awareness of some form of injustice, inequality or needed improvement to society. That can be behavior, economic process, unhealthy condition, repetitive legal injustice, prejudicial condition and on and on.
From the small group, that issue expands to gain the awareness of some part of the academic community. From there it continues to greater social awareness, gaining a foothold in the media. Today that is most often alternative media owing to the fact that some powerful lobby associated with mainstream media profits from the inequalities in our system. Once it gains footing in the media, it progresses to greater social awareness.
It is from this point that we often see failures or stasis of social evolution. Ideally, at this point it should progress to legislation and social change. However, this is also the point where the powerful forces who profit from existing conditions become involved on a large scale. They have the resources to fight against change, developing propaganda to convince one group that they will be disadvantaged by any change in the status quo. Most often, that is not true at all and even those convinced to oppose change already suffer from the existing condition but they have lived with the condition too long to understand their own struggle which can be alleviated. They fear change and are not willing to hear an opposing view.
The good part is that once awareness has spread, change is always inevitable. It may take years, even generations but change will always happen. Questions do not abate. Knowledge is not forgotten, nor is it static. It spreads, it gains power. For some it may be insidious but that knowledge will continue to gain strength. It causes doubt, examination, debate.
So, social evolution is inevitable. Once begun, it will happen. Society moves forward, not backward. Once ideas and systems have been rejected, we may see some level of retraction and return of old systems but they will not last. In fact, at that point they gain more adamant opposition from those seeking to move forward. Think of racism and gender bias as examples. It is far too late in our social evolution to try and contain awareness, to continue old prejudices on an effective large scale without violence. As of now, so many of us oppose those prejudices that attempts to reinstate them meet with large scale opposition.
Right now, as many cry out in angst, we should all be aware that bigotry is dying. What we are witnessing is the death throes of an already dead contingency. Those trying to perpetuate it prove themselves more mindless and heartless than we had even given them credit for. They show themselves incapable of evolution.
In evolution, only the strong survive. Only the greater numbers survive. Those that attack the society itself are winnowed out, isolated, exiled, possibly popularly denied the chance to reproduce. Even when they do reproduce, their own children are likely to evolve beyond them.
Evolution is here right now. The death throes have only gained the attention of the predators, the scavengers coming to feed on the carcasses. When the predators come, the greater society will do nothing to save those already exiled. They are rejects, weak links that serve no benefit in their continuation. They weaken and infect the herd with illness.
This is what evolution looks like. It is not a glamorous process but necessary. It comes with struggle but will happen nonetheless.
Let’s just hope we did not wait too late to evolve.
“You cannot kill an idea.”- V For Vendetta