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March 02, 2013

Humans, the Brain, and Diasporas

Our relatively small planet is, so far as we can tell, the only one in our vast universe harboring life. We humans are also the only species to have evolved a brain complex enough to master both language and literacy. That they are not the same is evident from the enormous number of spoken languages still in use, while the number of writing systems (literacy) is far smaller. The first evidence of literacy also suggests that it evolved well after the first successful diasporas forced humans from their ancestral homelands in Africa and distributed them (plus some Neanderthals) widely over the world's continents and large islands.

It’s also obvious that our neolithic forebears must have developed spoken language long before leaving Africa on journeys as frightening as diasporas. How else could they have planned such complex undertakings requiring (at a minimum) close cooperation, complex planning, and the agreement by several families that a desperate move was necessary in the first place? We can only imagine because there is no written record.

However, the conditions that can stimulate populations to leave homelands on dangerous, one-way journeys have always been with us.

In fact, a brilliant study by Isabel Wilkerson describes how lack of faith in their futures impelled modern American blacks to migrate from the deep South to different parts of the United States in search of better lives. It takes but a moment to realize that Mexican "illegals" are now making the same choice with even less hope of employment than that awaiting immigrants to the United States in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.

Diasporas are possible whenever a discrete population shares the belief that life where they are has become intolerable; they are then motivated to undertake journeys into the unknown with no guarantee of return. Such is the plight of the “illegals” now besieging our border with Mexico. It also impelled large numbers of European Jews to emigrate to North America and elsewhere just in time to escape Hitler's final solution. After enabling the population of Ireland to reach eight million, potatoes imported from Peru were stricken with a blight that resulted in the mass starvation noted in history as the Irish Potato famine. The exodus from Ireland was focused on the United States, principally its Northern cities of New York and Boston, where they have had far-reaching effects.

A straw in today's wind may be that among recent cannabis applicants, several from states in the South and Southwest seem to nave opted to move to rural Northern California where they hope to live "off the grid" and grow cannabis.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at March 2, 2013 07:11 PM