I have recently been delving into human history. Not for the first time, but now from the perspective of late middle age with a good deal more reverence, compassion and humility. "Sapiens" a remarkable book by Yuval Noah Harari, prompted this, with its startlingly clear descriptions and analysis of modern man and our development over the past 75,000 years.
Listening to the audio version at night has at times kept me from sleep, pondering astounding discoveries, calculations and achievements. From humble beginnings of foraging and survival to a world of science and medicine, philosophy and an appreciation for the arts, the journey is breathtaking.
But not all is rosy. In forming the cultural, technological, legal and political environments we take for granted, applaud today, man has displayed a selfishness and an ugliness of nature we can easily despise. Entire genera of native wildlife were hunted and chased from all continents that man sailed to. Not least of that wildlife were pockets of early man himself; remote branches of the tree of life stranded in their simple ways, uneducated in the ways of the latest incarnation of Homo Sapiens.
Indigenous peoples everywhere are still suffering at the hands of invasive western man. I am not opening that debate here but have been thinking of the tragic fate of Tasmania after its 'invasion' by Captain James Cook in 1777. Unsullied by the western world, the aboriginal inhabitants had enjoyed their pristine island for tens of thousands of years. That all full blood natives were banished to Flinders Island within fifty years and not a single one survived beyond 1860 is a crime against humanity and morally bereft.
I was viewing other material on the subject this morning with my girls sitting beside me on the sofa when I pointed to an 1860 image of four Tasmanians and little Kathleen said the unsayable, "she looks like a monkey."
I could not disagree so decided to explain and that led us to a discussion about the evolution of man involving the 'tree of life' and other visual renditions. In these days of extreme political correctness it was refreshing to answer an innocent question. The Big Bang and the origins of life I will leave for another day!