When We Grow Up

We humans don’t yet know what we’re going to be when we grow up.

In my morning senryu, which I call zentao, I often close with the last line “not civilized yet.” Here’s an example:

We can do better.
We have the tools and knowledge.
Not civilized yet.

A lot of those senryu are written in anger. If we were civilized, this thing wouldn’t happen. Or we know better than this; we could be civilized.

This is rooted in an idea I’ve had for many years that every established group of people – particularly the wealthy ones – thinks they are civilized. We are civilized, unlike the people from a thousand, a hundred, fifty years ago.

Or, more dangerously, we are more civilized than those people over there, which often becomes an excuse to kill them.

This is not a popular theory. Once on a science fiction convention panel I suggested we humans weren’t even close to civilized, and got a lot of pushback from everyone else.

Of course, it depends on what you mean by civilized. My own conception of that is long and complex, but the gist of it is a world in which we use what we know and can learn to make good lives for all in sustainable ways.

As we were driving across the country this past week, my sweetheart, having gone down a rabbit hole online based on something we’d noticed, told me that the horse was first domesticated by humans maybe 6,000 years ago.

(My sweetheart also suggests that teenage girls first domesticated the horse. It’s an interesting theory.)

And it suddenly dawned on me – because my mind goes down its own rabbit holes – that human beings are a very young species.

Of course we aren’t civilized. We haven’t been around long enough. Continue reading “When We Grow Up”