“Man developed in Africa. He has not continued to do so there.” — P. J. O’Rourke
Andrew Hamilton recently reviewed Lawrence H. Keeley’s anthropological treatise War Before Civilization . Keeley’s book delivers an excellent (and very accessible) debunking of the popular notion that precivilized humans were more pacific than civilized ones. They weren’t. But I don’t believe Keeley goes far enough. Warfare didn’t just happen throughout the course of human evolution. Warfare is human evolution. Distilled to its bare biological essence, the human is the martial ape, the war monkey.
The human populations which evolved in the most temperate and fertile habitats had the most surplus time and energy to invest in war, evolving larger and more fearsome instruments of male territorial aggression than their cousins who remained in the rainforest refuges. Male territorial aggression is a familiar template throughout the animal kingdom, with several species featuring tusks, horns, antlers, and other weapons. As with every other population, environmental abundance and overpopulation didn’t ease the struggle for survival, it merely shifted it from environmental selection to sexual selection. What’s unique about humanity is its instrument of male territorial aggression: the brain.
The warlords and tribes with the best weapons and strategies defeated the other tribes, kidnapping their women and children to exploit as concubines and child soldiers. The most gifted and creative men were the most likely to win, and the chronic gender disparity empowered them to gather the most fair and delightsome women into their harems. Eventually, this race condition wherein the tribes rapidly grew more gifted and fair was interrupted by their becoming so gifted that they began developing entirely novel artificial habitats with different selective conditions: civilizations.
Thanks to the recent marketing campaign , Joseph Kony is now the most vilified man in Africa. The 30 minute viral video describes in vivid detail and with gory images Kony’s decades-long campaign of terror. In addition to routine jungle warfare, he’s kidnapped an estimated 30,000 children from villages throughout Uganda and neighboring countries, unleashing them as child soldiers to terrorize the countryside. College students across the civilized West are uniting together in collective outrage at the horrors of this precivilized warfare. It’s indeed horrifying. I’m horrified by it, too.
Evolution’s not pleasant to watch. But unlike colonialism, imperialism, foreign aid, and charity missions, evolution actually works. The only hope for the future of the African people is to excuse ourselves from their midst and allow them to catch up. It’s not as if forcing them to avoid fighting then watching them all die of starvation and disease is any less inhumane.
It’s easier on us, but it’s harder on them. It’s worse than harder on them, as it removes the hope for progress. It condemns them to the their state of perpetual agony but deprives them of the opportunity to escape it. It was only a couple hundred miles from this region and only a few decades ago that similar conditions in Kenya resulted in one of the polygamist warlords becoming intelligent enough to attend Harvard, and for that man’s son to become the most powerful man in the world. Within a few months, he’ll face off against another product of the eugenic impact of polygyny.
Many conservatives and race realists will react to the Kony 2012 campaign with suspicion about the motives of the charities. They’ll despair at the improbability of being able to improve living conditions for the children of Uganda. These are fair points, but I believe not only that there is hope for Africa’s future, but that men like Joseph Kony are Africans’ source of that hope. Sure, it’s unbearable to witness human evolution up close, and I stand for the civilized standards of chivalry and decency that my European forefathers and I have developed. But the conundrum remains that a population must first evolve to the point where it’s intelligent and organized enough to sustain those standards.
Former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once quipped that “There should be a wall built around Africa and every 100 years or so remove a brick to see if there had been any progress.” The first couple times looking through the brick would assuredly take its toll on the moral sensibilities of the Westerner peeping through it. But our selfish preference that Africans deal with their overpopulation problem through starvation and disease rather than through warfare doesn’t make contemporary Africans one iota less desperate and miserable, and it guarantees that future Africans will remain in the current state of desperation and misery until our failure to reverse our own devolution weakens us to the point where we can no longer interfere with their evolution.