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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Devolving

I recently read something that was, in equal parts, fascinating and scary:

"Years ago, the anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about clay pots, tools for hunting, grinding-stones, or religious artifacts.

But no. Mead said that the first evidence of civilization was a 15,000 years old fractured femur found in an archaeological site. A femur is the longest bone in the body, linking hip to knee. In societies without the benefits of modern medicine, it takes about six weeks of rest for a fractured femur to heal. This particular bone had been broken and had healed.

Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, you cannot drink or hunt for food. Wounded in this way, you are meat for your predators. No creature survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. You are eaten first.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that another person has taken time to stay with the fallen, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended them through recovery. A healed femur indicates that someone has helped a fellow human, rather than abandoning them to save their own life."

    [Source: Remy Blumenfeld - Forbes]

So why is this scary?  Because I couldn't help contrasting Dr. Mead's description of the rise of society, to irrefutable evidence that we as a society seem to be devolving; figuratively coming apart at the seams.

Think about it; if inconveniencing/endangering oneself for one's fellow man is a sign of society forming, what does it say about us that in the face of a serious external threat, where our best and only way to protect our fellow humans from infection, illness and potential death is to inconvenience ourselves (in a minor way), by wearing a tiny cloth or paper mask, we, as a society, are prioritizing our convenience and comfort over the safety, health and lives of our neighbors?

That long ago human's fossilized femur gave evidence of the empathy of an adjacent human.  Yet today, even as scientific evidence conclusively proves the efficacy of cloth and paper masks to lower the chance of spreading infection to low single digits (thus preventing serious illness and death), I see people walking around with no masks... or with masks slumped ineffectively below their nose (bad) or chin (the same as not wearing a mask at all).

In a society where we are finally being conditioned (in a good way), to be protective of the cultural, sexual and racial sensitivities (e.g. protecting people's feelings) of our fellow man, how has protecting their lives fallen so far out of fashion?!

 

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Posted by David Bogner on June 23, 2020 | Permalink

Comments

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Excellent and chilling reminder. Of course, I will remind us that -- aside from the mask issue which has been poorly and inconsistently explained and modeled by our leaders -- here in Israel one can see countless acts of caring for our fellow humans. This is in no way meant to detract from your message. May we not devolve. What a disappointment that would be to our Creator!

Posted by: Ruti Eastman | Jun 23, 2020 10:47:22 AM

Ruti Eastman... No doubt, there are acts of individual caring and even heroism just about anywhere you care to look. But I'm talking about a sense of community empathy; of a sense of shared empathy and responsibility to protect one another. That is sorely lacking.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 23, 2020 12:47:42 PM

Not engaging in hair-splitting here... or maybe I am: Leadership-by-example matters. Our community rav and rabbanit walk around on Shabbat fully masked. While -- because it's a small town -- I see some people walking with their masks in their hands, when they near another person, I see most of them masking before they reach each other's proximity. In Jerusalem, not so much. Leadership matters. Still, your point must be heard. If we can't care enough about each other to take that small step with that little piece of fabric, there is much wrong with us.

Posted by: Ruti Eastman | Jun 23, 2020 2:37:51 PM

Ruti Eastman... I accept hair splitting from you, and I accept the point you are making. But the America, European and Israeli public do not have a shared leadership. Society at large has access to a lot of conflicting information about corona... with one exception: Everyone in the scientific community now agrees that masks can reduce the spread of infection better than anything else. We're talking about 95%+ effective!!! Yet people can;t be bothered, despite the knowledge that by spreading the disease, they will almost certainly injure or kill someone. I can;t explain that or lay it at the feet of poor leadership. Society is created by its members, not by its leaders.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 23, 2020 4:44:09 PM

Great piece of writing, David. I like the use of the analogy. I also realize I missed your blog and am glad you are writing again.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Jun 24, 2020 3:19:25 PM

well written/spoken David. I am related to 2 people who are on the front lines of this epidemic and it's scary. I totally understand wanting our lives back but it's not time yet. Wear a mask to protect others, wash your hands to protect yourself and keep your distance. Please.
And, it is really great to read your writing again. Thank you
Nina

Posted by: Nina Black | Jun 24, 2020 5:50:40 PM

Ilana-Davita... thanks. I’ve missed this place, too.

Nina Black... well said, yourself. Brevity has never been my strong suit.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 24, 2020 7:08:40 PM

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