Born Yesterday

To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

I wasn't born yesterday.

Billie Dawn, Born Yesterday

I don't believe in evolution.

Oh, that's silly. Of course I believe in evolution. I just said that to get your attention. I do believe in evolution - the evolution of our physical organism, the evolution of our bodies and limbs and gray matter, of our ability to walk on land, breathe oxygen, stand upright.

But there is an evolution that I don't believe in. I don't believe that cultural evolution (which is a perfectly legitimate term) is an inheritable trait.

In other words, we were, indeed, born yesterday.

It's easy to forget. From the time we are born, we are surrounded by and imbued with the culture into which we are born and our ideas of the world are informed by that culture and our individual experiences within it. But before we take our first breath, before the prenatal sleep is rubbed from our eyes, our knowledge of the world, of culture, of our fellow human beings, is no different from that of a baby emerging in India, China, the Brazilian rainforest, the Congo. No different from that of a baby who once emerged in ancient Egypt or Peru or the Australian Dreamtime.

But it is something to keep in mind when we see images of other peoples behaving in ways that we find incomprehensible. We tend to think, almost intuitively, that they should "know better." They should see the world that we see, as we see it. We are kind, tolerant, forgiving, non-violent. Because humanity has, somehow, "evolved."

No. We haven't. Or if we have, if we are, it is happening so slowly as makes no nevermind. We aren't born with a knowledge of anything that occurred before we are born. We aren't born with any idea at all of other human beings anywhere, except the body from which we are detached at birth.

Almost immediately, we begin to reattach - to our mothers, our families, our neighbors. We hear the stories told by all of them, are taught whatever history they know. Too many of us, the centuries over, know no more than that. By necessity or choice, too many of us were born into closed communities, cut off from the rest of humanity by both physical and social barriers.

A child raised in a closed community of any kind stands a good chance of "remaining always a child," unable to grow beyond ignorance of the past and of the people over the horizon.

Who were also born yesterday.