Directions in Social Evolution

by Greg Somerville

Men donít like to ask for directions. Thatís putting it mildly. Women can do it. Kids can do it. Men have trouble with it. Why is this? I have an answer. Social theorists will hate it.

Hereís my theory in a nutshell: women represent the past, men the future of social evolution. The theorists who have convinced us that the evolutionary direction of society is toward larger and larger units of human grouping are wrong. The evolution is actually running in the opposite direction, and men have led it, and it is running away from biology toward fulfillment of a destiny unknown, a potential off the cuff and wildly unpredictable.

I have always thought that the human heart was strongly implicated in the reality of our destiny. And I have known how dangerous this implication is, having glimpsed something of manís potential for viciousness, pig-headedness, bestiality. These are of course misnomers. And thatís my point. Animals do not come close to human depravity. Male humans, however, became detached enough from reproductive responsibilities to come up with oddball social innovations.

This is the war we see played out on a comedy level in gender histories. And this is why liberty creates a lasting first impression by loosing bonds. Yes, the future of human society is atomic, individualistic, responsible, and anti-communitarian.

See, I told you it was a tough sell for theory. Theory loves the progression from tribal band to feudal fief to imperial hegemon to world government. Theory is bollix. Theory is womenís work. Real men just go do it for themselves. Women ask directions.

Of course, asking directions works; thatís why women do it. But if we all just took advice, where would we be? Doing what grandma did, thatís where. I know this is obnoxious. That doesnít make it incorrect, just hard to listen to. But as they say, donít take my advice, just go look for yourself.

Look in particular at "community" and ask yourself why this notion is so uninspiring. For a long time now, Iíve been trying to figure this out. Most of the time, I was in denial. I kept imagining that if I turned the concept this way or that, inspiration would emerge. I would find out what roadblock lay across the path of progress. I would identify the villain who poisoned the nest, dissolved the natural bonds of brotherhood, set us each upon each, divided and conquered us.

I have found that villain. I looked in the mirror of our times, which are of course famously difficult to read. Is it the best of times or the worst of times? Are we bound for perdition, or for redemption? And what will redeem us? This is often phrased as a return, as in "return to the virtues of our fathers" or "return to forgotten truths" or "return to our senses" as if we had lost something. Finding it might get us back to paradise.

I am in recovery. I am willing to accept the verdict of my peers. All of them, universally, shop till they drop. At least they do so while money remains in their pockets. It must mean something. Maybe it means what they think it means: freedom. And nobody wants government, or the neighbors, in their pants. Money, yes; a widening web of mutual obligation and inspection, no. For let us be clear: tighter bonds of community mean crowding into the sort of close-knit intolerance from which liberal principle has set us free.

I am in recovery. All of us seek greater privacy, greater autonomy, greater liberty. Our progress in this direction annoys the theorists because these waters are uncharted. There is no expert advice. Even our biology, wise advisor to our very cells and tissues, shrinks from this quest. But boys will be boys. Deal!