As we steam towards aTory (Scottish Gaelic for thief) Brexit general election into possible economic and cultural oblivion, it is fitting to reflect on why the western world has entered into the comedy show that we call modern politics, and there is one era-defining and polarising word that fits into the centre of this Brexit/Trump mess – ‘immigration’.
The most credible evolutionary theory explaining why we became bipedal is the persistence running theory which speculates that humans started to walk upright primarily to increase energy efficiency while running and thus enabling them to chase/hunt animals to exhaustion.
Present day persistence running hunters
So it appears that traversing extended distances is a fundamental factor in the genesis of humanity, which goes hand and hand with immigration. You can also trace the literal origin of humankind to so-called ‘cradle of humanity’ in Ethiopia (although there is now speculation that humankind may have started in Europe) meaning that if you go back far enough we are all immigrants.
Our cultural history is also laced with immigration. What is now Britain was a chaotic mix of Anglo Saxons, Danes, Scots, Picts and Britons to name a few. Each of these ‘tribes’ of humans all came here from foreign lands and although they existed in a constant state of war – all of them contributed something to our ‘native’ cultural heritage.
So if Immigration is so fundamental to the human story, how has it become a toxic buzz word lingering at the centre of mainstream political debate?
The answer may lie in our physiology, deep in our brain we have an area called the amygdala, this has been there since we where reptiles (often referred to as the ‘reptilian brain’). This part of the mind, which is responsible for processing fear and identifying threats has an almost binary setting.
If something looks different it is dangerous and you should either run or try to kill it.
In the hostile wilderness that humanity had to endure this setting may of been both useful and relevant. But as we enter a more peaceful existence (kind of) this impulse that anything different is dangerous has become almost a hangover of a time when being munched by a sabre toothed tiger was a legitimate concern.
Basically a giant cat vampire
When you think about it, its no great mystery why humans are violent considering we until very recently in evolutionary terms had to share an environment with tigers the size of Clydesdale horses with giant fuck off knives attached to their face.
There are obviously massively influential social and economic factors at play in the modern world but this part of human physiology can perhaps partly explain explain (not excuse) this resurgent xenophobic ideology in the western world.
We are still feeling the effects of the economic crash due to the madness of the synthetic collateralized debt obligations used by bankers to essentially make money out of nothing. And politicians are adept at employing the media to use their age old get out of jail free card to divert attention from them and the flawed financial system they uphold.
This is eloquently implemented by mayor Quimbey in the clip below.
The agmidila is still useful for lots of reasons and it remains a fundamental part of what makes us human. However it is just one component of what makes up our consciousness, we also have the limbic brain which creates emotions and the neocortex which is responsible for our higher thinking and its this part that Shakespeare used when he wrote his prolific master peace’s and scientists used to put a man on the moon.
Recognising the amygdala as an almost relic of our physiology may make it easier to overcome its whispers to our mind and while thinking like a crocodile does have its uses at times it has little place in the world of rational thought. We shouldn’t let politicians appeal to this primitive part of our brain to cover up problems caused by financial greed.
I am being overly simplistic here, there are many pieces of this puzzle that I haven’t addressed but at the end of the day the issues facing modern society are complex problems that thus require complex solutions and its obvious what part of our brain we should engage to find them.