Grow up

If the entire history of the earth is represented as one day, apparently humans have only been around since one minute, seventeen seconds to midnight.

The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. The few seconds of human existence represents the following:

the modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it is only about 6,000 years old, and industrialization started in the earnest only in the 1800s.
We think we're evolved, we think we're cleaver, but the human race is still in it's infancy. And we act like it

Just like a child sucks it's thumb or cuddles it's security blanket, the human race still has an ingrained desire to do the same on a species wide scale. We need reassurance from an outside source because we don't yet have the confidence and the understanding to function without it

From the dawn of man, that security blanket has come in the form of religion. Early humans, lacking any understanding of the world around them and even their own existence, wove a complex fabric of mythology about a supreme being (in many forms) who created all the things they failed to understand

That mythology has persisted into the modern era. Some religions have disappeared, other have become more widespread. With a little more understanding of life, the western world has largely moved away from religion. We've have just enough knowledge to believe that just maybe, we weren't all created by an all powerful entity after all.

That poses a problem

There are two classes of people in any religion; the leaders and the led. Both become what they are out of a need. The leaders need to have people willing to follow them, the led need to follow

In the early days of ignorance when the world was very small, the system worked well for those involved. As time progressed and people started to move around the world more, religions encountered other religions and some people even moved away from religion altogether. This wasn't good for the leaders; they can't control the unbelievers and they can't control other religions that already have leaders in place. This led to inquisitions and religious wars

Religions like Christianity have evolved to a point where they understand people cannot be forced to follow a belief and you can't put them to death for not doing so. Religions like Islam have some catching up to do in that area, but that's a geographical concern. Their time will come

This change in attitudes was not good for the followers either. Even though they no longer believe in creationism, they still need something to believe in. They're not ready to give up the security blanket just yet

A good example of this is the Cold War. Following World War 2, one side embraced Communism. Not a religious belief, but a philosophy with a message non the less. The other side was galvanised by a hatred of Communism. Both sides needed leaders with a vision to pass onto the people who followed.
The US did not put a man on the Moon because they thought it would be a really cool thing to do, they did it in order to beat the Russians at something. The Space Race unified the people behind the leaders

The Cold War also gave us the constant threat of nuclear fire. This threat brought about many new pressure groups and activists. Pro and anti Communist groups, ban the bomb movements, and various advocates for peace. Many of these were made up of people filling a belief void, directionless people who had found a way

Around the end of the cold war, with pressure groups who had no one to pressure and inactive activists, new reasons to fill the void began to crop up. The late eighties and early nineties were dominated by the food health scare. We had salmonella in eggs, listeria in cheese, and the big one, BSE in beef.

These scares gave rise to the next religion. The food police. Food safety became the new direction for the pressure groups. In a vain effort to eradicate all the various types of food poisoning, new and pointless laws were enacted and some businesses were crippled by ever expanding costs and new legislation.

Food safety eventually began to grow into the general 'Health and Safety' movement. People began to look for new and ever more imaginative ways to make people safe. Regardless of the social and economic cost, people had to be protected. We saw the demise of leaded petrol. As a car enthusiast, I understand the importance of lead, particularly in older vehicles. It didn't stop there though. We also lost lead in paints and at a huge cost, computer equipment and printed circuit boards. The only harm that lead ever caused was in water piping and in some instances, paint, but we lost the lot.

Then came asbestos. A very efficient fire retardant in building materials and harmless in many building applications, was also banned completely.

Religion, having been around since the dawn of man, is heavily ingrained in the human meme. Moving away from it has left a void that is difficult to fill. Many quasi-religious philosophies have cropped up to try and fill the gap

Global warming has an impending threat of doom that can only be avoided by adopting a lifestyle laid down by those 'in the know'. Anti-global warming science is emphatically denounced, often by faith alone. People who do not follow the philosophy are referred to as 'Deniers', much like the unbelievers in the height of religious oppression in the name of a God. Deniers are roundly attacked by swarms of the faithful in an attempt to shut down their opinions and prevent their sacrilege from spreading

There is one encompassing message in any religion that cannot be duplicated in any of the pop up philosophies that have appeared since. The afterlife
If you no longer believe in the supreme being, it's hard to believe that living a pious life will result in ascension to heaven at the end of it and living forever in paradise.

So to replace the afterlife, we now have the beforelife.

With an afterlife, you have to live the life laid down by the religious leaders and as a reward, you get a do-over once you die. The before life acknowledges that you don't get a second chance, so your reward now has to be living this life for as long as you possibly can. Of course to get this, you still have to live the life prescribed to you by those in charge

We call this new religion, Public Health

Public Health works well for both sides. Those who need to be led will listen with rapt attention to the tales about the dangers of smoking, drinking, sugar, fat, salt and the rest. They will drink in the idea that if they do what they're told, they will live a very long and very happy life. They will get their paradise, just in a different place

It works well for the controllers too. They get the adulation of their flock, they get to control people and dictate how people live their lives and just like religion, it pays well

The evidence for Public Health is the same as the evidence for the existence of a God; it's faith based and it's taken on faith. People believe it because they choose to believe it. They've been told what to believe by people who are revered now as much as the priests used to be. These new priests are called, 'Experts'

The Experts tell the people what to believe and they lap it up. The people have the faith in the Experts, they read the good book (Daily Mail) and they do as they are told in anticipation of the reward they will receive. Long life

The people have their security blanket back

But just like religions with supreme beings and afterlifes, this philosophy is on even more shaky ground

When you live as you are told to and believe you are going to heaven when you die, actually dying won't change your opinion. You'll be dead. Also, the other believers around you cannot know if you actually went to heaven or not. The only way for them to find out is to go there themselves

The difference with Public Health is, everyone can see the reward in action. If you live exactly as you are told to and then get hit by a bus, everyone can see it. If you live the pious life and then still get cancer, it's no secret. The Experts can cloud the issue by claiming it was second hand smoke or whatever, but that cannot keep working every time.

And if the Experts are right in your case, if you do end up living a very long life and spend the last years of it sat in a puddle of your own piss at the mercy of social care, unable to function on your own, it's obvious to anyone who wants to open their eyes and see it. There are already splits in the seams

Unfortunately very few of the initiated do open their eyes. To pinch a quote from the X-Files, they want to believe. It's so much easier to believe what you are told than to throw away the security blanket and step out into the big wide world on your own

As a race, we really need to grow up. Unfortunately I doubt that will happen in my lifetime

2 Comments:

DCBain said...

Bucko said...