Social Evolution vs. Political Revolution

For the past few weeks, the concepts of evolution, as in social evolution vs. revolution have occupied my mind. It appears to be on many people’s minds, unconsciously if not in those exact words, this American political season.

Bernie Sanders calls for revolution; Hillary Clinton for evolution. Trump calls for revolution, Marco Rubio, evolution.

Social evolution comes into “Big History...and emphasizes long-term trends and processes rather than history making…” says Wikki.

Revolution, on the other hand, suggests radical changes, sometimes with violence, sometimes not. Now! Well, maybe sometimes not is overstating. For the most part, political revolution in its radical-ness is noisy in one way or another.

And there’s always a backlash to revolution. In the American Revolution, the leaders had to acquiesce to the Southern states regarding slavery. Which led to the Civil War. Which we’ve not yet recovered from and put behind us as a nation.

I was part of the 60s Revolution and protested against war, for civil rights, and for women’s rights. We made a lot of noise. In 1968, the Beatles sang:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world….

We want a revolution…Now! …. yeah. I remember all that.

And then there was the backlash: Martin Luther King assassinated, riots, more hangings or burnings in the South. The war ended and Vietnamese refugees poured into the country and were segregated and hated. A woman’s right to choice was slowly, state by state, curtailed, and equality in pay is still a dream. Now the United States is an ally of Vietnam, politically and economically, and the U.S. has moved on to bigger wars in the Middle East; abortion rights are once more heading to the Supreme Court, and voting rights are being constrained and into the courts.

Gay rights is more in the social evolution camp. Yes, there were loud leaders, and the war against AIDS was fierce. Nancy Regan came out in support of gay rights and convinced her husband. But then, he had a gay son. Gay rights were close to home. Now, marriage equality is in the law.

Smoking pot was pretty common in those 60s years and many smoked openly and grew two or three pot plants in converted gallon milk jugs in a sunny window. And then Ronald and Nancy came along with the War on Drugs, drugs went underground and cultivation into other countries, and we ended up with cocaine and heroin and home-made crack and drug wars–and money, big money–now, slowly, legalization of marijuana.

That’s an example of revolution leading to evolution.

Revolutions are usually bottom-up, not top-down. In a New York Times editorial, the editor writes, “Ilya Sheyman, the executive director of…is confident that movements like Occupy Wall Street, the Fight for $15 minimum -wage campaign, and Black Lives Matter will eventually propel young progressives into elective office.”

Those are “movements”–or one could say, “revolutions”–that will propel young people into the fields where they can make changes on the state and local level and eventually national. That takes time. That’s revolution into evolution.

Seth Godin, a blogger I follow, writes, “As soon as self-awareness kicks in, it’s possible to be more discerning about what you believe and why.”

Revolution was more attractive to me when I was younger and impatient for change. Now that I’ve seen changes, many changes in my lifetime, and way too much war, I am more patient.

Evolution doesn’t go backwards–once you grow an elbow, you’ve got an elbow–but I’m not so sure about revolution. It seems to take a huge leap only to back up to evolve.

I guess what I’d like is a social evolution. Something lasting as befitting the human condition of growth and evolution. I’d rather not have to wait the millions of years it takes to grow an elbow, but maybe, just maybe in my lifetime, it will arrive.



Mephistopheles the Gremlin

thThe email inbox is full. It’s been full for days, weeks. It no longer belongs to me but rather to gremlins who red highlight posts to send me back to check and see if I need to do something. I do. I don’t want to. A big sigh escapes.

If, indeed, gremlins have taken over, perhaps I might name them: Sleepy, Grumpy, Stalled, and George, stubborn in his tracks. You’ll note I have not given the gremlins female names. Girls, no doubt, would have plowed in, made brief comments or funny emoji faces, sent them off, and deleted. But then, girls have memories. Elders do not. I am an elder. Bertha. There. Maybe I’ll name a gremlin Bertha.

I mean, how does this happen? I unsubscribe and unsubscribe and they keep on coming. No doubt somewhere, like in the cloud where all my interests and email and writing and wondering go, there’s this sub-head gremlin who pours over my writing, sees what I’m most interested in or NOT, and then, just to amuse this very dissatisfied gremlin, maybe George, he resubscribes me and then finds in the tendrils of electronic news, views, and highlights, corresponding threads and hooks me up.

This is not the sort of hook-up we talked about when young.

I don’t think the head gremlin does this. It’s the underlings. The head gremlin is called Mephistopheles, probably, and about the size of the King Gremlin in Lord of the Rings. That big fat guy with the crown on his head. He doesn’t care. He just sits and lets others feed him. Like this rant. They’ll probably feed him this rant.

And he’ll laugh and he’ll laugh. Ho ho ho ho.

And my inbox will get even fuller.

The Wizards of Oz

The State of Kansas has had less than favorable notice the past few years. The Governor, the Secretary of State, and the legislature, in particular, head up the news you’re seeing. “What’s Wrong With Kansas,” became a best seller.

Kansans have always been touched by the crazy bug. I mean, consider moving to where no one lives, where nothing lives, really, but tallgrass and Native Americans, and building a home out of sod. We’ll start there. But Kansas also boasts the Garden of Eden, complete with concrete poured animals and a beloved, shrunken to a mummy, in a glass-topped coffin; a Wizard of Oz Museum; and a Rock in a Cage. That’s a very very very brief list. If you’re really curious, go here. You’ll find more in alphabetical order by town. Oh, and the geographical center of the Continental United States.

But here’s a Kansas only the local community will talk about, in particular, Marysville, Kansas, the town where we shop when we go to the farm, and the home of The Marysville Advocate, home town newspaper which arrives in my mailbox once a  week.

This week’s top story, along with a bond election for the schools, but we’re not going into politics, was on the Hong Kong Restaurant, a town favorite, which opened in 1997, and is closing. The owners are retiring and moving closer to children. Crowds filled the restaurant for a last meal, the patrons sad; someone changed the closing date on the door sign from Nov. 1, 2015 to Nov. 1, 2016. One of their children, Connie Chan, who grew up in the restaurant, graduated from high school and subsequently from Carnegie Mellon University, wrote a column in this week’s paper, saying thanks for the memories. And thanks to Marysville, her “hometown.”

While not exactly my hometown as the farm is seventeen miles northeast, nonetheless, I’ve known Marysville, Kansas since about five years old. As we drove Highway 36, the old Pony Express route, on the way to Grandma’s house, I always looked for the neon sign that read EAT horizontally and GAS vertically. EAT GAS. Even at a young age, words amused me. Eat gas was my first introduction to Kansas crazy.

When I returned to this part of the country, we live in Kansas City, Missouri, across the state line from Kansas a few blocks to the west, and when I began regularly going to the farm and to Marysville for supplies, one of the first things I noticed was the Chinese restaurant and the Mexican restaurant. In the newspaper, I noticed Asian and African-American and Mexican and Caucasian schoolkids, laughing in newspaper photographs.

Something remarkable had happened in Marysville and in Marshall County. True, it’s at a crossroad: the Pony Express, the train, the highways 77 and 36 in a major crossroad, and the county seat. But so much diversity in a small Kansas town surprised me.

So yes, while there’s a lot wrong with Kansas, there’s a lot right, too. And acceptance for differences (we’ll leave out the Legislature for now) is a hallmark.

We be a little crazy in Kansas. It’s probably in the wind.







An Indo-European Family

400px-IE_expansion“So much of life is unpredictable and yet we all search for security,” I wrote this morning in my journal, apropos of a thought trailing through my mind at the moment, which I can’t remember, my mind wont to wander in the early morning journal. Mind: one of those unpredictables.

I stared out at our backyard fence, a sturdy six-food wooden fence called a privacy fence, security against intruders in theory, although I noted a Frisbee on the ground which I need to remember to toss back across the fence to the kids who live behind us.

That got me to think about security and why we buy big houses and big SUVs in the assumption they provide safety.

Pulling out my trusty American Heritage Dictionary which contains, in the back, the root of words, re: etymology, and especially, the Indo-European roots, I looked up secure which  gave me Indo-European seu-2 in the Appendix.

The above map shows the theories of how the Indo-European language, and people, migrated from origins in the Caucasus  Mountains. They got around.

But back to seu-2: Pronoun of the third person and reflexive (referring back to the subject of the sentence); further appearing in various forms referring to the social group as an entity. “(we-our) selves.”

In other words, family/clan.

I was born into a family that provided security for one another. Not necessarily financial, although that was certainly true in a limited sense, but rather the security of belonging.

I realize not everyone has that kind of security, families being what they are, but for me, it has. And although I have wandered wide and often, even in my worst and most chaotic times, I belonged. I was not cast out.

Therein lies my strength, my faith, and my security, as I watch a new crop of babies, “the cousins'” nephews and nieces’ babies, grow. None of us own SUVs. A few own trucks, none of us own giant houses, although Jeanne has built a small boutique hotel, but all of the homes will fit whichever of the family visits.

We all own inflatable mattresses for the occasion.








The G.M.O. debate

gmo-genetically-modified-organism_50290d5e92a11_w1500An article in the New York Times Sunday Review section from October 25, troubled me this morning, an opinion piece by Mark Lynas titled “Europe Turns Against Science.”

The context is the continuing argument over genetically modified seeds, or GMOs. European countries “announced bans on the cultivation of genetically modified crops.”

I’ve watched this argument, GMOs vs. non-GMO foods, and cannot find a reasonable answer. My nephew, an organic farmer, is vocally opposed to GMOs. I understand and appreciate his position. Here at our house, we buy organic produce and organic chicken and good quality meats. We rarely go out to dinner, but we eat well.

My problem with the furor is two-fold. 1. It reminds me of the furor over immunizations for children and the ensuing measles and whooping cough outbreaks; and 2. my dad was planting GMOs back in the 1950s with NC+ seeds. In other words, GMOs have been in our food chain for sixty years.

Which is not to say there isn’t a problem. But the problems are wide spread and complicated in our complicated world.

From the article: One study found that G.M.O. cultivation has led to a 40 percent reduction in insecticide spraying worldwide.

That’s huge. Insecticide use produced ecological problems throughout the world. Think honey bees and their decline. Weed spraying is also reduced by GMO use. Think monarch butterflies and the milkweed pods they need. Although the reduction of milkweed also has to do with the increase in corporate farming. Drive along most country roads and you’ll see what I mean. Uncultivated fence rows rarely exist anymore. As I said, most answers to problems are complicated.

Following Europe’s lead, no country in sub-Sahara Africa, except for South Africa, permits GMO. cultivation. Lynas writes, “Yet from drought-tolerant maize to virus-resistant cassava, many biotech traits are being developed that could quickly improve the livelihoods of poorer African farmers.”

He goes on to write of visiting malnourished children in Tanzania whose families were hungry because the cassava “were wiped out by brown-streak disease.” Modified cassava has resistance to that virus.

But here’s the line that got to me: because of the ban, “we are witnessing a historic injustice perpetrated by the well fed on the food insecure.”

My family is well-fed. I’d rather not make those who are “food insecure” less secure.

I understand the argument against Monsanto’s wide-reaching dominance, but the argument against G.M.O.s leads me to remember the 1950s yellow NC+ sign, proudly guarding our country farm’s lane.

Our farm family never had much money, but we always had food.