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No. 105: Wise up.

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Wise up.

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Strip by: Ian Boreham

{A documentary is screening. The title sequence shows a colourful montage of a pyramid, Stonehenge, a yin-yang symbol, and the sun and the moon.}
Narrator: In ancient times, life was simpler. Without the distractions of modern city living, people were more attuned to the natural world, and spiritually at peace. If we could learn lessons from them, could we all lead better lives?

Narrator: In this series, we explore... The Wisdom of the Ancients…

{Episode title screen.}
text: Episode 1 Caveman

{A burning stick is used to light a fire. Thog, a primitive human figure, leans into the shot and blows air on the fire to get it burning strongly.}

{Thog crouches by the fire.}
Thog: See... Thog have hot spirit as pet. Keep Thog warm.

{As the camera moves closer, Thog puts his hand up in warning.}
Thog: No come too close! Him bite!

{Thog is standing, holding a dead squirrel in his hand, and raising a stick above his head, as he recounts.}
Thog: Thog hit furry with stick. Furry no move.

{Thog is holding up a charred squirrel on a stick to the camera.}
Thog: Taste good! TRY!

{Thog is missing the index finger on his left hand, and his mouth is more gap than tooth. He is pointing at the stub of his finger, and looks sad.}
Thog: Once Thog had finger here. Was bit by furry then smell bad.
Thog: Thog had to bite out bad spirit by Thog self.

{Thog is looking downcast.}
Thog: Thog wish Thog had better medical and dental care, and still have tooth and finger.

Narrator: In our next episode, we explore the timeless wisdom of human sacrifice in the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilisations.

The author writes:

This strip was inspired by my annoyance at people who think that somehow if "knowledge" is ancient, then it must be "wisdom". I'll admit that in earlier times, when people lived on the land and had to acquire their own food and manage their own local environment, they would have had a better practical knowledge of the world around them than modern city dwellers.

But it seems that primitive people are also capable of damaging their environments too, through deforestation and extermination of megafauna. They were also capable of exploiting the environment in good times, and then having insufficient food or water when things turned for the worse. Modern science has a much better understanding of how the world and our climate work than ancient people did, even if not every modern person shares this understanding, and even if there are areas we still don't understand well.

The same can be said for medicine, psychology, and other fields. We also have writing and technology, to allow us to disseminate the knowledge we have better. (OK, we also have Twitter and Facebook to balance that out.)

It's not so much a lack of wisdom that has brought us to the dangerous environmental situation we find ourselves in now, but rather a combination of population explosion and an increased ability through technology to satisfy our greed, compared with what people could do in earlier times.

Some people (such as Steven Pinker) argue that life is less violent per capita in the modern world, and that we are actually in general nicer and more compassionate than people typically were in pre-industrial societies. I certainly don't think the modern world is perfect, but I think that most people in the developed world, and possibly in the developing world, are better off than their ancestors, and should be grateful. And if the human race is lucky, clever, or wise enough, our descendants will think the same way about us.

Somehow I've gotten all worked up writing this annotation. I should go and do some soothing yoga and maybe sacrifice something to placate the spirits.

(All right, all right, I've done yoga in the past, and it can be soothing and relaxing, as well as good exercise. But I wish people wouldn't take it so seriously! :-) I haven't tried sacrifice.)

Drawn in Krita and Inkscape.