J. Robert King


Agents of the West

Recently, Iran has rounded up dissident journalists and charged them with the crime of being “Agents of the West.”

We fans of Tolkien have to marvel. It is as though the West were Mordor.

But, in a way, Iran is right. What do these journalists seek but to portray a world that is about the rights of the individual, not the rights of the collective, and certainly not the rights of God?

Our nation, the United States of America, was born out of the Age of Reason. That’s where its separation of church and state comes from. That’s where its deism comes from. That’s where its belief in the rights of the individual comes from.

See, before the Age of Reason, and throughout the world right now, the fundamental unit of humanity is not the individual, but the family, or the tribe, or the nation. This notion that an individual matters is worth is rooted in the Western idea that each consciousness, each soul, is precious.

Watch Jerry Springer one afternoon. You’ll come away with a different impression.

The recent discoveries of Ardipiticus paint a very different picture. We became bipedal because males gave up aggression and traded food for sex. Before we were humans, in other words, we were family units–females and males and babies. That’s why we beat the Great Apes. We could reproduce and provision more offspring than they could.

And the rapid changes in the human brain, quadrupeling in size over four million years, shows that these early cultural adaptations–one man and one woman taking care of offspring–were the change that made us fully modern.

So, here we are, a species who evolved this gigantic brain because we are so connected to each other, while at the same time claiming our gargantuan brains  mean that we are each a universe unto ourselves.

Capitalism takes the radically individualistic model, that each of us can prove him or herself against the universe and should do so. Communism takes the radically collectivist model, that each of us should contribute according to our ability and receive according to our need.

Both models ignore the fossil record. Survival for males is about impregnating as many females as possible, and survival for females is about finding good male stock that will provision the young. Neither capitalism nor communism works very well to achieve these  goals.

So, the dividing line is no more between agents of the East and their collectivist model and agents of the West and their individualist model. The line goes much deeper, separating men–driven to promiscuity–with women–driven to companionship.

This conundrum is as old as Ardipithicus–4.4 million years old. But it is also the central question that rules us, now. Males in the west think they are free agents. The rest of the world think they are drones to impregnate the queen.

Who is right?

October 27th, 2009
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