Cultivating an Existence

There is an irony in demonizing immigrants, migrant laborers, extraterritorial ethnic groups, or anybody whose way of living does not involve a fixed domicile. The irony is the forgetting of something very important about humanity.

To wit: we hominids tend to move around. A lot. We almost always have. Sedentary multi-generational existence restricted to a single bit of land, which many of us take for granted as the norm, is in some sense an aberration. Humans went over ninety millennia without it. For 90% of the time in which our species has walked this earth, such a form of existence was largely unknown. And it has been known only to a minority of humans for about half of the remaining 10%. The rigid forms of it we know today are of course even more recent.

When we engage in trades other than agriculture, when our resources aren't bound to particular pieces of land or to particular urban centers, and when we have the freedom to move if we want, we do move around. Consider how most Americans spend their adult lives in a different state from the one they grew up in.

Alongside from the ability to use language in order to utter completely novel sentences, something that makes humans exceptional as a species is our ability to move around into extremely different and diverse habitats, and find ways to survive in them not primarily by natural selection, but using these big heavy brains of ours. In other words, through culture. Culture is what happens when adaptation shifts from being a matter of the genome to a matter of the mind.

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