The world is never short of examples that repeatedly prove that the human race has evolved much less culturally than it likes to delude itself. The shooting down of the the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine and the debilitating renewal of killings between Israel and Palestine merely underscore that fact.
Sure, we are better dressed than what we were during the era when humans interbred with Neanderthals. You just have to look at the ties that Vladimir Putin or Benjamin Netanyahu wear to confirm that. Sure, we mask our racial, religious, economic and cultural pathologies and antipathies rather well. Sure, we are better spoken. But those are all just trimmings. They are superficial. The primal violent core very remains the way it has always been. If a Neanderthal male, with his brutal reputation and stereotypical looks to match, returned today, I am sure he would find it impossible to process the sheer complexity of violence we commit and the diversity of ways in which we inflict and propagate it.
What has evolved most strikingly since our cave dwelling days is the violence delivery systems. Roughly hewn wooden clubs, for all their brutal power, were still inherently restricted to individual combats. Now we can fly 35,000 feet in the sky and still cannot escape being shot down. It is astonishing how thin the veneer of the so-called evolutionary sophistication really is. Across societies, men act and speak as if they have spent their entire lifetime eliminating any signs of that evolutionary sophistication.(The reference to men in particular is deliberate because a female-dominant civilization would have been arguably different.) We don’t realize how precarious the cultural equilibrium really is. It can shatter under the slightest of strain.
This profound malaise of violence is universal and irrespective of at what stage of civilizational maturity a particular society is. What changes are its forms and propagation. It is a matter of style versus substance. The style may change but the substance very much remains fairly common. This may be a depressing vision but it at least the merit of being real. It would be foolish of me to deny progress in certain areas which has been magical by ancient standards. Technological advancement of the last two decades alone should illustrate how far we have traveled. Unfortunately, that journey has been along a very narrow swath. I am not entirely certain how much, if any at all, we have moved in terms of cultural evolution.
Do forgive me for this random and somewhat disjointed rumination because it took shape in the midst of doing the dishes this morning. After all, scrubbing off the dried remnants of Hyderabadai chicken biryani and scrambled eggs can allow only so much of sophistication of thinking.