Saturday, June 22, 2024

Whose Lives Matter?

Washington, DC – Ever since Svante Pääbo and his team completed the analysis of the Neanderthal genome and it was determined that all non-African folks have some Neanderthal or other non-sapien genes, there has been a spate of new science to show how much more sophisticated Neanderthals actually were. After reading a book about Pääbo’s achievement, I texted the author that there would most definitely be an ongoing effort to rehabilitate the Neanderthal reputation. Et voila!

As a species, homo sapiens have continually privileged every aspect of our capabilities over all other species. Discrete groups of our species have privileged particular aspects of their lifestyles over that of anyone else. That sad habit has led to endless wars, enslavement, and abuse and disenfranchisement of women throughout our benighted history.

The need to place oneself or one’s group over others based on one thing or another seems ingrained in our DNA. And now, since our DNA has some Neanderthal DNA, well, they just have to be better than we thought. Not as good as us, but better than before.

Prime Minister Modi has been rehabilitated as well. When he was the government head of Gujarat, he wasn’t granted a visa to go to the UN because of the brutal treatment of the Muslim minority in his state. Now that he presides over the whole country of India, where Hindu Nationalists have free reign over the entire country, the US gives him a full-on royal-style welcome.

Women in the United States, having enjoyed the illusion of being politically equal to men for almost a whole century, are now being unceremoniously shoved back into their proper place, as are any and all folks not sufficiently male. Males, mostly those with sufficiently white DNA, are deciding that women are not capable of making decisions about their own medical care. States are passing laws to support women in making the right choices about their bodies. Likewise, in many of those States, the same mostly white men who raucously espouse “parent’s rights” to ban books and re-write history, are adamantly overriding parental decisions about their children’s health.

The personal agency of anyone whose personal choices don’t coincide with the personal views of those making the laws are finding that they do not have the same rights as others. It is being ingrained into this country’s laws that women and non-heterosexual men do not enjoy the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that gender-conforming males do. The Supremely corrupt Court, having been packed with “right” thinking gender-conforming folks, including one female who understands that women are just not as good as men and thus votes accordingly, has been enthusiastically supporting this male supremacist agenda.

Recently, there have been almost weekly reports of refugee boats finding themselves in trouble. Hundreds of desperate human beings drown because their lives are apparently not sufficiently valuable to bother saving, desperate because male leaders have chosen to devalue the lives of their citizens and take up arms to maintain their sad hold on or assert their right to power. In trying to escape the violence enabled by the international trade in arms of increasing destructive power, these refugees are left to either die where they live or in trying to escape.

In contrast, five men, most of whom had paid a quarter of a million dollars for the privilege, decided to take off on a “submersible” for the thrill of diving thousands of feet into the ocean to look at a boat that sunk over a century ago. That “submersible” lost contact with the surface vehicle. Unlike the lives of the hundreds of desperate humans allowed to perish trying to escape devastation, the lives of these five men were deemed so important that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent mobilizing resources from several different countries attempting to save a few billionaires from their own foolish choices. Media outlets dedicated hours and pages to the tale of these five ridiculously privileged men.

The contrast between these stories, that of Muslims in India, women and non-gender conforming people in the US, the desperate refugees, and the rich, self-indulgent men, is the same sad tale. Whose lives matter? What stories deserve telling? Where comes the need to make Neanderthals more worthy ancestors to the affluent males who are allowed to devastate the lives of any and all of us who, wherever we may be, however we may deviate from the allowable norms?

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M.A. Callahan
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