All this time, we thought conservatives were the ones pining for the past. Turns out we didn’t look back far enough in time. The stone age, when sex came easy and all were equal, may just have been the halcyon era of liberalism.
Intelligent Life magazine, an offshoot of The Economist, asked a panel of writers “what was the best time and place to be alive?” Lucy Kellaway, an associate editor at the Financial Times, answered, America 10,000 to 20,000 years ago:
Men and women in these hunter-gatherer tribes were the most equal they have ever been. Rich and poor were pretty equal too. With no property, there was no question of feeling hard done by when you failed to keep up with the Paleolithic Joneses…. people frittered away their time on three pleasures that the modern age does not encourage: chatting, playing with children and having sex with more than one person…. Hunter-gatherers were taller and healthier than the farmers who followed them. They had more varied diets and so weren’t at risk of famine. They also had great teeth.
A bobo’s dream come true: Gender equality, social equality, polyamory, and gastronomical variety. Our Paleolithic ancestors sure had lots to smile about (with their great, shiny white teeth).
Our author, if anything, is too modest. Equality back then extended well beyond sex and class. Everyone was equally likely to die by the age of 30. All women were equally likely to die, along with their infants, during childbirth. And men and women were equally likely to have their skulls fractured by marauding groups of simians. As Hobbes might have said, all lives were equally “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Absurd as this piece is, our author’s antiquarian musings highlight three of the most prominent aspects of the contemporary liberal mindset: an obsession with equality, animosity toward private property, and the celebration of unbridled sexuality. All three, it is worth noting, have been on display at the various Occupy Wall Street campgrounds (the latter, in a most ghastly way).
That anyone would consider, whether in jest or in earnest, a return to such a miserable existence reveals the profound appeal that these ideas continue to exert. Equal poverty is preferable to unequal prosperity, and anything is preferable to the repressive patriarchal family.
To her credit, Kellaway does note that “here and now” remains the best time to be alive. She also does acknowledge that there are “a few disadvantages to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle”: a higher likelihood of getting mauled by a wild animal and no television. Aside from that, the paleos had it pretty good.