By Jim Poling Sr.
You have to wonder whether the Neanderthals of 50,000 years ago lived better lives than we genius Homo Sapiens of the super tech 21st century.
The Neanderthals lived in caves and had only wood and stone tools, but probably had more relaxed and rewarding lives than we do today. Yuval Noah Harari makes that case in his international bestselling book titled Sapiens. A Brief History of Mankind.
Ancient peoples were hunter-gatherers who fed themselves by gathering berries, nuts, roots, insects and plants and by hunting animals. Getting food was their main job and, in some ways, it was easier than the jobs we have today.
These hunter-gatherers set off into the meadows and woods some time after dawn in search of mushrooms, bugs or anything else edible. They likely had all they needed by noon and were back home for lunch, with the rest of the day for napping, telling stories and playing with the kids.
Today, many folks climb into a vehicle after dawn, endure a frustrating commute to the shop, and work repetitive, mind-numbing tasks until early evening. They make the same irritating and boring commute back home for a late dinner, perhaps a bit of TV, then bed.
Many are not totally happy with this lifestyle. It probably is a factor in the social unrest we see today.
And, not just in capitalistic countries. There have been stories recently about Chinese workers, notably younger ones, suffering burnout from long hours doing boring jobs.
Dolly Parton sang about working 9-to-5; the Chinese now are singing 996, a reference to working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.
Hunter-gathers also had a lighter household work load. No dishes to wash. No toilets to clean. No vacuuming or sweeping up. No beds to make.
Today we have luxuries like vacuum cleaners and dishwashers to help us but luxuries need to be maintained, which costs time and money, which requires us to work harder.
Overall, Neanderthals had more time to relax and less worry about what was going on around them.
There were no organized politics back then, so Neanderthals did not have to put up with the thought manipulation, misinformation, and outright lying that we have today. No arguments over vaccines because there was little infectious disease and no large, crowded populations in which epidemics thrive.
The Neanderthals did have worries. If one fell and broke a leg, there was no health care.
Going to work could be dangerous. You could be bitten by a poisonous snake, eaten by a sabre tooth tiger or stepped on by a woolly mammoth.
Folks today don’t have to fear being attacked by wild animals while going to work. However, we could be killed in traffic accident or in a drive-by shooting.
As our cities grow larger and more crowded, they become more dangerous, less healthy and less likely to be places of better living. More people are feeling this and are moving to smaller, more relaxed places.
Statistics Canada reported recently a sharp rise in the number of people moving out of our three largest cities – Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. It reported that 87,444 people left those three cities between July 2019 and July 2020 for other parts of the same province, up from an average annual exodus of 72,686 the previous three years.
Few of us would want to live in a cave, or spend the day digging roots and catching insects for food. But many people are looking for less stressful, simpler lives.
Harari’s thoughts in the book Sapiens put the lives of Neanderthals, plus our own lives, in a new light. It’s a fascinating and provocative look at human history and is followed up by: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.
The latter contains thoughts, supported by some interesting facts, about what our future might hold.
The Neanderthals lived lives directed by the forces of nature. Today increasingly large chunks of our lives are directed by computerization.
That leaves me wondering not just whether the Neanderthals lived better lives, but whether algorithms will become more important than nature and life will become simply data processing.