While there are hundreds of species of salamanders, tens of thousands of ant species, and hundreds of thousands and counting representatives of the order, coleoptera or beetles, we, homo sapiens, are the only extant member of the genus homo.
In other words there really is only one of us. Does make us kind of special you would think. There were at one time others, the Neanderthals, for example, but these and other even earlier representatives of homo had pretty much disappeared by the time our own history began, some tens of thousands of years ago.
So wouldn’t you think that the fact of our being the only surviving member of the genus homo would have over the years of our history brought us together? After all, being just a single species, doesn’t that make us all cousins of a sort?
But instead we have, cousins all, during those tens of thousands of years remained apart, organized ourselves into groups, tribes (still prominent today), gangs, nations, countries, all of which have constantly fought with one another, leading all to often to the expulsion, disappearance, or death of one or more of the opposing factions.
And over and over again we have seen that only by giving up their individual characteristics, often the very things that made then what they were, have groups and individuals, in the past and still today, been able to survive. For fierce rivalries leading to all out wars —and not the few moments of peace that past civilizations may have known — are what dominate our history.
Wars characterize the history of the world, but also the history of our own country, America, that which is not always recognized. For there are and have been those who would make the particular American experience an exception. But in respect to the huge place of wars in our own history we’re not.
In fact, even before the coming of the Europeans to the New World at the end of the 15th. century to what would one day be the United States of America, the inhabitants of what are now the 50 states, making up the members of the 500 or more native American tribes, were themselves more often than not at each other’s throats, no less than the new arrivals from Europe who had brought their own wars with them to the new land.
The native Americans, again no less than the Europeans in regard to their own shared African origins, were apparently ignorant, or at least paid no mind to their common descent from Asian hunter gatherers who had crossed the Bering land bridge into Alaska some 14,000 or more years before.
Instead to account for their own origins, the hundreds of Indian tribes had their own creation stories or myths, much as did the ancient Hebrews and other peoples. The Arapaho had their Duck and Turtle who helped man to make the dry land; the Cherokee pictured the earth as a great floating island suspended at each of the four cardinal points by a cord hanging down from a sky vault of solid rock; the Kiowa traced their origin to their emergence from a hollow log…
A recognized common origin might have brought peace to the tribes. Instead the stories they told of their different origins probably only served to separate them even further.
Nor did the Europeans by their coming bring peace to the natives. From their arrival they fought with the natives over the land. Although distant cousins themselves of the native Americans they encountered, sharing a common origin in Africa, although their paths out of the continent were probably different, they early on proceeded by their possession of superior weapons and eventually by their greater numbers to overwhelm the natives and take their lands for themselves.
And when this particular American land grab, just one of a long series of land grabs throughout history of the world, was over, and the mostly European illegal immigrants of that time had successfully conquered and destroyed, or sent to “reservation” land (that being most often land that the European settlers didn’t want for themselves) much of the native population, did peace follow?
No, of course not. And instead, the native Americans being either decimated or restricted to reservation quarters, the European Americans proceeded to fight among themselves, most remarkably in a civil war that was and would remain the most deadly combat in our own history. And this was just one, not the first and not the last, in a long series of wars waged by Americans right up until today.
The two words, war and conquest, are perhaps the best two word summary of the history of the world. And war, if not conquest (for at the present time the victors seem to no longer know what to do with the conquered peoples and will often leave them be once the fighting is over) is very much with us today.
But the wars are no longer among the peoples of Europe and America but between the latter and the peoples of the undeveloped and developing world, and no less among these peoples themselves. For the inhabitants of much of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East by and large not only do not share our beliefs but are also by adhering to their own beliefs often seen as a threat to our way of life, and in some instances do threaten us by their actions and hence we go to war.
Perhaps if there had been other hominids, others so different from us that they became a real threat to our own survival, much as rival species in the animal kingdom, we might have come together and waged war against what might have been a real threat to the survival of homo sapiens.
Well there were no others, we were the only homo but, as we have seen, instead of coming together we made and continue to make much of our differences and thereby feed the separations between us.
Today there is one essential question for us all. Will the differences among us, differences of race, ethnicity, culture, religion, and now more than ever before, differences of ability, talent, and intelligence, all five, six, seven or more of the latter, not to mention differences of education and class, will all these differences continue to make us go to war with one another, or will they finally be set aside and will our common humanity take over?
Just as there is not yet a unified theory of everything there is not yet an answer to this one.