Max du Preez

'Racism is sheer stupidity'

2007-08-02 09:34

Max du Preez

It is now official: all living human beings are of African origin.

Just in case there was anyone out there still doubting it, an authoritative new study by an international team of geneticists has just been published in the prestigious journal Nature, confirming earlier findings that homo sapiens originated in sub-Saharan Africa.

We can now stop arguing whether this is proven science or not, and start talking about the philosophical implications of our African origins.

Let's first look at what we know so far. Scientists specialising on analysing human DNA and scientists investigating the fossil remains of our forebears have separately come to the conclusion that our species, homo sapiens, evolved in sub-Saharan Africa from ancient primate stock about 200 000 years ago.

These beings looked like us, but it took another 100 000 years or so for them to behave like us - to have sophisticated language skills, to practice art, culture and spirituality like we do.

This huge leap in evolution was probably the result of a natural disaster like a massive volcano eruption that caused major climate change, which in turn killed off all but the cleverest and toughest of the humans.

The clever ones...

These clever ones probably lived on our own Cape coast. They were responsible for producing the oldest pieces of art we know of, an engraved ochre tablet and necklaces from Blombos Cave near Stilbaai dated 70 000 years old.

This tiny group of people were also the first people we know of who explored the sea for food - perhaps consuming large amounts of Omega 3 and 6 oils provided additional stimulation to their brains.

Several of the world's top experts have now declared that there is enough evidence to state that the South African coastline was where cultural modernity among human beings started.

Around 70 000 years ago, some of these people whom we can call modern humans left Africa and arrived in the Middle East. From there humans gradually populated the rest of the world.

Those people who left Africa were affected over millennia by climate, diet, environment and natural selection and gradually started showing physical differences.

In regions where there was little sunshine, such as Northern and Western Europe, people struggled to take in enough Vitamin D, a vital vitamin for growth and health that comes mainly from the rays of the sun.

Darker skins need much more sunlight for sufficient Vitamin D, and those people's skins became lighter and lighter. In the areas around the Equator people became darker and darker.

People's physical build also had to adjust. The Inuit, for instance, developed short, compact bodies to cope with the cold. They also learnt how to process animal fat without developing heart disease or blocked arteries, because they ate mostly fat.

The mother continent in every respect

So much for racial classification and racial analysis. The differences between people whose bodies appear different, are utterly superficial and relate only to our abilities to adapt to our environment. Racism is sheer stupidity.

Not only are we all from Africa, but all rational thought, philosophy, art and spirituality started in Africa. Africa is the Mother Continent in every respect.

People who went to live in the Middle East, Asia and Europe had a much tougher life than their cousins who remained in Africa. It never really got cold in Africa and there were always sufficient plants, animals and space.

In the Northern hemisphere it was a different story. This led to the trend to want to live closer together and to organise society better, and that led to the establishment of the first cities. This necessitated the development of technology.

In Africa there was very little need for technology, especially not after the Iron Age. The smelting of iron made very effective arrow heads, axes, spears and knives possible, and that serviced most needs.

The African communities lived in small groups and never saw the need to stay in one place for very long. If the grazing became poor, the game hunted out, when there was a prolonged drought or if a particular region became too populous, they simply moved away. The continent is a very big place.

When we look back, we must conclude that this was not to Africa's long-term benefit. There was never a pressing reason why permanent civilisations had to be established in vast cities, as happened in Europe and Asia, and there was never a need for the development of technology. Why on earth would one develop a technology one has no use for?

When the Europeans "rediscovered" (and later colonised) Africa, they believed this lack of technology meant that Africa was backward, that its people were inherently inferior. We now know that this lack of technology was not a race thing, but it had to do with the environment, culture, lifestyle and history.

All of us, including white racists and black Africanists, need to start figuring out the real deeper meaning of our common African ancestry.

Send your comments to Max.

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