Human beings are a variety of ape. We think we are fundamentally different from macaques or whatever, but aside from a little boosted paranoia and proclivity toward vandalism, human beings aren’t that much different from other primates. We claim to be advanced, whatever that means. There’s a flaw in the argument, though, because usually we argue we’re advanced by talking about some part of “civilization.”
But what is civilization, really? Aside from a large-scale, organized panic.
Aside from that, civilization has more in common with tidying up than anything else. You know, tidying up? That illusory battle against entropic decay — that mass delusion of pretending to have control over SOMETHING — that dream-scape we all indulge in practically on a daily basis.
You know what I’m talking about: the act of moving things out of sight and hiding them to pretend that you’ve imposed some sort of order on the universe.
That’s civilization. It works — if you can call it working — on a basis of shoving things into the closet and collectively, loudly humming over the objections.
It does not make us fundamentally any different than apes, as far as I’m concerned. It’s about survival. That’s how the circle of life has always worked, and it shows no sign of stopping.
There is something we do, as a species, that does seem to suggest some unique quality. I don’t know where this stems from, but it’s got to be somewhere deep down. See if you agree.
Dressing the part.
You know, clothes. Clothing and its attendant parts, accessories and makeup. All of it just as unnatural as the rest. I don’t know what all that is about. We are the only species that seems generally so unhappy with our natural, physical appearance, that we’re compelled to drape ourselves with the offal of other species.
You could argue that there’s a certain degree of protection from the elements involved in clothing, and that’s true to a degree, of course. But if that was all it was about, then we’d have about two kinds of clothing and they would both work, which is far from the case.
Clothing must have some sort of soul-deep purpose to it. Because, if you think about it, the first thing that an group does when you join it is tell you what clothes are allowed. Sometimes it’s subtle, where they simply sneer at you until you hit on the right combination of plant and animal cast-offs to fit in. Often, though, you’ll join an organization, and they’ll tell you, “We wear this. Wear it too, or else be killed.”
That’s how all my job interviews ended. It seemed pretty common to me.
And that’s how you know you’re part of a group. You know you belong. You know that these other vaguely upright apes have your back in the event of a crisis. You know that if you’re wearing your backpack covered in Battlestar Galactica patches and your Farscape shirt and your witty “ask to see my Menorah” truckers cap, and you’re walking along, and you see two people coming toward you, one dressed as Boba Fett and the other as Joseph Goebbels, that one of them will kill you simply for what you’re wearing, and the other is Joseph Goebbels. You just know this. We see this time and again in literature and in history and in our daily lives.
You can always tell the group that you can trust because of the uniform.
It’s just the way we work.
Unless, you know…you’re a spy.