Mike Bown is the “most traveled man in the world”. He has written an essay called “Skins of Ill-Shaped Fishes”, where he discusses how his travel across the globe has exposed him to a very wide spectrum of human life and have taught him in detail about the history and current reality of human society. In this episode, Ladan reads this essay and shares his opinion on it.
Top three takeaways:
It is a fallacy to assume that if everyone were to have had equal enfranchisement from the dawn of history, that humanity would be better off. In fact, the way out of societal stagnation is industrialization, which is dependent on the unequal system of capitalism. Had everyone had equal rights from the birth of civilization, we may have actually been less scientifically advanced than we currently are. Just as with the earlier industrial revolution, now that we are in the midst of a new revolution, the IT revolution, the unique facets of revolutionary capitalism are again under attack. Fascist and colonialist ideologies are resurging and reviving during this time when capitalist principles are under fire. Globalism is essentially colonialism 2.0. A lot of the problems that caused the first wave of colonialism to fail have been fixed, and colonialism is effectively being rebranded as globalism. In this sense, it is being referred to as a de-colonialism effort, with the belief that “diversity is our strength” widely spreading and influencing this new rise.
An essay I recently finished:
skins of ill-shaped fishes
We are rag dolls made out of many ages and skins, changelings who have slept in wood nests, and hissed in the uncouth guise of waddling amphibians. We have played such roles for infinitely longer ages than we have been human. Our identity is a dream. We are process, not reality.
Satisfying an interest in the process and experience of reality, and over thirty years of continuous backpacking, I’ve explored our planet’s varied and fascinating life-ways. The first 23 years of travel served to take a friendly look around every country. The last 7 years has necessarily been return visits to regions, landscapes and tribes already familiar from earlier trips. Heraclitus claimed that no man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. In this sense, nations and tribes are akin to Heraclitus’s rivers - especially in our era of revolutionary transformation.
Village and regional Feudalism gives way, painfully, to a somewhat bewildering mix of economic and political systems: cronyism, socialism, communism, fascism, market capitalism, democracy, and related doctrines not so honestly named but functionally equivalent. My wandering has exposed me to a broad spectrum of human reality, from living in leaf huts with spear-and-net hunting pigmies in the Congo rain forest and Yakuti reindeer herders in the Russian arctic; to drinking sake and enjoying gooey octopus balls with Tokyo tech specialists. Many of these niches of human development fall into categories recognized by socio-economic experts, such as nascent artisanal mining communities. Others support cultures beneath their notice, such as squatters in the liminal spaces of decaying mega cities, surviving by drug dealing and scavenging. This has induced in me a taste for the quirkiness of raw reality as opposed to euphemism, politically expedient obfuscations and outright lies.
The saying goes, liars should have good memories. But, on a global scale, those who make the decisions and disproportionately benefit from the resulting doctrines can’t manage to keep their stories straight, over oceans and deserts, tundra and forests, fraught by dissension, suspicion and war. Comparative history and immersive experience unveil and embarrass these locally well-crafted fables and just-so-stories.
Hunter gatherers were stable for hundreds of millennia and largely egalitarian, so had scant need to come up with ne