Archive for December 13th, 2010

“God Bless Us, Every One!” — NYT, Ian Morris, and a postscript to the Berkeley concert

Monday, December 13th, 2010
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"Hey, mom!"

At Berkeley’s “Slavic Choral Concert Christmas in Kraków”, described yesterday, I had to scour the rows to find a vacant chair, even as a singleton.  It seemed that the entire Slavic population of the Bay Area was in the crowded Hillside Club.  Naturally, I went to the front, first: I never underestimate people’s unwillingness to be close to the action.  Two African-American matrons, dressed to the nines for the occasion, were holding down the front seats in the lefthand corner.

“Well, you don’t look Polish!” I said to them.  They laughed.

“We’re all part of Mother Africa!” said one.

It’s true.

Don’t believe me (or her)?  Listen to Ian Morris, who received a very good review in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review (Orville Schell calls him “a lucid thinker and a fine writer,” with the tone of “an erudite sportscaster”):

“Historians like giving long, complicated answers to simple questions, but this time things really do seem to be straightforward. Europeans do not descend from superior Neanderthals, and Asians do not descend from inferior Homo erectus.  Starting around 70,000 years ago, a new species of Homo — us — drifted out of Africa and completely replaced all other forms.  Our kind, Homo sapiens (“wise man”), wiped the slate clean: we are all Africans now.  Evolution of course continues, and local variations in skin color, face shape, height, lactose tolerance, and countless other things have appeared in the 2,000 generations since we began spreading across the globe.  But when we get right down to it, these are trivial.  Wherever you go, whatever you do, people (in large groups) are all much the same.”

So, as Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, every one!

Or, in the words of the cheerful African-American woman at the Slavic gig:  “We’re everyone!” she said, waving toward the crowd on the darkening Thursday evening among the Christmas lights, the mulled wine, and the decidedly un-African decor.

Postscript on 12/15:   was named one of the top ten books of 2010 by the New York Times.  Tk it out here.