Lessons in history

There seems to be so much in common between human history and the history of animal and plant life on earth, and the lessons to be learnt therein, seem to gel so well with the laws of ‘survival of the fittest,’ expounded in Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’.

Take the Vikings for instance. A recent subject workshop I attended drew our attention to a report which confirmed that the Vikings  were not just ruthless invaders, but quite a civilised community with ample talent for art, architecture, construction and engineering, displayed at times of peace after they had integrated with the local community. The report stirred up a discussion amongst those who attended the workshop — all eager to discuss the ‘cuddly side’ of the Vikings!

If these people had set out to sail to conquer unknown lands, they must have been adventurous. The human mind loves adventure, adventures of all sorts, be it setting out to sail and conquering distant lands or discovering new technologies. From a purely biological point of view, the Vikings, perhaps, did only what circumstances forced them to do — move out of their northern, perhaps somewhat impoverished land. Had the Vikings not set out to sail, they might not have continued to survive. I like to think of the Vikings and the Germanic tribes who also migrated extensively during this period (causing the fall of the mighty Roman Empire), as a community of people who, perhaps were responding to natural pressures and the demands of an ever increasing population in a land where resources were hard to come by.

Perhaps their migration was purely ‘Darwinian’ in nature.  Why should the Vikings be an exception to the rule — survival of the fittest? Perceived in that way, violence takes on a totally different meaning! The ultimate aim of any organism is survival. pwhich make survival possible. And the Vikings did exactly that. If we are willing to accept that the spirit of adventure in the Vikings is that same remarkable quality inherent in all successful species, we will not find it difficult to understand why, after a few hundred years, this same ‘violent’ community settled down peacefully with the local population.

This is not to say that we should condone the violence which has marred so many chapters in human history and tarnished many a nation. Knowing that natural selection has created a violent side in us might help us accept the ‘Viking’ in us. Hopefully then, we humans may well live at peace with ourselves and other species, instead of treading the path of extinction as the dinosaurs did.

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