When Men only were Men

Mariner is on a holiday break, that is, current news is not an item of interest. Rather, he has taken his own advice from his last post: take a break. Nevertheless, one has curiosity about things – perhaps more so because one is not stuck on the current events train.

Mariner has an ongoing interest in those eras of civilization when humans were on their own, ‘when men only were men’ so to speak. This means that Homo sapiens had no oil, no plastic, no corporations producing chemicals, no seed catalogs, no banks, no cash, only scant precursors of small band government, and languages of limited but pragmatic nature. Writing was simplistic and glyphic in nature. These times were the original good old days.

When one searches for these simplistic times, one is painfully aware of the abuse that destroys their existence as civilization moves from one era to another. The Native American is a clear example of a culture that still was balanced with its environment and its culture was based on what the environment provided day to day. Then a later ‘advanced’ civilization discovered this simple culture and, as always, trashed it.

There aren’t many places on the planet where we can observe that time when men only were men because their simple artifacts don’t last very long and easily are run over by later ‘civilized’ necessities. Perhaps the defining aspect of these primitive cultures is that the cultures were bound by an ethical relationship with the environment called net-zero: in the long run, nature was not permanently destroyed; nothing was taken from nature that could not be returned to nature.

One area of the planet which still reflects its ancient mores and practices is the region known as The Steppe. The Steppe is a belt of grassland that extends 5,000 miles from Hungary in the west through Ukraine and Central Asia to Manchuria in the east. Mountain ranges divide the Steppe into three regions and three different weather conditions. The one of most interest to mariner is the easternmost portion, running from the Altai Mountains in the west to the Greater Khingan Range adjacent to China. A small part of the region is Mongolia. Weather in eastern Steppe is among the severest on Earth encompassing desert-like summers, deep frozen winters and yearlong winds comparable to the Santa Ana winds in California. Among several geographically isolating features, weather is a major factor causing retardation of major industrial advancements found elsewhere.

The critical development that eventually distinguished life on the Steppe was the domestication of horses which occurred in prehistoric times and prevails today. In fact, the Silk Road traveled the southern areas of the Steppe through most of the ‘–stan’ nations. Using horses and later camels, the natives of the Steppe were the first trucking company – sans 18-wheelers.

Natives away from the few modern cities still are nomadic. The only improvement allowed by them is the portable yurt, an improvement over skins and poles. Despite this modern improvement, their culture remains very much as it has across the centuries. Even with the inundation of electronic communication, the eastern Steppe remains virtually unchanged. Wikipedia facts: The poor access to the Internet in the countryside has been a reason behind designating Mongolian countryside as a digital detox location for the tech-tired tourists. Internet users: 16.4% of the population, 152nd in the world (2012).

There are seven ‘-stan’ nations: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Because of their location amid deserts and harsh weather, modern dissolution of the cultures is minimal. Two of them, Pakistan and Afghanistan, have not been so lucky.

If one wishes to learn something entirely new about the Earth’s cultures and is tired of Western Civ, ancient Greeks, Romans, tsars and dynasties, visit the Steppe.

Ancient Mariner