“I know you got mountains to climb but always stay humble and kind.” – Tim McGraw
A recent movie on Netflix follows the action-packed exploits of an accomplished assassin.
Although filled with gratuitous violence, I kept watching hoping for a cinematic answer to what could possibly make a person be this way.
Could it be pure machismo, even though she’s a woman? In this bloody movie, her last question to her pleading victim was always something like, “who hates you so much to want you killed like this?”
I wondered about her motivation for asking. Did she have a soft spot for the person she was about to ruthlessly murder? Was there a gentle glimmer of hope escaping from her coldblooded heart?
Maybe the victim’s right answer would put off the gruesome inevitable act? Nope.
The assassin walked away each time with blood on her face and a swag in her step. Since prehistoric times, bullies have run rampant.
Clubbing, knifing, spitting, swearing – on the attack of the underdog in some merciless way. We see it today in schools, in road rage, in politics, in grocery lines, in homes. It’s everywhere.
Someone angrily trying to one-up another. Yet, significant academic research has demonstrated that as rife bullies have been throughout history, they haven’t succeeded over the long haul.
The cultures that have survived the longest are the ones that displayed significant compassion, generosity and altruism. Bioarchaeology is a relatively new field of research first coined in the 1970s by Jane E. Buikstra.
It’s basically an anthropological study of ancient bones to determine how people were cared for. In the process of bone analysis, the disease, age and physical condition of the deceased often can be determined.
And in this process, significant numbers of people were found to have lived completely dependent upon the care of another human. Through fossil analysis – as far back as the Neanderthals – it’s been discovered that many people with profound disabilities lived relatively long lives.
Their bones spoke of the loving care of others right up to the tender ways many were buried. Bioarchaeology found that cruel societies had been relatively short-lived in the expanse of human existence.
Cultures more prone to extending tenderness to those most needy were the cultures that survived the longest. In 2014, the Human Generosity Project was founded by scholars Lee Crank and Athena Aktipis.
This project originally involved an investigation into cultural and biological factors behind generous behavior. Multiple researchers have expanded upon this work by using computer modeling and other high-tech modalities to study generous behavior and its effects on cultures.
Not just American culture, but cultures around the globe. Again, the research overwhelmingly supports generosity as the most successful long-term means to survival.
Slow and steady giving wins the ultimate race. Yet in our short-sighted lives, the bullies often appear to be the winners.
The assassin in that movie I watched won all her gory blood-splattered battles and was even able to steadily apply a cool shade of lipstick afterward. But the deep fossilized beauty of archaeology and anthropology, accentuated by ever new research technologies, gives us a more extensive view of the world we live in.
This studied view establishes that in the survival of the fittest, humankind prevails.
• Joan Budilovsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is yoyoga.com.