Understanding our behavior is not a task for the weak of heart. In order to know what makes mankind tick, we have to peel away all the protective layers in order to get at the innermost mechanism. And when we peer back in time, as we will in a few moments, we have to know that we might not like what we see. We can’t let that scare us, because we are tough! And the answers are going to be worth it.
The other reason we have to reach back in time is because that’s going to let us get a better understanding of where we are today, and where we might be tomorrow. Time is like that, it allows us to see how things develop. Grand time scales allow us to see our development on the largest scale, so that we can make even better predictions into the future.
Our first stop, ancient cultures about 4,000 years ago, such as: Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians, Harappan. Dust yourself off and take a look around. These are some of our earliest cultures, a time when gods ruled the land and monsters were real. There was no understanding of health, and if a child was born unwanted, it would perish or be given away. If that child was born deformed, it suffered until it died. If the parents were merciful, they would kill it themselves. This was not a bad thing, this was how people acted. Children were plentiful, they were personal property, and they were expendable.
Next stop, only a few hundred years before the present. Watch your step, and wear your mask. We are somewhere in Europe, and the air is filled with smoke, because the industrial revolution is in full swing. Take look inside that factory there. See all the small hands busy at those machines? Children. Working long hours for meager pay. By today’s standards this is cruel punishment, even for adults. But here in this factory, they are happy to be earning pennies to take home to their families. The good news is that if a child dies here, their parents may get a bit extra. But the even better news is that the owner of the factory does not (technically) “own” the child. He can’t walk over to a random kid and kill them. Nor can the parents. Society has matured to the point where those who murder children are considered criminals. It’s alright to work them to death, and there is no such thing as abuse, but outright killing is frowned upon.
Step back into our contraption and take your mask off. Yes, we’re back in our civilized and enlightened society. I’m sure the air is perfectly safe. And yes, children are also safe, in the historical sense. It’s a very serious crime here to kill children, any children. For one thing, kids are less plentiful than they used to be. Another is that parents tend to love them more than they used to. And there’s also that whole thing about educating them as an investment in the future.
You might point out, and rightly so, that there are still some cultures even in the present that don’t treat their children as well. Some of the more radical and less mature cultures, we have heard, are killing and selling their girls, while also using some as fodder for their wars. It’s true. But overall children are at much less risk for getting murdered.
That’s time travel for you. It allows us to see great trends quickly.
But what other trends are there?
Time will tell.