you see this article in the Herald about Terry Dawson and kangaroo locomotion?"
were sitting in the lane sipping cider and sorting through the pile
of old papers that had built up in the cafe.
I did actually. That's the one where they reckon kangaroos pretty much
confound the general theory of running. Good old Terry, always working
on something ground-breaking. And Mikey Archer has taken over at the
Australian Museum. The Marsupial Self-Respect Renaissance is blossoming
again", I replied.
did you see where it says that the kangaroos' method of locomotion is
incredibly efficient, in fact it's almost as efficient as birds or bats."
yes, we marsupials have always been really big on energy conservation",
I said, allowing myself to bask for a moment in reflected glory.
I noticed", Joadja snorted, "You sleep all day if you get
a chance and you don't waste any energy on finishing the renovations,
a cheap shot. I've been busy with other stuff, like Timor, as you know.
Nevertheless, I've screwed my courage to the sticking place and ordered
the staircase. They're delivering it next week".
felt a flash of mean resentment and self-righteousness.
can't imagine what it was like, growing up at a time when marsupials
were considered to be some primitive backward life-form -- way below
you eutherian mammals in the pecking order of evolution. I grew up half-believing
that, and it wasn't till the Sixties that I felt accepted, trendy even.
a sick history. Poor old Darwin, his simple evolutionary mechanism --
where animals and plants evolved by adapting to local conditions was
hijacked by his erstwhile champion, T.H. Huxley, and that ghastly bastard
Herbert Spencer, and they turned it into the ultimate moral justification
for whatever the men with big sticks were doing at the time.
twisted evolution into an intellectual rationalisation for the official
view of social progress -- meaning the imperialist division of the globe,
the triumph of capitalism, the looting of the 'new' continents, the
war against the trade unions.
the Social Darwinians told it, there's some sort of supernatural inbuilt
drive towards perfection in life. The strong triumphed because they
were, by definition, 'fitter' (that was Herbert Spencer's word, not
Darwin's, by the way). Marsupials inevitably disappeared before the
onslaught of eutherian mammals; the white races spread inexorably across
the globe, displacing the less intelligent black and yellow races; men
were superior to women -- they must have been, after all, they were
on top socially and politically -- and unimaginable wealth was just
the proper reward for unimaginable intelligence.
now we know that that's a pretty distorted view of evolution. We marsupials
have some tricks up our sleeves too, you know. Slow inexorable 'progress'
towards the holy grail, towards the white Anglo male, is just bunk.
Unexpected catastrophes mould the history of life as well. It doesn't
matter how beautifully you're adapted to your little pond you can't
be adapted for something you can't foresee, like when a big comet hits
the earth. When the cosmic slush-ball hits -- and they come along every
few hundred million years -- it doesn't matter how well adapted you
are, it's ten thousand to one you're cactus. The surviving species are
determined pretty much by luck, they manage to be in the right place
at the right time or they just accidentally have qualities that get
them through the debacle and their decendent go on to repopulate the
earth. Next time around it might be marsupials."
realised suddenly that I'd been on something of a long rant.
come on, Possum, you know I didn't mean it like that", Jo said,
"I can't think of another life-form I'd rather hang out with."
just saying that because all the available men are gay", I muttered.