The Birth of Kang and Sef

Submitted by Ken Watts on Mon, 07/20/2009 - 16:35

"The k narratives engage in a sort of debate with s, pushing what were, at the time, critical issues further back in time. K seems to come from a more evolutionary perspective than s, though it is quite clear that they are on the same side of that cultural controversy which seems so incomprehensible to us today. There is no reason to believe that they are actually related, in spite of the k's use of the phrase "my brother". After all, k uses the same term to refer to chimpanzees."

C.D. Boehm,
Curator and Third Resource,
The New Delhi Periphery for Human Research

MY BROTHER HAS TOLD of the man who tamed a stone and the man who tamed a wolf, and much he has said has wisdom.

But I will tell you of an earlier time, a time before the golden age when men and women and children were at home in the world.

It was not always thus.

We were not always human.

There was a time when we and our brothers and sisters, the chimpanzees, were one.

I speak to you of a time between then and the time we became different.

I speak to you of the day we became human.

Before that time, we lived as our brothers and sisters lived. We had learned to band together, but we had not learned to share, except in the smallest of ways.

It was important to be strong in those days, because everything was decided by force. The biggest and the best fighter ruled the band, and got to pick from the women and choose where to sit. Everyone else had to do what he wanted. Sometimes he would take your food.

The second best fighter, the second biggest, would take whatever the biggest didn't want, and the third whatever he did not want, on down the line.

The small and weak lived by cunning and by cowering, at the edge of the band, and were unhappy most of the time.

Sometimes, if a stronger man was cruel enough or dangerous enough, the band would gang up on him, but this happened rarely. The strong could be cunning too, and would often learn how far they could go without exciting the band against them.

Not every fight was a fight to the death in those days. We were wiser than that. We grew very good at signaling to each other our anger. We still had hair on our bodies that we could bristle to make ourselves look bigger, and we were accomplished at threats and bluffs.

So many a disagreement was won by the biggest and strongest, without having to even fight, or risk a wound that could weaken them for the next encounter.

It was in those very days that two males were born—Kang and Sef. They both grew in their band as the years went by, and it was quickly apparent that Kang was stronger and bigger than most.

Beyond that, Kang had two other qualities.

He was very clever. Unlike some of the stronger ones, he could survey the band and know exactly what everyone was thinking, exactly what everyone was feeling.

And his cleverness did not stop there, for he could, from this knowledge, predict what everyone would do. He could, to this extent, tell the future.

He could also bend the future. He knew that if he did this thing, the others would do that. And so he almost never had to fight. He only fought when he foresaw that he would win, and that this fight would make the next one easier.

His second quality was a sharpened instinct for power—power beyond the needs of the moment, or, indeed, any needs at all.

Soon Kang was rising in the hierarchy of the band. He plotted patiently, biding his time.