new (old) family values

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Gripped by the crisis of our day and the prospects of a future in turmoil, many of us are disinclined to think about much else. But this would actually be a good time to remember our friend LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor. All of us–humans and every other life form on Earth–have descended from this single common origin. LUCA lived about 3.5 billion years ago. Her remains did not fossilize, but her existence has been inferred by comparing the genomes of her descendants, organisms living today. In all likelihood, LUCA was a simple microbial cell, similar to a “modern” bacteria. All living creatures are linked to this single-celled creature, the root of the tree of life. We are all children of LUCA.

Naturally, this puts everything in a new light. Once we realize that all life is kin, we come to a fresh understanding our relationships with the world and among other things, a new appreciation of “family values.” In this sense, family values aren’t just about the welfare of Mom, Dad and the kids. They’re about the welfare of the entire biosphere, our extended family. And of course, the small family cannot stand apart. Whatever happens to the big family inevitably affects everything within the circle.

From this perspective, our continuing assault on the natural world begins to look very much like a case of domestic violence writ large. Habitat destruction is violence against the family, the self and the future. Destroying a rainforest or a river is not really much different than coming home drunk at night and beating up Mom and the kids. In other words, habitat destruction is violence against the family, the self and the future. The only difference is that in the modern world, we call it a virtue and reward people for doing it.

In the world of politics, this broader sense of “family values” could well become a powerful reframe. This new (old) definition implies a radically inclusive approach and suggests a new (old) sensibility, ethic and even a practical vision for the future. Even better, all the conventional small family values still apply: love, honor, respect, communication, sharing and wisdom. Big family values are pro-social, pro-habitat and pro-future. So where are the political leaders who will stand up and speak out for this vision? Who could possibly vote against family values?

Frank Forencich