Mark Olmsted
2 min readOct 17, 2023

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Why We Can’t Have Nothing Nice

It’s clear to me that evolution — as beautiful and complex and mysterious as it is — is fatally flawed when it comes to human beings.

It started with the great leap that occurred when homo erectus discovered how to make fires and cook meat, creating a high-protein diet that increased brain size and thinking power. This in turn fueled a weapon-making and hunting culture, from which quite naturally was born rivalry for resources with other men — in short, war as a feature of virtually all society since the beginning of history. No peoples have ever escaped it.

Here’s the inescapable genetic math of generations upon generations of war. The victors pass on far more genes than the losers. They are inevitably more aggressive, and often use rape as a weapon of war. (In less recent times, they often forcibly took brides and resettled in conquered areas.)

This is why we can’t have nothing nice. Evolution has always favored the most aggressive warriors. It also favors the intelligent, who have managed to produces glorious art and music, and stunningly enlightened and progressive ideas (see: The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.) And yet, in the 77 years since that document, we have seen the slaughter of the India-Pakistan partition, 25 years of brutal war in Indochina waged by the French and Americans, the Rwandan genocide, the internecine horrors of Bosnia and the Congo, Russia’s murderous war in Ukraine. And now, we are witnessing an orgy of violence in the Gaza and Israel, with a level of brutality that properly leaves us in a state of open-mouthed incomprehension.

We should rightly be horrified, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Evolution has a prime directive to reward survival. Violence against other human beings to accomplish that is not an anomaly, it’s hard-wired into our brains. As they say, it’s a feature, not a bug.

MCO 2023

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Mark Olmsted

Author, "Ink from the Pen: A Prison Memoir" about my time behind bars. See GQ dot com “Curious Cons of the Man Who Wouldn’t Die” for story of how I got there.