A Quick Recap

Hey, Nathan here. I’m the guy who writes and draws this thing.

The other day, my mother made a gentle comment about my comic that astonished me. It astonished me because I’ve always been under the impression that she’s never read the thing. (So far as I can tell, my own wife and kids don’t read it. And that’s fine.) But apparently my dear sweet mother had read some of it recently, and she’d read enough to comment on it. Her comment was something along the lines of “what the heck is going on? I’m lost.”

Fair enough. We are, after all, in the middle of a digression on a digression. Sometimes you have to tell one story before you can tell the main one. I remember a supervisor back in my Special Narcotics days, Bobby Re, who’d call me “A Story Goes With It” Burney, after a Damon Runyon character who- …but I digress. Anyway, it occurs to me that some readers might appreciate a little recap of where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

So here you go!


Recap: Inventing Monotheism and Law


At the moment, we’re wrapping up a quick lesson on how the ancient Hebrews accidentally invented “law as we know it” while accidentally inventing monotheism. This lesson begins at p=7014.

So far, this lesson has covered such things as the Code of Hammurabi… Bronze Age Canaanite religion… how a neighboring storm god named Yahweh got adopted into the pantheon, and eventually became its main god… how Jerusalem became a kingdom, then made Yahweh its only state god, then got erased by Babylon… how returning exiles made Yahweh their political sovereign… how they wrote themselves a new cultural identity with holy scriptures, filled with rules and regulations… and how rhetoric promoting this new system became the reality of monotheism and of faith.

There’s just a little more to cover here, and that will take us to the next lesson.

Recap: A Brief History of Government in Six Revolutions

The current lesson is only one part of a much larger History of Government in Six Revolutions, which started at p=6267. This history is covering the major innovations in human social organization, from the dawn of time through the Constitutional Convention of 1789.

Recap: Cognitive Revolution

The first of these innovations was the “Cognitive Revolution,” in which modern Homo sapiens evolved a brain specifically wired for language, narrative, and an intensely social “state of nature.” p=5278. This section describes the basic cognitive and emotional drives at the root of all social order, which remain at the heart of everything to come.

Recap: Agricultural Revolution

The second was the “Agricultural Junk Food Revolution,” starting at p=5997. In this section, people settled down to farm, and invented new narratives of family, lineage, kinship, and ancestor veneration.

We saw how these narratives enabled people to cooperate in much larger groups than is possible in our natural state, particularly with the segmentary bodies of tribe and clan, and in settlements like villages and towns.

Recap: Institution Revolution

We are now in the third section, the “Institution Revolution,” beginning at p=6267. The Institution Revolution is all about how people invented gods and government, and the institutions of the state.

Before the current lesson, this section covered the rise of religion… institutional social organization… specialization, hierarchies, and elites… human sacrifice… pristine city-state formation in Mesopotamia… and pristine territorial-state formation in Egypt.

This entire history of government is a digression, to give us the necessary background to understand the competing forces at play in the United States Constitution, and in all the hot-button social issues which form the body of Constitutional Law. These include historical forces from the colonies, England, and the European tradition. They also involve cultural differences… competing conceptions of what government is, what it’s for, and how it works… and yes, even tribal sensibilities, social emotions, and cognitive wiring.

Recap: What Were They Thinking?

Also, this history is the final part of a chapter on what the Framers were thinking when they came up with the United States Constitution.  That chapter began here: p=4870.

“What Were They Thinking?” is the second chapter in a course on U.S. Constitutional Law (what the government can and cannot do), which begins at p=4751. The first, introductory chapter defined what is meant by a “constitution,” what Con Law is all about, and included a complete text of the U.S. Constitution with annotations.

Recap: Constitutional Law

Before Con Law, we had a course on Criminal Procedure (what law enforcement can and cannot do), covering all the details and nuances of search and seizure, self-incrimination, and eyewitness identification. It runs from p=1373 to p=4743.

Recap: Criminal Procedure

And at the very beginning, we studied Criminal Law (what you can and cannot do). It started with the basics of what we even mean by “crime,” and why punishment is a thing… dove into specific categories of crime like murder, terrorism, hate crimes, rape… and thoroughly explored all the ways to think about whether and to what extent someone might be liable for an offense. It starts at p=18 and runs through p=1356.

Recap: Criminal Law

All caught up? Great!

Let’s get back to Yahweh and his chosen faithful. I want to see what happens next!

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Join the conversation! There are now 4 comments on this chapter's page A Quick Recap. What are your thoughts?
  1. STM says

    Did people in band societies really have domesticated dogs that did not look like wolves, or is that artistic license?

    • My understanding is that the earliest (and most wolf-like) dogs were being domesticated roughly 30,000 years ago, and that by the early Neolithic agricultural period 20,000 years later, a variety of different breeds had already been customized for specialized uses such as hunting different kinds of game, alerting (bark bark bark), and guarding (bite bite bite).

      I drew that particular puppy based on one of my own dogs at the time, a Keeshond named Theo (R.I.P., best dog I ever had). I chose him partly out of affection, and partly because I thought his breed would be an excellent contrast to the long-limbed and less-fluffy wolves illustrated on preceding pages. I wanted the domesticated dog as a visual indication of the dramatic extent to which people had consciously reshaped nature, well before ever settling down to farm.

      But it wasn’t just affection and narrative purpose. The Keeshond is a kind of Spitz (originally Keeshonden were called Wolfspitz), and that’s a fairly ancient category of breeds. Some researchers have even concluded that the Spitz is the most ancient of all of today’s categories, going back to the Paleolithic bands—which might also explain why so many different (and old) breeds all over Europe and Asia share a Spitz ancestry. But even if they’re wrong about that, the Keeshond seemed like a modern breed that’s at least a reasonable approximation of what might have been accompanying us back in the old days. I remember talking it over with my wife that day, and she was like “is anyone going to notice or care?” and I was like “you don’t know my readers.”

      Here’s a pic of the real Theo around the same time as that drawing:

  2. FLWAB says

    I love the comic, I love what we’re doing now, but surely you must see the irony in this section being called a “brief” history. This has been a pretty long “digression”!

    • You’d rather have the long version?

      I kid. Originally, I’d planned to do it in maybe a dozen pages, max. But the more I talked it over with smarter folks than me, the more I realized that too many readers would have a hard time accepting my main points at face value. For some, my points would contradict pre-existing beliefs or understandings. Others were never taught the necessary background in history, political theory, and the science of human behavior. And a great many people have never really pondered the deeper unspoken assumptions that drive the great differences of opinion in Constitutional Law, and all the divisive social issues it entails.

      In other words, I was going to have to get all of those different kinds of readers on the same page. Everyone had to have the same basic grounding in what government is, why it is, and the different ways it can work. Everyone had to have the same rudimentary grasp of the competing conceptions (and sources of the competing conceptions) of what government is for, of when government is legitimate, and of the proper relationship between government and people.

      That was actually kind of freeing. And of course I’ve been enjoying myself immensely. And hopefully soon we’ll all be prepared to argue on the same footing when we start in on stuff like freedom of speech, discrimination, gun control, abortion, gender & sex, war powers, church & state, privacy, race theory, diversity, voting rights, executive privilege, and so on.

      Looking back at my old notes, the 12-page version would have sucked, anyway.

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