28 January 2002
Evolution, as Mr Darwin almost said, makes gods of us all. We hold the best hand of cards in the genetic game of poker; we are adapted for everything. We are elevated into positions of mental and physical glorious superiority that raise us high, high above our knuckle-dragging brick-browed ancestors. Anything that they did, we can do better. Imagine prehistoric apes trying to bake a cake, or a young caveman putting up a flat-packed bookcase. They couldn't do it, could they? But you can. Even your gran can't remember all the names of the former members of Take That. But you can, and that makes you special.
But even gods have their weaknesses, as Salman Rushdie may have murmured during a dream. We fly so high, but still we need our wings and engines which our idiot ancestors had no need of, running as they did on the ground. Not the high-speed technology information transfer which brings these words to you, or the mobile phone interfaces which let you drunkenly woo your sweetie while she sleeps. As open to fuckwit abuse as these systems are, they are proofs of age of human genius in which we live, and advance us even more. The music systems, designed by child prodigies in Sweden, which dominate your living room may fill your pad with the warblings of Britney, Christina et al.; yet they have the potential to spill John Tavener, Phillip Glass and Sibelius into your eardrums, lifting your soul and tickling your intellect. Piltdown Man never had that.
No, our modern weaknesses are much more mundane than that. Gunk, as Roald Dahl probably screamed at his young children in a fit of fury; goo, as one of the children (still a babe in arms) almost certainly replied back. Spunk, as Irivine Welsh repeats for fifteen minutes every morning before breakfast. This age of microchip and black pine of held together and massaged into being by buckets and barrels of expensive gloop.
Consider: today after washing my hair with two types of gunk, I rubbed another two lotions through it. I have three bottles of goo to rub on my face, and another two for the rest of my body. Only one of the above is medically prescribed. My cosmetics collection: tubs and pots and cases of slop. Only smell and colour differentiate any of these spunk-a-likes from each other.
I am not alone. I am not even particularly gunk-dependent; others out there wander around saturated in goo for every hour of the day. Many people would be quite unable to function without at least a daily application of gunk - dry skin, frizzy hair and untrimmed cuticles taking over from normal neurological functions. And if those who give in to the caveman impulses of wild hair and rough skin were in the majority, entire industries would crumble and livelihoods lost - the companies producing conditioners, moisterisers, sculpting muds, lip balms, highlighters, shampoos, cream rinses, hot oils, pre-shaving balms, post-shaving balms would crumble into dust.
Despite their crappy genes, Neantherdals had none of this nonsense. Your great-granddad certainly didn't feel the need to smear himself with potions not unlike his own jism before feeling able to cope with the day. The seeds of this madness were undoubtedly sown with all of our grandmothers' Ponds cold cream and Elizabeth Arden lipsticks, but even they don't feel the need to be coated in slime before sliding out to face the dry world before them. But you do - and you know more about Naomi Klein and the Dark Materials trilogy than they do too. So you're still better than they are.
But times change, as our Lord Jesus proclaimed when he was a callow youth. Genetic modification looms like an angry tractor on the horizon, and undoubtedly our children's children will grow up with a permanent pearlescent sheen of slime coating their entire bodies, reflecting in the morning sun. And by then, they'll all have rubber ducks sellotaped to their arms and heads, because that'll be the next big thing (and the ducks will made in the old serum and face wash factories). But although you'll think that your offspring look foolish, they'll know that they look wonderful. And because they're the next generation, the newest gods, they'll be right. And you'll be left in your Home for the Emotionally Feeble, rubbing rehydrating moisturiser into your eyebrows and pushing facial exfoliator with plant extracts up your nostrils, muttering "...robbiemarkhoward jasongaryjasonmark robbiehowardjasonmark..." as the long night draws in.