Yea, we wept, when we remembered la Coruña. WTF?

Homesickness and the Spanish.

A Galician bank manager (“Tell La Caixa to buy Banco P so we start getting treated like humans”) and rodent breeder (“What kind of life do my hamsters have when I’m always in the office?”) told me the other day of the sense of discomfort, nay anguish, he experiences every time he exits the Piedrafita del Cebrero tunnel heading SE on the Autovía del Noroeste, and the mountainous green of Galicia begins to give way to the more than adequately irrigated Castilian plain. His Italian girlfriend lives in Paris and he has no plans to join her.

The standard evolutionary explanation for homesickness:

Unlike virtually every other animal, human beings do not have the natural defenses that would allow us to survive in the wild—no fangs or sharp teeth. And we can’t fly or run really fast. The only way that human beings and our hominid ancestors survived was by living in cohesive social groups in which members cooperated with one another for food, defense, child care, and so on. As a result, evolutionary pressures led us to be highly sociable, to want to belong to groups, and to behave in ways that maintain our connections with certain other people. To be indifferent to one’s relationships would have led people to wander off on their own or to be ostracized for bad behavior, resulting in becoming some predator’s dinner.

Homesickness probably evolved to discourage people from leaving supportive groups when our prehistoric ancestors lived in small nomadic bands and rarely moved from one band to another. Under those circumstances, homesickness would have been relatively uncommon, occurring only when individuals were separated from supportive, familiar people.

Substantially friend-based societies like the western Netherlands and SE England presumably suffer less (you can make friends anywhere; language is a tool) than broadly family-based ones (traditionally you only had one mum and dad; language is a religion). Was Anglo-Dutch colonialism less brutal than Iberian (pace de las Casas) because its vanguard was less freaked out about not seeing the inlaws?

Ah, generalisations. The best reënactment I have experienced of Psalm 137:1 (“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion”) was by a Low Saxon lady, of a dynasty of small town pub landlords. For her 50th her circle clubbed together and transported her 70 miles to the remains of the Zuyder Zee for a long weekend. The same evening she showed signs of distress, and the following morning broke down in tears (“I can’t see the church tower!”) and had to be taken home to Twente.

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  1. Not so sure about the Anglo-Dutch formula but where do the Belgians fit in? They managed to slaughter about 10 million Congolese, one way or another.

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