Carebaby (i)

In March 2020, a quote that placed medicine as the origin of civil society went viral. It read:

“I once heard a lecture by anthropologist Margaret Mead, who asked the question, “What is the earliest sign of civilization?” She suggested several possible answers. “A clay pot? Iron? Tools? Agriculture?” No, she said. “This is the evidence of the earliest true civilization,” she declared as she held up a femur, a leg bone, that showed evidence of a healed fracture. Mead explained that the skeletal remains of competitive, savage societies never showed such signs of recovery. Clues of violence abound: ribs pierced by arrows, skulls crushed by clubs. But the healed femur shows that someone must have cared for the injured person—hunted on his behalf, brought him food, and served him at personal sacrifice.”
— Dr. Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully

The drama of the scene (an experienced anthropologist holding bones in the air to make tender declarations) stayed with me as a trigger for the loving mental space I was in during the early months of lockdown.

But my own disillusionment with the insistence on "going back to business as usuall," and how care, attention, and being cared for seem to be reduced and flattened by surveillance and performative duty, has made the memory of that mental space unrecognizable to me.

Carebaby is a series of experiments around that, how we communicate tenderness online, and the general malaise that will not lift. Here are femur bones made of sugar and water that always break, and a generative poem on a dying website.

Carebaby poem (i) in full