Survival Strategies

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Survival /
@ K. 1999

We are a big-brained, social species. Few creatures develop more slowly than we do. Oysters spew out the little oysters and forget about them: if what the young-uns need to know to survive isn’t in their genes, they’re out of luck. I was conducting a few dozen visitors through Highlands Hammock ten years ago, driving the tram and talking over the PA, when smack in front of us around the curve a deer dropped her foal. Splat, the umbilical cord and all that followed. Within seconds the foal had tottered to its hooves, mama giving it a lick the while. She looked at it, looked at us, and bounded into the forest. The foal followed: unsteady for the first leap or two only. Within a minute of birth, the deer was a deer. Not so man. We need mama, we need papa, and all three of us need the group. Still, the responsible parents will endeavor to train the young to become as fully independent as possible as fast as possible. As fast as possible used to be twelve years of so; now it takes longer.

But anything that slows or impedes the process artificially is a crime against the species’ future. Past six or so, everyone holds a mama’s boy in contempt. His factitious dependence threatens us all. (Of course the same thing has routinely been done to women, but the society doesn’t depend on female independence the same way it depends on male independence: on the contrary, society in large part depends heavily on female dependence.

Still, such things are crimes according to individual family units. A species should be able to tolerate scattered smatterings of pathology. What happens though when a kleptocracy appoints itself a proxy parent? What happens when it does everything in its power to keep the citizenry dependent: addicted to dependence? School is the most obvious culprit. Anyone who can speak as well as see ought to be able to learn to read in a week or two. Schools make the process take a minimum of thirteen years. Anyone ought to be able to learn to read with an alphabet, a comic or newspaper, and a little guidance: an investment of pennies. School makes it cost billions. And of course the majority still can’t read. And they never will be able to. Because it’s being done to them, supposedly for them; not by them.

Apparently the Japanese smoke like chimneys, burning each other and their clothes, polluting the air, even on crowded buses. Apparently there is no Surgeon General’s Warning on the cigarette packets sold in Japan. I readily believe the explanation I read: the Japanese have been trained to regard their government as a protective parent much the same way that Jews and Christians have been trained to regard God as their Father. Japanese Papa can’t warn his children about cancer now because that would expose him as not having warned them earlier. Well, what if Japanese Papa didn’t know earlier? Why, then he wouldn’t be all knowing!!! I’m telling you, as my new piece on Culture suggests, culture becomes increasingly lethal.

Individuals learn, species learn: learning relates to evolution.
Papa knows, warlord knows, God knows … knowing relates to stasis.
Stasis and evolution are incompatible.
(Any ruler who can prove himself infallible
over say a ten million year period
will get my vote for stasis:
after the ten million years have passed.)

Someday the survival strategy of living in groups may backfire. Jared Diamond suggests that man flees freedom as a protection from genocide: a practice apparently common among many primates from chimps to Homo sapiens. Makes sense to me, but we could have left the frying pan for the fire.

Makes me wonder: how “real” and how “apparent” is the “protection” of numbers. Fish shoal together. They’ve been doing so for a long time. When the swordfish finds the school, a lot of the schoolies get cut to shreds anyway. Is an individual fish really safer flanked by his kind?

Apropos of Good Papa/Good Mama beliefs, I want to make one last point for the night. What’s more sacred than mother? Mother’s love, mother’s breast, mother’s milk. Surely every human mother wants the best for her wee one. No doubt most mothers think they do, but what about their actual behavior? I read Gregory Bateson starting in 1979 and then read backwards in chronology of publication. This devotee was shocked when he got to Bateson’s first book: Naven, published in 1936. Bateson, the young anthropologist, had photographed the latmul women of Papua New Guinea while nursing. Mama would offer the baby the breast, take it away, offer it again. Once baby stopped reaching for it so hungrily, thoroughly frustrated, he’d be given a drink. No wonder the New Guineans never conquered Europe. Mama’s conquered them before they can say much more than Goo. The whole world might be better off if all mothers were latmul. What Einstein would have bothered to formulate Relativity? Where would we ever get an Alexander to bullshit us, beat us up, and then take our son to bed?

Maybe nature has decided that it was a mistake to let a one or two hundred pound predator achieve such numbers. Now she knows a thousand little ways to cull us back. Why shouldn’t mama be one of them? Papa Government certainly seems to be.
2012 10 12 These days, as of a week ago, I’m distinguishing “government” from the “state”: not all governments are automatically evil, but all states are. Some governments aren’t noticed until they become states.

I develop this further in Cultural Governors.

K. put this piece in the Institutions subsection, then Survival. It would fit other places too.

2000 10 14

I promised a module on Institutional Blindness: institutions focus our sight on certain things; they also blind themselves and us to other things, frequently obvious things. People in a culture fail to see the obvious in area upon area. I’m back today, 2002 04 30, to do it: See Hierarchical Blind Spots.

Institutions are one way a society pretends to be homogeneous

2013 02 07 Yahoo gathered a neat slide shows of old ads that would fool fewer people today than they did when they were current. Check out these couple:

Philip Morris ad
Philip Morris ad

gun safety
gun safety

Uncle Knows Best, Big Tobacco Knows Best, Fortune Five Father Knows Best …

Social Survival

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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