the Human Warrior Society
Intelligence is a good thing, we figure, so what’s good usually seems like the smart thing too. I mean, there are evolutionary theories about the outsized human brain, and I guess we’ll never lose the “survival of the fittest” idea, so it’s sort of natural and understandable if we start to think that every evolved trait is directly about survival, that we need this giant brain to survive, as though everything else that lives or ever did didn’t survive because they all lacked it. (Turns out, once some animal gets one, now maybe everybody could use one, because most other things aren’t thriving like they did before we happened along. But that’s not the topic today.)
What I’m after is something I often am, turning a popular idea upside down: we generally think it’s our smarts that gets us through, helps us survive, so . . . upside down, anything that we think helps ensure our continuance in this life we figure must be “smart.” I know I mentioned the irony before that our sixteenth through twenty-first century European “religious societies” out-warred every “warrior society” on Earth – well, that is a good case in point for this idea: we won a centuries long war in the Americas and killed the great majority of the Americas’ peoples – that’s a human form of “surviving” – and we credit our smarts or our civilization for it, when maybe it was less the best and loftiest parts of our white selves that did that. Maybe we “won” that conflict because of the worst and least laudable parts of ourselves, but again, the point is this: we conflate brains and violence all day long, the blatant bully talk (“Now who’s more intelligentsia?” – Andrew Dice Clay, on his short-lived TV series with Cathy Moriarty that maybe went one step too far in it’s anti-intellectualism. They should try it again today) is only the extreme end of it; it’s a strong trend.
I’m having a hard time getting us there, so I’m going to just say it and then try to defend it afterwards: in your basic warrior society (and advanced ones too), macho is smart, tough is smart, violent is smart. Of course, the other side is also true, feminine is “stupid,” weak is “stupid,” and peace is “stupid.” Can we sense the common thread here, that runs both through the locker room and the manipulative speech of politicos? Maleness, machismo, and citing the other as a threat and a reason we need to be that threat to him, hence, game theory, human conflict theory, where neighbors cannot be tolerated for security reasons. You must fight to survive, so fighting is “smart” and thinking about the problems that cause the fights, working to end the fighting is “stupid.” Game theory, this competitive, violent world, this places a cap on the ambitions of the smart, reasoning parts of ourselves. Genius is irrelevant if you can’t build us a better bomb and downright harmful if genius works towards peace, which we intuit as counter to our security.
It’s about abuse and violence, not smarts. Easy to mix the two up, and we all do, because survival would seem to be what your brain is for, but no, it’s probably not that part of the brain, the smart, reasoning part that does that. When we’re talking about survival, it’s not always that the surviving critter thought its way out of trouble, often it simply fights or flees. Reasoning – like digesting, sleeping, reproducing, and rebuilding tissues – this is probably suspended while we fight for our lives. I mean, all else being equal, a smarter fighter does better, but first, all things are rarely equal, and second, all else being equal, aggression, striking first probably means more than smarts, plus of course size, strength and experience probably still make the most difference in a fight.
We’re talking about the sort of “smart” that gangsters talk about, where if Einstein had gotten into gambling debts, some hammerhead would have owned him and bragged to his colleagues about these “stupid professors,” right? Violence is demonstrably more effective, more important. Therefore, everyone who is willing to hurt or kill to get what they want are smart, and physicists are stupid. Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m describing the real world, this is the way it is. I’m just saying we have at least two complete concepts listed under this one word, intelligence, in our internal dictionaries. One is the general term, intelligence, maybe the “g” factor – and the other is violence, as a proxy for security, and it’s all mixed up with maleness. Yes, in this model, “girls are stupid.” It is a child’s culture, a boy’s culture of game theory.
(There was a time I thought I was a genius for figuring any of this stuff out, at least for figuring it out myself, alone at home, but I must say: recent, uh, events and uh, trends – OK, elections – are making these conclusions available to anyone. You know what sort of intelligence has carried the recent presidential election over the line and is the only kind one could possibly ascribe to the new president. These smarts – violence as a proxy for security – this is the only kind of “smart” populism ever leverages, and it’s the way fascism looks “smart.” Who’s more intelligentsia now?
I must ask: have you heard a better explanation for the extreme maleness and prejudice we’re seeing in the comment sections, from the Russian trolls, bots, and their dupes? Do you see a better common denominator?)
All the misogyny is a part of the same. “Faggot” is “stupid” (read “bad”) because it means “girlish” – guys don’t really hate guys or girls for giving sexual favours to guys. “Girlish,” “faggot,” is “bad” because it means “stupid” on the violence axis, or “bad fighter,” not because it means “puts out” or any other sexual thing. Freud had it mixed up. The order of priorities for humans is violence first, and sex second. I’m sorry, ladies, but misogyny is not the endgame, it’s not really you we’re thinking about, you are simply grist for the mill of war, same as children, same as other dudes in this conversation. We think our violence is our security, so if you’re against it, you’re against us and we’re insecure all over again and doubling down . . . no end in sight, of course. It’s not like this all started yesterday and today is a new day, not until we get conscious about it all anyway.
Is this going too far – if I say that we all assume that the dominant group must be the “smart” one? Maybe – I’ll admit all of this is in the arena of things that are hard to prove, things that must be true to some degree, but that the degree to which they matter is in great dispute, the degree to which these true things edge out their possibly true opposites is in dispute.
It may be time for a blurb regarding IQ.
Here’s one for “intelligence” proper, cognition.
White people took over basically the whole world from their little corner of it in Europe at the outset of the Enlightenment and some few hundred years later, they had a look around at their dominant selves, found themselves to be rather admirable and set about finding a way to quantify what makes the best and brightest among this great and bright society – the IQ test. Are we to be surprised that we score the best on a test designed to identify the traits that impressed us about ourselves in the first place, traits we already consider to be desirable?
But how much of the IQ question isn’t about intelligence at all? How much of the objectionable positioning of the African bell curve in relation to ours just feels right because we see which race is dominant and which subjected? We treat intelligence and dominance as interchangeable, especially in the political realm, and it’s a self-fulfilling fiction, nothing can ever change. We need to break it down, separate the elements.
OK, I’m bored, gonna wrap it up, need one of my pithy finishes, let’s see . . . back to Jurassic Park, I guess, so well . . . there it is.
Now we’re all a little more intelligentsia.
Aug. 5th., 2017