In the Beginning

A neat little “just so” package that couldn’t possibly be true, except . . .

I think AST may have a suggestion as to how we began, how we got on this path to what we’re calling civilization, between three elements, the organization of group animals into hierarchies with the dominance of the alphas, AST, which describes the technology of abuse (including the technology of punishment and the human “moral” framework), and finally, perhaps a foundational case of Trivers’ evolved self deception.

The primate alpha starts the abuse, to establish his privilege, and his victims, stressed, hurting, or simply hurting socially, turn and take their hurt on someone they can, and so the abuse, like the stuff of plumbing problems, flows downhill in a champagne fountain of cortisol – I believe this is Sapolsky’s description of the average baboon troop, in my own words, of course. I think we see similar stuff in the chimpanzees and I think most folks think that was us at some point – even those who don’t think it’s still us today, that is – so that was the first condition and the first bit of science, biological dominance behaviours and deflection, and the resulting abuse-sharing pyramid scheme.

At some point, the champagne fountain of stress and pain becomes entrenched, and this is where maybe we engage the rationalizations, the self deception – “I meant to do that,” kind of thing. “No, I didn’t beat your ass because I’m a subordinate and the boss beat mine! I did it because I’m the alpha in our relationship and I say it’s good for you.” You know, prepare you for adulthood, when the boss’s kids do this to you – “my” idea, not clearly the boss’ agenda. And then this whole, species-wide crap about how it’s good for you, how you’re “spoiled” without it. So, that was the third condition, us lying to ourselves, and maybe the effect among these causes, to some degree, the baboon volcano of fear and violence that encompasses us all and starts with some alpha swine over-prioritizing himself and ends with us all explaining to our kids, “no, this was my idea, and this is good for you.”

I meant to do that.

Despite the lies we tell regarding why we do what we do and what effects our actions can have, though, there is and clearly has to be an actual reason or several that we do these things, a powerful reason this behaviour took our species over and won’t let go, and I have ranted almost endlessly trying to make the point that we antisocialize ourselves in service of conflict, of crappy old game theory. And I’m agin’ it. Whenever I’m reading some description of nasty old nature, I always think I’m hearing approval, advocacy for violent selection processes – not what I’m trying to do at all, I think I’m describing hidden, secret nasty old nature, not to say roll with it, but to say this is the trap here, the invisible fence, this is what we need to break out of.

Which comes first, the selection for abuse, or the cover story, I can’t tell. One would think they happen together, but perhaps there have been and still are places where no pretense of “good for you” is even made, times and/or places where “good for me” was all you got. So I think, in terms of causality and history, the deceit is the latest element, the modern, perhaps liberal adaptation we apply over our antisocialization – making people “good,” teaching them “right from wrong.” Surely your liberals beat their children to make them non-violent, at least that’s supposed to be the plan. So now they think that what was always a single purpose technology – violence and desensitization in service of the troop’s warrior goals – now they think it’s a magic wand, violence and desensitization in service of whatever we say! Nothing simple and understandable here, cause matched to an effect, no – we apply a single stimulus and get whatever result we wanted, is this a great country or what.

I liked Wrangham’s synopsis of capital punishment as an evolved way to deal with tyrants – we should try it sometime.

I mean it sounds great, but I’m not sure we ever did, not regularly, at least. The alpha sets the tone and it permeates everything in our lives, this human lifestyle is his. There have almost certainly been some shining examples, but the mainstream evolution thread here is the dark side, I think we should admit that before it’s all over, any minute now. Warrior society is where we all have Stockholm Syndrome and appear to love the randomly violent alpha (a predator of sorts) and if a bunch of reasonable men want to kill him, they’re going to have the whole world to go through first.

All I’m saying, and I can’t believe it’s taking me so long, and why it seems so strange from my angle or something, is that the baboon pyramid of abuse is very much still in effect, and it is still the major cause and effect loop in human society. The punishment/morality function we insist upon is a minor thread, as lovely and as fictional as Wrangham’s control of tyrants by majority action. Understandable sort of error, we’re trying to make the best of a bad situation, trying to salvage some good from the trauma. By the by, the only example that comes to mind is Julius Caesar, maybe the French Revolution – how many alphas have been taken down by their lessers in history? That’s the next alpha’s job, isn’t it?

My idea to call AST a condition, the second in our list, goes like this: AST is the practice of physical and social abuse in order to activate physiological and psychological genetic changes towards aggression. This I believe to be a species-wide phenomenon that supports our lifestyle of group conflict, making us all mean enough to defend the homeland and crazy enough to attack the enemy’s homeland. It is therefore, at present, a Red Queen’s race, with every human group basically as tough and murderous as the next, but one for survival, and therefore an important evolved function which manifests as systems of crime and punishment, rules and penalties – naughty steps, timeout rooms, prisons . . . hey.

It’s good for you – I mean if being tough is good for you, if life is a fight and only the tough survive, then some abuse is good for you, some practice at least, some practical knowledge, knowing how to fight – but it’s not all good, is it? I wouldn’t object to simply knowing how to fight, being able, I sort of hoped my kids would take an interest for their self-defence but they had zero interest, maybe because I tried not to abuse them or even punish them. I think though, antisocialization is an emotional process, a “strong” fellow who can fight and defend is generally one who started by wanting to hurt people, a trait perhaps present in us all by default, but certainly mostly enhanced by pain and abuse. My point here though, is this is what “good” means in contexts of child-rearing or adult attempts at behaviour modification, in conversations about law and order, crime and punishment –  antisocial, wanting to, able to fight. It’s what “spoiled” means – an early childhood free of abuse means that kid will never be the willing, driven, snarling soldier he might have been. Some things you just can’t teach.

This is what it means in reality, I mean, whether we know it or not. We punish someone – apply some legal and scientifically defined abuse as a deterrent – and they get “better.” They don’t always get better in a good way, don’t always stop breaking rules and such – but they get better the other way, desensitized, tough.

OK, I’ve lost track, giving my usual definitions, where were we?

It starts with random violence, maybe random alpha violence, then to deflection, and then to the straight up leveraging of abuse to produce aggressive soldiers, and finally to some upside down situation where we’re still employing that technology, still leveraging abuse to toughen our kids and criminals – but all this pre-existing structure is at odds with our modern, so far only ostensible desire for peace on Earth – so we just say “makes you good” – a word with no content whatsoever, a simple value judgement with no references to the how or why of the situation. Don’t worry, it’ll be “good.” You’re going to “love” this.

Again, it’s all good as long as we need these tough little psychopaths to protect us from all those tough little psychopaths, I guess. We have been stuck in this game forever, and despite that humankind is starting to have higher goals, this layer of self deception, this widespread conflation of what “good” we achieve with our morality of pain and coercion keeps us at the warrior society stage forever.

 

 

Jeff

Aug. 31st., 2019

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14 thoughts on “In the Beginning

  1. Scarlett September 14, 2019 / 8:09 pm

    There is a physics joke we like to do to Chemists which is that the periodic table is Hydrogen. It annoys them no end and you can easily argue that hydrogen is everything when you come down to it, they are like the ADHD kids and an easy target.

    But this is the thing, you’ve read Gleick’s Chaos right? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, in my off hours, which hasn’t been a lot tbh. This runs into something I was discussing with a mate I went to school with Typo-k as I like to call her – which is that the idea of classifying life into species is a human bias. We are all made of the same thing, basically, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. We evolved on the same world, there is ultimately a direct linearity to all life here.

    I find myself drifting into that line of thinking in physics but sadly it’s abominably complex at both ends of the scale, we just don’t have the hardware to cope with most of it.

    The universe has a few rules and they mostly apply to a finite – a scale, a place, a class of event or thing. Evolution is such a thing and violence is a strong part of it, I think ‘great filter’ at this point and look sadly at the SETI screensavers I’ve installed on as many PC’s as I can without getting into political strife here at my work. The powers don’t like ‘maybe’ or ‘if’ and refuse to have anything to do with such frivolity. Sad though, most smart people tend to keep being overlooked because of it.

    That was a compliment, hope you are well x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeff/neighsayer September 15, 2019 / 9:18 am

    just ordered that book – no, I was supposed to just a few years back, I watched a whole uni course on YouTube with Sapolsky, and he gave it as reading, along with his Zebra book, and I forgot the second one. I will soon!

    Like

  3. Scarlett September 17, 2019 / 7:41 pm

    Haha sorry I ambushed you early. You know something weird – or it’s more like karma – I used to complain on blogs about religious people babbling about nonsense and now my mates give me that look when I talk about Astrophysics. It’s actually quite alienating, they all love pics and pop-science info – biggest star, whatever is going to go supernova – the fact that gravity waves ripple reality but we don’t notice but try explain it and they suddenly remember they left the cat on the stove.

    Chaos is interesting but causality and whatnot is almost it’s own branch of physics. You’d have to have a spectacular computer to do it but I think if you had all the info about whatever the primal event was and data about the first few hours to extrapolate to where we are – wouldn’t it turn into pure maths? I mean everything is down to that. Chaos might be right but if it is how do you get your head around it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff/neighsayer September 17, 2019 / 7:52 pm

      it’s not the same as the answer at the end of Hitchhiker’s, but the end of Jonathan Seagull was “Everything in this book may be wrong.” That’s what Sapolsky intended the message to be about chaos, I assumed, but maybe not. That sort of thing, there’s always the stuff you don’t know that you don’t know, kinda thing. If it’s anything like this last science book, it’s gonna take a few years, I’m still in a self-induced coma.

      I guess i always thought it was chemistry down to a certain level of magnification, then it was physics, something stoopid like that, LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Scarlett September 18, 2019 / 3:04 pm

        We did that book in religious studies, the ending annoyed me. Then I re-read it a few years back and it had morphed into something beautiful. I think the big answers, if they are ever knowable are a long way off for us. We still don’t really know what the cosmos is made out of, how it got there, what that was and where it’s going. Still, that’s a long way from you’re made of dirt and a spare rib don’t ya think?

        I wonder sometimes if the way we are constructed doesn’t preclude and understanding of the nature of reality, 3 dimensions, we see a fraction of the wave spectrum, things look solid to us and so on. Chemistry to me always seemed like lego kind of pointless, add x and x you get water and a salt – ho hum. It seems a bit like alchemy to me, a bunch of people mixing things up then going around finding something to cure with it.

        If you ask a chemist then Physics is just low level chemistry and the opposite is true but I find physics is more for the ADHD and Chemistry for budding Walter Whites. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jeff/neighsayer September 18, 2019 / 3:19 pm

          yeah, I like that bit, a long way off for us, I know you know, that was in one of short ones recently, the Phil Collins joke – so maybe what’s the first, next single step, maybe I can suggest that, sorta thing. That’s an irritation, so much stuff has been either absolutism of some sort, or we’re lost in relativity, no way to know up from down – oh, never mind, I’ve already writ that one too. I went through another philosophy podcast recently, and of course that’s still the central, forever question, is shit knowable . . . if I dreamed I had anything to add, it’s just above, stop the absolutes, but stop the relativist excuses too, and gimme somethin’.
          Yeah, I wanted to go there last time, chemistry is a bunch of memorized reactions, far closer to folklore than physics is, like it worked largely by trial and error, without the prediction of math and such?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Scarlett September 18, 2019 / 3:34 pm

            One thing about humans is tenacity, there is already a lot of things we know that seem utterly beyond comprehension to some, some people seem to just have the hardware for the obvious and others are able to make gigantic leaps, or connections which would escape most of us. For example there is a woman working at NASA who has this theory about sending data via higher dimensional objects, the very basic summary is that it’s not subject to the kinds of noise and distortion of 3 dimensional space, sounds just sci-fi bullshit but the maths is actually pretty damn compelling. This is roughly what a part of a project I know of was trying to achieve but in an entirely different – and not spectacularly functional – read average results.

            Sorry off on self interested tangent sorry. So much is going on in so many places and the tech/maths involved is mind bending, but like I said it’s happening. If only the world wasn’t dead set against listening to and funding science we are just on the cusp of so much that we’d have our star trek in a few decades. Unfortunately it’s more important to protect God, oil and guns.

            Ok best I turn the whinny noise off off and do some work 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeff/neighsayer September 17, 2019 / 7:55 pm

    watching a guy on BBC, I think, who likes to take you around the world, talk about life as carbon cycles, life as physics – Brian Cox – but he dumbs it down better’n you! Ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff/neighsayer September 18, 2019 / 9:01 am

      too much of course. I’m starting to worry that TV isn’t as good as school.

      Like

      • Scarlett September 18, 2019 / 2:46 pm

        Isn’t he hot? I worry about the dumbing down, luckily I’m not interested in teaching – I’m better at excuses than explaining :p

        Liked by 1 person

    • Scarlett September 18, 2019 / 3:19 pm

      I’d totally do him too 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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