The First Three Monkeys

The point, what I always fail to say:

We have a mostly unconscious strategy to hurt ourselves/one another, to mold ourselves as hurt, and so aggressive – because of what is reflected in expressions like ‘fortune favours the bold,’ and ‘the best defense is a good offense,’ – somehow we feel safest from the tip of the spear when we are holding the dull end ourselves. I think that’s my best effort yet to express that awful game theory . . . bias or whatever it is. Strategy, I have settled upon, right.

We have this strategy, and because we keep it in the dark, we are subject to it and our conflicting peaceful efforts are suborned by it every time, and everyone who has ever heard of psychology knows the cure: we must make the unconscious conscious. We must simply become aware of it. We must learn our self-destructive tendency and watch for it. There is a hundredth monkey event in process about it, I only hope it’s not too little too late.

So far, I’m aware of three such monkeys, myself, primatologist Richard Wrangham, and psychiatrist author Iain McGilchrist. There is some overlap in this connected world, but basically, we all came to it from different directions. Primatology and bonobo research, per Wrangham certainly influenced me, and ideas of psychiatry and psychology certainly did as well, but McGilchrist came at it by asking why we have two hemispheres, not really psychiatry. I asked what punishment is, not really psychology or primatology.

If Wrangham had a single question like that, I haven’t gleaned it just yet. In the preface to the Goodness Paradox, he said “All that I wanted to do was study animal behaviour . . . ” but the behaviour raised questions. “What is aggression?” perhaps.

I haven’t yet read the Divided Brain, McGilchrist’s latest as of this writing, but in the documentary film version, he states that our measures for social control, conformity and punishments, etc., stress us out and keep us in the fight or flight mode, a part of which is left brain hemisphere dominance, which has our big picture, long range thinking attenuated, basically that we’re moving from emergency to emergency and never sitting back to analyze and assess the entire situation. Sorry – the left hemisphere seems to excel at details in the present, while the right seems to deal in more abstract things, bigger things. He’s drawn that division of labour somewhat differently than the previous popular version of rational and emotional.

Wrangham’s thing these last few years at least, is that he has broken down the noun “aggression” for us in a useful way, making a distinction between reactive and proactive aggression or violence. For me at least, he has finally called what our punishers do “aggression,” finally placed it as a behaviour in itself, not some quasi-divine intervention for lowly animal behaviours, not somehow “rational” as opposed to behavioural or evolved or anything else that means we would study it, which means we would acknowledge it.

I believe he’s suggested that we have basically cured our reactive violence problems, but that now it’s time to look at the proactive kind of violence, that that is where the trouble is coming from now – but I could be reading too much into the paper I’ve read. I should finish the book before I mis-promote anybody. So not sure if that’s exactly his point – but it’s mine, absolutely. I think a planned murder is proactive violence – whether planned by Jack the Ripper or by the Texas State Supreme Court and I wouldn’t want to be at the mercy of either of them. All in all, as long as I could know it had no compelling reason to kill me, a full belly, no kill or cubs to protect – I’d rather take my chances with a polar bear’s reactive violence. Some chance is better than none. I might catch the bear in a good mood, like those sled dogs did!

What are my odds of finding the Texas State Supreme Court in a good mood?

Ha. I break myself up. Jokes tailored specifically for my DNA, of course, no kidding.

I don’t suppose those other two fellows have taken it to the logical extreme like I have and basically gone “anti-punishment,” but they have clearly and squarely confirmed a basis for why I did.

So, wanted: ninety-seven more monkeys that can see our control is the problem now, and it’s time to solve the new problem. I think a hundred monkeys is a unit, maybe one live meme, and until there’s a hundred, this idea doesn’t quite exist yet.

Anybody out there?

 

Jeff

June 3rd., 2020

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