What Domestication Has Done

it’s a variation on Wrangham’s chapter title, in “The Goodness Paradox,” I’m writing a commentary as I read. For background, domesticated animals show a group of changes that add up to a domesticated species never quite growing up. As a nice, clear example, for a very long time, everyone thought that the bonobo skulls in Britain’s museum were juvenile chimpanzees, before they were sen as their own, and now, somewhat domesticated species. I’m afraid I’m just giving you a snippet in the middle of a conversation I’m having with myself. But if anyone were following this train of thought, they’d see this is an important connection.


. . . I got nuthin’. Questions about the infantilization aspect of it – it fits, I really think I’ve been all for it, more infantilization, I mean if violence is maturity – but I wasn’t so explicit about it, it’s a scary thing to ponder that we seem to have opted for arrested development, a little difficult to ask for more when you put it that way. Again, leaping from anthropology to today’s problems, I suppose.

Definitely a loaded idea.

I mean, extreme violence sometimes has the character of infantile rage, infantile disregard for the future. I fear that this may be an important thing, part of the explanation for how we can go quiet for years and then explode in a world war . . . Good Lord, these are times of us as a species or a nation cutting our teeth, deciding we’re the grownups now and doing what a grownup does? There’s a large component of juvenile rebellion in the far right memes about totalitarianism and not treading on me, isn’t there? Hold on . . . maturity is when aggression – rage? – gets expressed (the inverse of the point that docility is a paedomorphic trait, juvenile chimps etc., fight less than adults), so by AST childhood is when rage is . . . gathered.

If there is anything to this psychological sort of idea, then domestication – selected infantilization – only avoids the release at the end? We never mature to a stage where we kill when we feel like it? And we gather frustrations, etc., all of our lives, socially controlled, any vestigial personal space deeply and dangerously frowned upon,  we amass our aggression, reactive or otherwise and wait for times when we can put it to use? We’re allowed to flex our grownup muscles and kill when somebody else, or everybody else feels like it.

It think it is possible that this puzzle is nearly complete here, Doctor.



June 25th., 2020

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