Variations on “Proactive Aggression”

More stuff resulting from the EP book, the Goodness Paradox, from June.

Of course you can’t eliminate proactive violence by the application of proactive violence – so there is something else going on. We only say we’re combatting proactive violence and aggression by doing this, but really, doing this, waging this battle, does something else for us instead. Without drawing all the lines and trying to prove the matter, I will simply say that despite these efforts at “morality,” we still seem to organize ourselves on the authoritarian/alpha model and the “crime” and “immorality” we are battling do not seem to be disappearing from the world. Only the reactive stuff did. As I think Wrangham says, capital punishment was our proof against the bullies of the world in the smaller societies, in the past . . . are we not doing that anymore? Is that we call “murder” now, and it’s not for most people to do?

It does seem to be the plot of every movie, the tension between on the ground justice like that and either the modern ideal of the law, or a corrupt law enforcement. We are all wrestling with this problem in some way. His examples of small society executions did sound pretty corrupt. Seems to me that the winners in that scenario are the meanest ones, not the nicest ones. It’s horrible to ponder this stuff as “the roots of morality,” mostly because it means the tree is not what it’s supposed to be either.

OK, so the proactive alphas have beaten and supplanted the reactive alphas.

One – yeah, no kidding;

Two – oh, I forget. Moving on.

OK, I accept the self domestication, and less completely, the necessity of complex language for it – suspicious of the details, but the big picture doesn’t conflict with anything I can think of, anything real, anything I believe that I can think of. I was stupidly ignorant of the depth of language’s existence, most of a million years, I did not know that and I’m fairly surprised, honestly. Not sure what I thought, but now it seems that it must have only been a hundred or two thousand I was guessing. I’ll admit I had drawn a blank on the age of tool use also, which might have given me a clue. I know that is beyond the million year mark.

Waking up another day, and . . . we have a problem, Doctor.

I am worried that we really are conflating reactiveness with alphaism, that alphas may “react” a lot, but it’s not unthinkingly or uncontrollably, it’s just their policy – their winning policy. They say it, write it explicitly, you must react to everything, you cannot allow any insubordination, it’s in the Art of the Deal, guaranteed. Wrangham gives too much credit to this reactiveness. It’s the reason chimpanzees can’t compete with us and organize for a proper temple or a war, of course – but alphas are organization, not reactive chaos. They are a simple, crude organization, to be sure, and yes indeed, the alpha works to destroy more complex forms of organization, so maybe it’s chaos relatively to better organization schemes, but it’s not Jacob’s Ladder, not completely.

I have to check – he may have already said or is going to more clearly, that humans really do not have alphas, genetic alphas? I would still suggest that their system is always accessible and that the modern world is full of alphas by choice, cultural alphas or something. And again, a totalitarian, capital punishment dealing coalition is still rather authoritarian, one could say the alpha functions and rewards are simply being shared some in these egalitarian societies. But the upshot would be that reactive aggression is long gone and now it is simply the way we characterize the aggression of the other, an accusation against those whose proactive aggression we do not like – and pretty much all of the aggression and violence that means anything is of the proactive sort, both the crime we fight, and the aggression and violence of the crime fighting effort. I’m feeling like I often do, like this brilliant person is making a brilliant try, making an elegant case, for someone who isn’t seeing the main thing . . . not fair, and I know he keeps showing me otherwise, maybe . . .

Is reactiveness exactly autonomic mode, the fight or flight response? Again, if so, to test for both responses and call it all aggression seems weird. And are we talking about selection against the animal’s, uh, I want to say “survival instincts,” but it seems archaic, survival systems, its defense systems?

If civilization begins with disabling your defenses, then that makes my whole punishment is mostly just abuse idea a little less outlandish, doesn’t it? And absolutely, of course. Of course our abuser complains about our “reactive aggression,” don’t they? Ha! Suddenly I’m angry, my BFAM is now the enemy! “ . . . thus making cooperation possible,” my ass!

Thus making abuse and slavery possible, you mean. Proactive aggression, remember? Do you really find cooperation easy to come by? Must be nice.

I hope I’m being my usual infantile, think I’m inventing the world self here, I’m really hoping – and hopeful, honestly – that this is Wrangham’s point also. I guess it’s just that a great deal of these books is the author telling you everything that led up to here in this conversation, and I’m reacting to that before I let him tell me his news. So hold on there, Jeff – isn’t this exactly what you were looking for, exactly the science and evidence you’ve been looking for to support your thesis? This is exactly the point in the conversation where AST enters the world and should enter our conversation about it, I think.

. . . but it feels like some structural shift is looming, somehow. He’s talking about selection, call it cooperation, call it slavery, whichever, it was selected for, somehow outcompeted other hominid organizational schemes . . . eesh. You don’t mind saying “cooperation was selected for,” do you? Who wants to say the other thing was?

It has been in other creatures, though, right, sort of, castes of bees and ants – do you suppose the ants abuse the aphids? There’s a matter of freedom, maybe, ha. I’m not confident in that declaration. Things analogous to slavery, perhaps. OK, I’m confident, just not in a documented way. Ha. It’s an abysmal thought, are we, what’d he say, twelve thousand generations down a road of selecting ourselves for slavery?

It brings me back to the only positive I ever find in it all, if we selected this, we are self-created things and so proven capable to create or recreate ourselves and we could always just do it again. Brings me back to authority again, the alpha and the alpha coalitions, they like it this way. As always, the firssst thing we gotta do isss get rid of that bear. He’ssss gummin’ up the whole project! Sorry. And yes, doggone it, he is the project, but he’s problematic, he stands for the fight. If you fight him, his kind is winning. If our counter argument to his proactive aggression is proactive aggression, as Wrangham said, we are still selecting for him. Ah. Brothers again, walking the same mobius strip of hopelessness. Sigh.

Again, he’s said as much, domestication itself implies slavery. One could have pulled the slavery idea from what he said about cooperation, it’s just the other side of a coin.

Peaceful domestication, even slavery, as long as we get a life, get to breed, this I do not think would be enough in itself to set me against the world, all of that . . . without what I see as a lot of unnecessary violence and war. Because of that, I reject the human strategy – well, war and the destruction of the home planet. OK, war, destruction of the home planet and a system of constant, ubiquitous child abuse, except for THOSE THREE THINGS . . .

LOL. OK, I hear you, executions promote morality, sure. All I’m saying, all I think I might have to add to the conversation is, part of the selection problem, is the downsides of the moral murder, we aren’t selecting it out, and we have all agreed we will not have thieves in our midst, but murderers are not a problem. When we opt not to select it out, we go blind to its downsides, three of which I have already suggested. We look after those three, maybe we want to keep the slavery. I do love those pyramids!

Speaking of the pyramids, those were genius, weren’t they? You know why they’re still here? They’re giant piles of rocks. What are you going to do to “tear them down,” move the pile? That is an awful lot of work for reactors and disorganizers. Genius. Those folks knew something about human nature!

Pastoralists do not abuse their flocks. We could abuse our domesticated selves less, I mean if we really are, if we’re not afraid that we’ll all just up and flee our jobs if we stop cracking the whip on ourselves. Ah! There’s something new maybe! Try this:

Reactive aggression is on the downswing, almost finished it with us, and for a long time that has meant less aggression, less violence generally, sure . . . but has the other sort been on the rise? History has been a long process of adding laws, adding restrictions to behaviour, has it not? Prehistory for humans was a long reduction in senseless proximity fighting, surely, in some way, proactive aggression, beyond predation and feeding, was new at some point and has been growing since something like an inception, in longish terms?

Do we expect some counter-force, some reason it hasn’t simply been growing more and more prevalent, and wouldn’t anything just keep growing? I submit to you, that in one way or another, we are utterly obsessed with it, that this moral murder scenario has indeed grown and swallowed all of our lives. Unfortunately, with so many of us about, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t “working,” that whatever we are selecting ourselves for is enabling our outcompeting every other animal on Earth.

So the argument is that we do something that doesn’t “work” as well, on purpose.

Which, environmentalist hat on now, is exactly it, we are too good at this, too good for our own good, we have found a way to kill anything and everything and even dear old Mother earth. We need to be worse, less successful, weaker. We are much too strong; “strength” is social-ese for science-ese’s “proactive aggression,” I think.

Bringing it a little ways back towards earth, I’ll come back to his conundrum, we can’t select ourselves out, we can’t unselect for unselectors, but we try, don’t we? It’s an obsession, as I say, we are forever making plans to bring some kind of pressure to stop some form of violence, and our plans all seem to depend on some sort of proactive violence. It is in fact, my contention that if it ever worked, if we managed to put a halt to all crime and misbehaviour for a time, that subsequent generations would remain vulnerable and subject to it, because socially approved, civilizing proactive aggression would be the lifeboat for all bad things, and even if all unauthorized violence ended, it would still be inherited, mother to child, elders to youngers, as always, in the authorized version.

This is where I might interject my AST and say something about constantly losing this attempt must be working out for us, somehow, all things either having been selected for or coming along as part of a package with something else that was, there must be some net perceived upside for it. I can’t imagine that human proactive violence is a side effect of domestication syndrome, it doesn’t seem to be for all the other animal cases. It’s just supposed to have been a catalyst for ours, right?

In fact, other than as our trigger, I kind of think it’s a different conversation. What I meant when I started with “try this” – so the scourge of reactive violence is way down, and I questioned whether the frequency or effect of the proactive violence was rising still, and this would be my idea for why –

Jeff

June, 2020

Us and Them, Vegan version. Vegetarians and Intelligence

OK I can’t lie for long, that’s clickbait manipulation. It’s about both of those things, but not the way it sounds – “they” ain’t smarter or dumber. Vegetarianism is only offered as an example, it’s my stepping off point. I’m no doctor anyhow, I can’t speak to that.

I want to talk about something, something I see in myself and so struggle not to despise. I mean, give us a rest, I know school’s out, but you can’t know everything. Remember, evolution hasn’t required that we do. Critical thinking, formerly known as “thinking,” is applied where it is useful, unavailable where it is not, and declaring one’s self to be critical doesn’t make one omniscient. I’m just talking about how we think, or don’t, as the case may be.

This must be the same sort of insight comics have, and maybe that’s all it is, is a joke, but it has occurred to me that plants probably don’t enjoy being killed and eaten either. I’m not going to cite it, but it’s out there, the science that plants communicate and display some sort of active interactivity with their environments that is at least analogous to intelligence – and barring that, how intelligent do you need to be to not enjoy being killed and eaten? Never mind that for plants it’s possibly even more common than for animals that when this event ends your life, it’s actually the other way around: you’re eaten first and then digested to death!

Of course, this is an argument to the apparently emotional vegetarian and vegan arguments about animal cruelty, as well as the not so emotional ones. I mean, truly, it would be possible for meat eating to continue without a whole lot of the unnecessary cruelty, wait, that sounds like I think it should or must, and I’m not really decided about it. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, full on disregard for animals or equal status – wait again.

I’m afraid that with us, it does seem that way, doesn’t it? It shouldn’t be, is what I’m saying. All or nothing positions are what is required for the battle, but the battle is supposed to be a form of détente. These all or nothing ideologies aren’t supposed to win, because without their opposites, they are just madness. (It’s 2017, talking to all of you with that bit, America, not just Wendy’s and the vegans.)

Back to food, that all on one side madness is evident in the cruelty we see in the meat industry. If it exists among the vegans etc., it’s a lot less visible and a lot less harmful, I mean except if you’re a soybean plant, I guess. Someone tell me, am I missing something? Do vegans differentiate between a plant you have to kill and one you trim or pick? Oops, my “critical thinking” lobe just kicked in again and said being trimmed probably sucks too, tea trees probably aren’t happy either. Wait – I’m outta tea, BRB.

I’m wandering badly today, apologies. The point is, that science about plant intelligence is out there, even popularized in the “The Happening,” the M. Night Shyamalan movie a few years back, but this sort of thing either takes time, or there are things we cannot look at, I mean, you gotta eat, right? But this is what I mean by intelligence, that we as a society put two and two together here and there, pretty haphazardly, but we don’t synthesize our data if it’s not in our interest to do so.

(Data that is not in our interest, unfortunately, seems to be my calling.)

We have this data coming in, we can say we know that plants hurt, but what can we do with it? First, you gotta eat, and second, what does saying this do except hurt the ‘stop cruelty to animals’ movement, in the present circumstances, by just making it impossible to do the right thing? I’m sorry, underneath all of this, it’s 2017 and Nazi America is on the rise, the parallels won’t end, plus of course it’s not just parallels, is it?

Of course, Plants’ Rights is a ridiculous position.

If there is such a thing as moral progress, it’s coming though, is what I’m saying. Animal rights are beginning, and it means our moral circle is expanding, at least for some of us, and this is in one sense that battle, the expansion of our moral circles versus our basic us and them moral configuration. The ‘stop cruelty to animals’ movement would have animals, at least mammals, brought into our circle, make our animals part of us, and not of them, the “them” that get the dark side of our morality. All I’m saying here, is that plants remain firmly on the “them” side, and that is pragmatic of us, because again, you gotta eat something. The line between us and them has always been no more than pragmatic.

            It’s not “do plants hurt?” of course. It’s “do we worry about that?”

That isn’t different, it’s just us and them, as always, and of course that’s how it has been all the way along, in the expansion of our moral circles. Jesus, I just had the new to me and possibly racist thought that that’s what the blues are all about, clear, emotional, difficult to deny expressions of pain, an attempt to reach across the us and them barrier of race in such a way that whites have the best possible chance of seeing the pain that they do not wish to see. If the pain is out there and on record, then we can hope white folks can see the first question has been answered and answer the second question like a human being would, and say, yes, we worry about that.

Some day, God willing, we can ask the question does there have to be a “them?” We are running this planet, we could in theory be managing things as though it were all us, and doing what we can to lessen cruelty generally, for us, for all of us, and for all of them, who are going to be us someday.

Abusewithanexcuse.com. Your best online source for knowledge that hurts your feelings and you really can’t use.

Sorry.

 

Jeff

Sept. 5th., 2017