This morning lightning struck. I got a great ideal for a book. Even so, it is a book I’ll never write. Still, I have a provocative working title, Why Man Is King, or perhaps, Why Man is King, is God. I’m not even keen on writing a post addressing this, or at least addressing all of ‘this’. As it turns out, the end of the book would dovetail right into a recent post Ant Are Us, so I just have to say something, otherwise this will haunt me for the rest of the day.
Up until now, civilization has done everything possible to put Man at the top, and Woman at the bottom of culture’s hierarchical structure. I always attributed this to simple social zoology where the ‘alpha male’ heads the group. That may still be a major reason for the main origins of human cultural biases. However, I realized another source as I was pondering the dynamics of male-female relationships… what keeps them either working or leads to their demise.
The devils in the details, and that’s what I’d have to delve into and lay out clearly to make the full case. So, I’ll just leave that thread hanging… for now anyway. The connection to Ant Are Us relates to how civilization’s cultures develop these biased modes in the first place. No one is actively creating them, although populations actively support them for generations… until circumstance shift. Societies, of men, mice or ants, evolve in deeply similar ways. Ah yes, another improvable subject of one more book I’m not going to write.
If the connections in the Ant Are Us post rang an intuitive bell of truth for you, I guess this post should also stand up pretty well. So, just take that intuitive sense of the source of what makes us tick culture-wise and picture the unimaginable changes that lie ahead for us now that the age of electricity is rolling along full steam ahead (to use a pre electric-age idiom). I’ll lay out some more connections to help fill in the gaps.
A post agricultural-revolution world
Besides the ‘alpha-male’ source spring for culture’s idiosyncrasies was the practical necessity of maintaining social harmony in a post agricultural-revolution world. With the advent of agriculture, large populations of less intimately connected people were pulled together to make the new system work. Gone was the deep life-long bonding between individuals of the small hunter-gatherer group. That was just asking for trouble within the group (internecine feuds).
This is where a paradigm and its traditions really help stabilize society. It gives less well-connected individuals at least an illusion of connection, e.g., share the same music, food, dress, religion, etc. The most stabilizing paradigm is that which holds family together. Family stability is the bedrock of culture and civilization as a whole. Lose that, and it becomes every man and woman for them self. Chaos! So what paradigm and its traditions will do the job?
This is getting more involved than I thought, but press on lightly I will. Answering what paradigm most effectively holds culture together requires me returning to my original morning musings: What keeps the dynamics of male-female relationships either working or leads to their demise. Oh well, here goes.
When a woman feels she ‘owns’ her man lock stock and barrel she is more likely to roam, innately on the look out for another fitness father prospect. The same applies to when a man feels he ‘owns’ his woman. As the female is the cornerstone of primate nesting practice, culture (especially post agricultural revolution) inevitably evolved the paradigm that favors keeping woman in the lower, less mobile position. This, along with the ‘alpha-male’ deal, is why man is king. The Venus of Willendorf figurine (above) hints that things were a bit different during the hunter-gather times. Now this scenario rests on the premise that we are not truly, innately monogamous. No truly hierarchical animal (1), ape or otherwise, is monogamous (to my knowledge anyway). The two, hierarchy and monogamy are a little like oil and water; they are not mutually supportive. There’s more to it, naturally. And even if I’m wrong about the hierarchy / monogamy part, the overall story is the same, so on with the story…
Industrialization and the birth of the electric-age
The advent of industrialization and modern, market economies made this Man is King practice increasingly obsolete. This shift made the ‘women’s lib’ and the other social movements over the last century inevitable. So here we are now, but where is that? Who knows? All I am certain about is that the electric-age is perhaps the most profound change in circumstance to visit humanity since the harnessing of fire, or if not that, the agricultural revolution. Considering how circumstances bring us to maturity in the macro sense of that process, it is easy to imagine how profoundly up in the air everything is once again, paradigm-wise. The past being our only guide pretty much means we have no idea what we are doing. We are like children, born into a new world, stumbling along and feeling our way forward. Who knows, there may be a time when culture may actually embrace the Taoist paradigm / worldview. No, I won’t be holding my breath!
That is the ‘bones’ of it. There is a lot of supporting empirical stuff I won’t go into. Why not flesh it out completely, you may ask, even if it ended up being a book. With enough charts, supporting scientific data, example, interviews, and such it could even be a college course! What harm is there in that? No harm, of course, but no fun either. The fun for me lies in the adventure of discovery that occurs as I look around at life with this symptom’s point of view. Interesting stuff continually pops up. Nailing down all the details that a book requires is just tedious, unnecessary work—unnecessary because I feel no compelling reason to do it.
In the end is the fact that we mostly only see what we wish to see. So much of what I observe ‘out there’ is really just that, out there in the open for anyone to see. I learned a while ago not to try to show someone something they didn’t want to see. Of course, that took me a long time to see. Why? It was not what I wanted to see. Oh, the desires we have and the blind spots they produce.
Well, there’s my post, for what it’s worth. I feel I’ve only scratched the surface. But hey, it won’t be haunting me for the rest of the day anyway.
(1) For more details on primate behavior, see Social Structure. My hypothesis rests on what constitutes a truly hierarchical animal. The nature of life is never a clear cut, in my view. Shadowy and indistinct patterns and possibilities have always landed me where I wanted to be. Honestly, I’m happy if I’m only 51% right, and even then, to think that one does not know is best!