October 17, 2013

"Political tags -- such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth -- are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire." --Robert A. Heinlein, (1907-1988) American writer
"There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." --Daniel Webster
"And he [Lew Rockwell] reminds me of what Augustine wrote about when he talked about 'libido dominandi.' ...This is the lust to dominate. This is the thing in human nature that draws people to the government." --Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, What Ever Happened to the Constitution? [about 9:30 in]

"Within any society, there appears to be a minority that thinks in terms of power and measures the worth of all actions in terms of whether they increase the personal reach of the actors and increase their capacity for control. This is why practically every society of any size is hierarchical, and why hierarchy is never eliminated, only replaced by a different hierarchy -- the same wine in a new bottle." --"TAKING THE RED PILL" THE REAL MATRIX, PART 3, Steven Yates, December 7, 2004, NewsWithViews.com
"Those who have been intoxicated with power... can never willingly abandon it." -- Edmund Burke
"In order to become the master, the politician poses as a servant." --French President Charles De Gaulle
"Elkin(1940:251) reports that Arapaho mounted hunters in North America expected their chiefs to be strong with respect to whites but humble at home, whereas the chiefs hated their own unassuming role." --(Boehm 1999:71) [italics emphasis added -lrw]
"Read says that groups are delighted to have the aggressive man as a warrior, for he fights well and commands well in battle. However: 'the precipitate, compulsive individual may be a constant source of irritation or disruption in his own group, where the use of force or the threat to use force is proscribed under the ideal of group consensus.' "--(Read 1959:435) (Christopher Boehm, Hierarchy in the Forest, page 111) [italics emphasis added]
Most psychopaths are male... In a 1976 study anthropologist Jane M. Murphy, then at Harvard University, found that an isolated group of Yupik-speaking Inuits near the Bering Strait had a term (kunlangeta) they used to describe "a man who repeatedly lies and cheats and steals things and takes sexual advantage of many women-someone who does not pay attention to reprimands and who is always being brought to the elders for punishment." When Murphy asked an Inuit what the group would typically do with a kunlangeta, he replied, "Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking." Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz, What "Psychopath" Means, It is not quite what you may think, Scientific American, December, 2007 ^^w
We [Indians] have always been freer than the white man, even when he first came here. ...
"The white world puts all the power at the top, Nerburn. ... When your people first came to our land they were trying to get away from those people at the top. But they still thought the same, and soon there were new people at the top in the new country. It is just the way you were taught to think." --Lakota elder Dan, Kent Nerburn, Neither Wolf nor Dog, New World Library, 2002, pg.157

The Hierarchists Among Us


The fact that hierarchy has a genetic basis has never been in question. Hierarchy and the associated pecking orders have been well established as genetic phenomena -- and they're widely dispersed among many species. From a researcher's viewpoint, it is not credible to suggest that there is a species -- including us -- existing in a known hierarchical genetic line, that doesn't exhibit genetically based hierarchical behavior. That's why, we translated Knauft's "genetic puzzle" in the last chapterinto "How could a genetic trait like hierarchy temporarily disappear?"

As the opening clips -- and Chapter 7 -- strongly suggest, the answer is, "It couldn't and didn't."

And the Arapaho "chiefs" in the opening clips are a good example of the tension between our egalitarian ancestors and those "who mean to be masters."

"Elkin(1940:251) reports that Arapaho mounted hunters in North America expected their chiefs to be strong with respect to whites but humble at home, whereas the chiefs hated their own unassuming role." --(Boehm 1999:71) [italics emphasis added -lrw]

That is, while the other "main political actors" wanted them to stay egalitarian, the Arapaho chiefs wanted to be recognized as higher-up on the pecking totem at home. This directly implies hierarchical tendencies.

WWF CEO Linda McMahon: "We're implementing our strategic plans -- expanding into foreign markets." CNBC Anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera: "Is it difficult for the WWF to cross cultural boundaries?" Linda McMahon: "Not at all. We're on in about 111 countries." --Linda McMahon, Worldwide Wrestling Federation CEO, CNBC, February 21, 2002 [as of January 2011, that's now 143 countries]

The fact that such wrestling shows (and they are shows), based on staged hierarchical conflicts complete with rampant dominance displays (I call them "male soap-operas"), easily cross cultural borders is more evidence that hierarchy resonates in our genes.

Boehm spends nearly a whole chapter -- Chapter 4, Equality and its Causes, remember -- explaining how our ancestors took care of persistent hierarchical ("bullying") leaders. And we spent Chapter 3, Hierarchy and Leadership? Not in My Group! looking at how they refused to put up with such "leaders." Clearly if our small-group ancestors went to all that trouble to keep hierarchical leaders under control, that means we humans have always had to contend with the potential problem of insistent hierarchical leaders -- which means hierarchy didn't disappear in our small ancestral groups at all.

Hierarchy has always been with us, then. Small groups have dealt with the problem largely by treating persistent hierarchists as the potential persistent, damaging, free-riding "leaders" they may become. So, while there were few dominant hierarchical leaders --that is, successfully persistent leaders-- in ancestral groups, it's almost certainly not from lack of genetically motivated self-anointed candidates for the job.

Hierarchical tendencies have always existed somewhat in male-female relations, old-young interactions, and thus in families in general -- remember, boys and girls? -- and so, even in our determindly egalitarian ancestral groups, hierarchy and dominance existed within the family, a model everyone understood -- and some might be tempted to emulate elsewhere. It also seems clear from the "cladistic" implications of our genetic precursor species (strongly hierarchical) - - - and modern experience - - - that hierarchy is still alive and well and living in our genetic makeup. Certainly at least in some individuals.

This human affinity for hierarchy includes both sides of the coin. If there is a genetically inspired drive to dominance, there will logically be a corresponding genetic drive to submissiveness. This is particularly manifest in male-female sexuality, but extends to male-male dominance situations as well, where under certain circumstances it may cut down on potentially fatal pecking-order clashes remember. It also shows up often in religious "worth-ship" contexts. You can read about how such dominance-submission-hierarchy works in many classical studies of many species, including our near relatives of the primate persuasion.

You can also read about it, as practiced by humans, in a few (formerly) popular books by abnormally perceptive writers such as Zaviera Hollander in her book ^^w$ "The Happy Hooker." And particularly in a more scholarly fashion by Rosmary Santini in "The Santini Report on Female Sexuality." Also in a more popularized version, in the "Gor" series by John Norman. William Shakespear's "Taming of the Shrew," considered a literary classic, is based on the establishment of male dominance over females, which is generally if subliminally desired by both genders in the sexual context. Etc.

"Woman has no need nor does she have compassion for a weak man, and will look with loathing and contempt on such a man because in his weakness she sees a reflection of her own weakness.
"The sweetest woman can be turned into a shrew by a man if he excites her but does not fulfill her. To tame her and bring her back to sweetness he must make love to her and bring forth her pleasures, and she will change immediately as night changes to day ... [S]he will become a good wife, a good companion, a good mother, and a good human being." --Haroun Al Makhzoumi, (13th cnetury A.D.) Arab scholar, physician (from The Great Thoughts, Compiled by George Seldes (New York, NY: Ballantine Books 1996), p.290)

Dominance and hierarchy have always existed within the family. It's fairly obvious that today some of us humans indeed desire both hierarchy and leadership in the modern "dominate and kick-ass-take-names" format as well, and it's quite reasonable to assume some of our ancestors were wired likewise. It's almost certain, then, that there were at least some folks in our ancestral groups that wanted to dominate and establish a hierarchy - - - with them at the top, of course. As Daniel Webster observed above, "There are men in all ages who mean to govern ...they mean to be masters." And Judge Napolitano: "This [libido dominandi] is the lust to dominate. This is the thing in human nature that draws people to the government."

Also, the 13,000 or so years that have passed since the beginnings of "The Great Transitions" -- when egalitarianism gradually began to give way to hierarchy -- simply wasn't long enough for the evolution of previously non-existent hierarchical genetic tendencies. Thus, since we have such tendencies today, our hunter-gatherer ancestors must have already had them before us.

There is one situation where hierarchical behavior -- and/or at least the use of hierarchical signalling -- is at least temporarily useful. We'll take a look at this apparent paradox in later chapters. So the solution to Knauft's genetic puzzle is that our hierarchical genes and tendencies didn't disappear during the possibly millions of years of our hunter-gatherer-hood. We've always had them.

While this solves Knauft's puzzle, it suggests a new one: "If our ancestors had hierarchical genes, why weren't their groups hierarchical?" We already know the approximate answer from Chapter 3, Hierarchy and Leadership? Not in My Group!: Our ancestors simply wouldn't put up with hierarchical behavior -- or persistent alpha "leaders." Except temporarily during emergencies. Boehm does an excellent job of explaining how they were consistently and effectively suppressed. And a quick review of Chapter 7, "What's Wrong With Hierarchy?" may remind you why!

Hierarchy may be an interesting compromise for us moderns and other animals perhaps, but our small-group ancestors clearly didn't go for it. Remember, "Male [human] foragers do not exhibit frequent competitive displays aimed at decisive political domination of other males; they do not live in well-developed dominance hierarchies, ... and access to females and natural resources is not decided routinely on the basis of threats backed by the possibility of attack." (Boehm 1999:40)

However, because our small-group ancestors had hierarchists among them, they had to be eternally vigilant toward would-be dominators. Boehm (1999:232) suggests, "...egalitarians are involved in a perpetual meta-compromise: in effect, they are giving up on personal domination possibilities, which human nature tends to make attractive--so as to avoid having to submit to other individuals--which human nature tends to make unattractive."

Earlier in fact, Boehm (1999:104) fastens on a comment by Schneider: "To repeat Schneider's words, 'All men seek to rule but if they cannot rule they prefer to be equal.' This adage parsimoniously explains the political attitude that keeps an egalitarian ethos in place, be it forager or tribal," writes Boehm.

^^w Accepting Leadership Responsibility. - AcceptingLeadershipResponsibility.pdf [PAGE 3, Mixed Motivations: Conflicting reasons for seeking leadership positions]

This suggests another question for our list: "Why, in Schneider's words, do we 'prefer to be equal?'" You may be thinking something like, "That's self evident." I hope so, but not so fast: Why do you feel that way? We'll take a shot at answering this one in Chapters 11, 12, and 13.

I have a disagreement and one quibble with Boehm here. First, the disagreement. I don't think every human male desires to rule or dominate, at least not outside male-female interactions (and many, not even inside them), and therefore many of us aren't really "giving up on personal domination possibilities" - - - you're not "giving up" on something if you don't want it in the first place.

Certainly some humans, mostly males, have urges to dominate in general, to "rule the world" as it were, but, as the result of an informal survey I've been taking, I suspect the percentage is a good bit smaller than we might expect -- despite what we might think as a result of chronic exposure to today's, particularly western, hierarchical cultures. A relatively famous quote by Albert Camus - - - "Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow; Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend," comes to mind. And provides evidence that we indeed, in Schneider's words, "prefer to be equal."

This does not sound like the statement of someone who has domination or submission on his mind. In fact, quite the contrary. It resonates strongly with me. How about you? Do you really want to rule the world? Do you really want to be king or queen? Or would you just, perhaps, like all the trappings without the karma and responsibility? Or would you even want all the hassles of "leadership" at all? [1] Apparently some of us do want to dominate -- and others don't.

How many do, how many don't?

According to a study published in the April 25, 2001, Journal of the American Medical Association and reported by Science News (VOL. 159, MAY 5, 2001, pg.280), a maximum of 13 percent of 15,000 6th thru 10th grade students surveyed acknowledged having bullied other students while 10 percent claimed they had been bullied. Six percent reported both bullying and being bullied. More boys than girls reported involvement in bullying, which for the study's purposes included "physical attacks, verbal threats or name-calling, rumor spreading, and exclusion of a person from group activities." The idea of "bullying" is central here -- it's how hierarchy is established (dominance displays, etc. remember) -- and we've been using Boehm's terminology (bullying free riders) to describe would-be persistent hierarchical leaders.

"Bullying" from our small-group perspective wouldn't include "rumor spreading" or "exclusion of a person from group activities" which could as easily be a classical attempt to stop bullies [2] or be classical retalliation for bullying. The six percent both bullying and being bullied would seem the most likely to be involved in "pecking order establishing" hierarchical behavior. None the less, till better research shows up, let's take the higher figure and regard approximately 13% of the population as potential bullies and candidates for having strongly hierarchical genetic tendencies. It would seem that the other 87% of us (at least) don't usually get involved in such things. Perhaps most of us agree with Camus?

Further, it stands to reason that our less agressive non-hierarchical ancestors could not have supressed a high percentage of bullies and dominators in their midst. This observation also strongly suggests that the percentage of genetically motivated alpha dominators in our ancestral groups was probably quite low. The study above suggests only a little more than one in ten. This also matches at least my experience in the modern (2004 A.D.) world: There are few bullies among my acquaintances -- and none among my friends. How about among yours?

If indeed only such a relatively small percentage of human males (mostly) truly desire "alpha-hood" and to bully and dominate others as the result of a genetic predisposition, then the character of Boehm's suggested "meta-compromise" changes drastically. Rather than a compromise, it is instead a constant battle of the vast majority of non-dominators to keep the few dominators under control. We might suspect that a non-dominator, given the chance to be "alpha" and dominate the tribe, might well pass up the opportunity and mind his own business -- "just walk beside me and be my friend." This is not then a compromise at all, except possibly, in the sense the would-be dominators were not regularly killed out-of-hand.

An excellent example of would-be dominators in action in the modern world comes from those controlling the highest levels of the United States government in the early 2000s. As Chris Floyd explained, "It [the underlying plan for the GW Bush foreign policy] set out a new doctrine for U.S. power in the 21st century, an aggressive, unilateral approach that would secure American domination of world affairs --'by force if necessary,' as one of the acolytes put it."

Floyd was referring to the plans laid out by then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in 1992 for an organization calling itself "Project for a New American Century," "PNAC" for short. Many members of the GW Bush Administration, including Vice President Cheney, were members of PNAC as were most of Bush's top advisors including Lewis Libby, Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, etc. You can see the quite extraordinary direct connection to the Cheney-PNAC work in the Bush Administration document entitled "The National Security Strategy of the United States," which was transmitted to Congress as a declaration of the Administration's policy. The contents of the Bush paper was headlined this way by the New York Times on Friday, September 20, 2002: "Bush's new military policy: first strikes, unrivaled power, U.S. won't permit another Cold War-style face-off, document says."

Some direct results of this policy of domination were the bombing, invasion, and occupation of Afghanistan in 2002 -- and Iraq beginning in 2003. Recall the ultimate tools of such hierarchical domination: tactics -- which indimidate, browbeat, coerce, extort, alarm, dismay, scare, frighten, and terrify -- and the ultimate modern (2005) refinement of these hierarchical domination tactics in the explicit strategy of "Shock and Awe."

Because nearly all humans have an innate if subliminal understanding of hierarchy -- commonly practiced in the family, men over women, grown-ups over children, etc. -- hierarchy is well understood at some level, even by militant egalitarians. Since both hierarchy and the concomitant, persistent leadership, were universally supressed by our small-group ancestors, such nearly universal understanding clearly existed. This observation will prove to be quite significant in Chaper cm, Control Modes.

So we can sum-up: The solution to Knauft's genetic puzzle is that there has most likely never been a period in human evolution where the drive for hierarchy has been completely absent. This is especially true since hierarchical forms are typical within families. There has most likely always been some of us who desire dominance -- the Arapaho chiefs, for example -- and even some who desire submission.

That is, the nearly universal lack of leaders with any significant power in small-group human societies can't be explained by the lack of hierarchical genes in the gene pool or lack of hierarchical urges. Judge Andrew P. Napolitano called these urges "libido dominandi" -- "the lust to dominate." But dispite these urges, persistent human leaders were -- unlike alpha males in other hierarchical species -- just about universally suppressed. Why did our small-group ancestors, unlike members of other hierarchical species, universally suppress this "lust to dominate?" Why, unlike us, did they suppress their alpha-leaders? There must be an explanation. What is it?


In line with Knauft's "genetic puzzle" we asked, "How could a genetic trait temporarily disappear?" The answer: "It couldn't and didn't." There hasn't been time for hierarchical behavior to evolve since The Great Transitions so the hierarchical characteristics we observe in modern societies must have existed previously. Our genetic precursor species was hierarchical and thus cladistic studies strongly suggest we should be too. Our modern experience verifies that we are. That Boehm spent a lot of ink explaining how our ancestors dealt with dominating "bullies" also substantiates this conclusion.

After looking at the evidence, we concluded that hierarchical tendencies have been with us right from the beginning, particularly in male-female relations, old-young interactions, and thus in families and so in our genome in general. Some people want to dominate, others to submit. This solves Knauft's puzzle: Hierarchical tendencies didn't disappear during our small-group period at all; they've always been there. As Daniel Webster suggested above, "There are men in all ages who mean to govern ...they mean to be masters."

While this solves Knauft's puzzle, it suggests a new one: "If our ancestors had hierarchical genes, why weren't their groups hierarchical?" We already know the approximate answer from Chapter 3. The reason pre-Great Transitions hierarchy wasn't evident was that such behavior was consistently and effectively suppressed by our ancestors. To explain this, Boehm suggests that, "egalitarians are involved in a perpetual meta-compromise: in effect, they are giving up on personal domination possibilities... so as to avoid having to submit to other individuals," and "To repeat Schneider's words, 'All men seek to rule but if they cannot rule they prefer to be equal,'" -- which added the question, "Why do we 'prefer to be equal?'" to our list.

There was a disagreement with Boehm: If many of us feel as Camus -- "Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow; Don't walk behind me, I may not lead -- not all of us desire "personal domination," or to be alpha dominators and so we're not compromising at all. Do you want to rule the world? Apparently some of us do - - - and some of us don't.

Based on a study of 15,000 6th thru 10th grade students, we suggested that a probable maximum of approximately 13% of us may be inclined to be hierarchical. The rest of us, 87% it seems, aren't very interested in dominating or "ruling." But there is that 13%. So the answer to Knauft's puzzle is that there have always been hierarchical tendencies in humans so the lack of leaders with any significant power before The Great Transitions can't be explained by lack of hierarchical genes in the gene pool or lack of hierarchical urges. Judge Napolitano calls these urges "libido dominandi" -- "the lust to dominate." Why did our small-group ancestors, unlike members of other hierarchical species, universally suppress this "lust to dominate?" Why, unlike us, did they suppress their alpha-leaders?


[1] Many people even today turn down "leadership" advancements in work environments -- employers have to pay more for people to take these positions. return

[2] Much of the investment involves gossiping, and as a general phenomenon gossiping brings individual reproductive benefits through rewarding social interaction (Dunbar 1994) and through exchange of information about subsistence. In terms of physical risk, stress, extra energy expended, and time subtracted from the subsistence quest, little further investment is required if active sanctioning merely involves offering criticism, engaging in ridicule, or establishing some social distance. Most social control is accomplished in this way, and the psychological stress is likely to be far greater for the deviant than for those who exert the pressure. (Boehm 1999:214) return

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