Saturday, November 26, 2016
A Biopolitical Analysis of the Election 2
Teams of three male dolphins will occasionally raid other pods of dolphins. The object of the raid is to separate a female from the pod in order to mate with her. As she is an unwilling participant, two of the team will wedge her between them while the third swims up underneath to mate. If you are thinking that this sounds like rape, you are probably right; though there is some question about this.
This is not unusual behavior among animals; however, what is unusual about the dolphin drama is that it often involve alliances between teams of individuals.
Dolphins organized themselves into three different kinds of groups that could overlap. One group, usually in pairs or threes, was tasked with gathering fertile females during mating season.
In a "second-order alliance", the animals form "teams" of between four and 14 males which mount attacks on other groups to take their females, or to defend against attacks.
The third group maintained “friendly relations” with all dolphin groups and helped out various teams when additional forces were needed.
The team found the males made a series of alliances with the same sex. They only observed one group of females forming a temporary coalition against young males.
Reciprocity between individuals within a group or even individuals in different species, such as cleaner fish and predator fish, is common enough. The third kind of dolphin group doing something rather different. It is available for offensive and defensive alliances. It hardly seems likely that such assistance would be offered unless there is some prospect of recompense. I can’t think of any other example of this kind of behavior outside of human societies.
This may be the thing that separates the most political animal from all the other political animals. While chimpanzee groups may be governed by an alliance between an alpha and beta male, I have not heard that such groups divide into competing subgroups with more than one individual on each side. This may have been true of human groups until very recently (meaning the last twelve thousand years). Since that time, human political communities frequently divide into groups that compete for dominion over the larger group. That is what we call politics in italics.
How does this division occur? The most obvious answer is that the divide occurs along family lines; however, most human societies consist of numerous families. Isolated human individuals (free radicals?) and third and four rank families must decide which side to back. How does this happen?
I have quoted this passage from an earlier post before.
When these capuchin monkeys forage, how do they decide which way to go? The answer is that individuals break off in different directions. As the pathbreaker moves away from the group, she looks behind her to see who is following. If no one follows, she will give up and rejoin the group. If her entourage includes two or three, or four or more… . The more of her troop that follow, the more likely she is to persist in her chosen direction. Likewise, the more that follow, the more likely the rest of the troop will follow suit. That is leadership in a basically democratic community. Individuals compete for the position of archon, and so the group can act as a unit working for the advantage of all.
I think it rather likely that this is not only how politics works but how the human mind works.
My consciousness is, at best, a prime minister managing various constituencies. My desire to lose weight addresses the ministry while my appetite screams from the gallery about chocolate eclairs. Meanwhile my fellow Republicans seem about to nominate a chocolate éclair to run for president.
Now that the chocolate éclair is the president elect, we may bring the analysis to bear. Political alliances form on the basis of two decisions: which allies will form a winning coalition and which coalition will give us what we want. In addition to getting a better share of the common resources, what we might want is revenge against those who have offended us. That motive has been around at least since the common human-chimpanzee ancestor.
Why did primate Trump win over primate Clinton? The election was determined, as I have written before, by who showed up at the polls. President Obama was reelected in 2012 with a smaller electorate than showed up for him in 2008. I believe that is unprecedented in the post war period. He won because Mitt Romney could not convince enough on his allies to come to the polls. Secretary Clinton inherited Obama’s declining support and saw further decline. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, held onto Romney’s coalition. That decided the matter in the states where it counted.
Individual human beings are extraordinarily complex the creatures. The factions into which they sort themselves and others are vastly more complex. Yet the latter are only the result of a lot of the former deciding which way to forage and who to back. It was not a good thing for Secretary Clinton that a very large portion of the electorate knew that she, and most of the Washington establishment and pretty much all the journalist and pundits in the mainstream press thought were contemptuous of them. It is not clear, however, that this increase Mr. Trump’s margin much. What is clear is that a lot of the folks who followed President Obama down the path last time didn’t follow Ms. Clinton.