Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All you need is love

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
-Colossians 3:18-

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
-Ephesians 5:22-

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands
-1 Peter 3:1-

women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.
-1 Corinthians 14:34-

Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.
-epistle of Paul to Titus-

I've lived long enough to be familiar with several reversals in the mission of liberal activists and even with the kind of reversal that coexists with its opposite. Is human behavior the result of genes or is it the result of cultural conditioning? Is it both and can we work both angles at different times to support our doctrines?

Are personality types in humans genetically determined as we see in dogs? I certainly don't know and I'm not going to pretend I do, but those who do pretend seem to have had profound influences on our culture and in ways that seem to defy or deny rigorous examination.

Are men, for instance, more prone to violence because our culture teaches that violence is manly or is it genetics driving that view of what it means to be male? Do men tend to have a certain natural role in society and women have a different one? Recent studies seem to lend weight to the idea that in primates in general, the way we organize our societies has more to do with genetics than with the exigencies of our environment; to suggest that gender roles and group behavior have a biological basis. Yes some continue to insist that more women would seek a career in boiler repair or sewer work if we insist on calling a manhole a "personnel access cover" while denouncing any serious research on the subject of gender difference as anti-Feminist.

Some feminists will be alarmed at any such studies, perceiving with some accuracy that it can be used to justify injustice by confusing it with "nature's way" just as genocide has been justified by confusing it with natural process. In neither case would nature need to have our help and of course even if nature prompts us to seek leadership from males, that's not a justification for excluding women. Nature of course doesn't demand that we wash our hands or cook our food or most of the things that have served our survival.

Dogs are going to seek a pack leader and although there is a chain of command between the females, that leader is going to be male and amongst prospective leaders there will be constant rivalry because male dogs are wired to think they can lead. Is there something similar at work in human societies? Do we see that thing working in the very movements attempting to combat it?

Domesticated dogs look to humans for their leaders, or are easily persuaded to do so in most cases, while wolves generally do not. Canids with human leaders seem to be doing better in the world than those who follow other dogs. Can we learn from this? Are we going to the dogs because of the leaders we choose and ideas we protect?

I know I'm rambling here, but I do have a point in mind. It seems that there are contrary schools, both identifying as 'Feminist' that tell us that our roles in our society are not predetermined but also that our natures are all but scripted by our genes. Males are born bad, to take one school to the extreme -- and all gender identification is entirely learned says the other extreme, so culture is the culprit. Culture, some would say is male dominated and so culture teaches male domination in a vicious circle. As with all such disputes, science is the guardian of honesty and that's why it's been so difficult to pursue or even to discuss the science of gender. Better to protect doctrine because the doctrine protects our feelings.

Of course good and bad are things we make up, or that people who would be pack leaders make up. There is no good and bad in nature, there is only that which is advantageous to the gene pool, or disadvantageous. Primate societies, suggests the study, are the result of what has worked over millions of years and in the social nature of our closest relatives. Change the circumstances and conditions, but the pattern persists.

War and violence seem to be there -- the major difference is that humans recognize wider group identifications than do the chimps. We are better able to feel compassion, allegiance and common cause with others outside our immediate tribes and nations and even species while other primates have smaller range. I think that's where our salvation resides, but more on that later.

I think humans have got by so far by being just barely smart enough to put nature in its place. We haven't all arrived at the point where we will recognize our genetic orientation for what it is and use it to the advantage of all of us -- of life in general. We tend to use it as monkeys do, for the advantage our the tribe, the family group and that's quite true of monkeys like the Vervets who seem to be quite viciously matriarchal. We haven't arrived at all although there are religions that teach universal compassion, they're too often -- most often used to form tribes and gender subgroups within tribes, allowing us to lapse into our primitive tribalist behavior. Looking for and finding enemies: it's a primate thing. Hell no, they're not us and we're not them. They're males, they're females, they're crackers, liberals, yankees, blacks, Mexicans, yuppies and the Bible tells me so and so do my genes.

So the evidence for nature playing a role in our social organization can be used to divide us into gender and lead into gender wars, race wars and nationalism or we can choose to notice that we are genetically capable of being above such things. We can recognize that being above it is in our nature which puts us far, far above the apes in our ability to recognize what's good for all. But of course, religion - the thing we look to for guidance and moral leadership often teaches that this ability was taken from God or the gods illegally and is sinful. Obedience to our pack leader is good, but not to those other heathens and satanists. Which part of our nature do we choose? Look at history, listen to the people who would lead.

Sure it's more emotionally satisfying to band together as victims and claim that since a majority of violent crime is perpetrated by young men, all men are suspect by nature, but it's not only bad logic, since most men are not violent criminals, it's a step back into our animal nature of equal size. It's an admission that we are not capable of knowing right from wrong and acting accordingly - or at least that the other group isn't.

So yes, Chimps are kinder to their own families than to their tribes, and their tribes more compassionate with each other than to others, even though those others contain their own daughters and grandchildren. We're better than that, as some religions have taught. We're better because our compassion is infinitely broad - at least it can be. Can it be that ability to be the other, feel with the other, identify with the other has been part of the obvious survival advantage our species has over other primates - almost as much as our technological prowess has been?

That's what I'm suggesting and that suggestion suggests that many of the political and social movements claiming to be a solution are part of the problem. Religion has largely failed us here as have so many social doctrines. Compassion alone of the virtues will not sponsor the burning of others, crusades, Jihads, stonings, slavery and the subjugation of women even when compassion appears on the letterhead of Allah the merciful or Jesus the God of Love. Religions become tribes and we no longer see ourselves in the members of other religions and we follow the pack leaders with their books and costumes as wolves follow wolves with good hunting instincts and big teeth. Religions become tribes and will attack other tribes whether secular or religious and the doctrines or other tribes become satanic even when they advocate compassion and mercy above all things.

I've seen it happen and so have you whether you've noticed or not. I've seen people bridle at the criticism of religion, taking generalities as a personal insult. I've seen people dismiss an entire gender, race without seeing it as a personal insult to a member of those groups. It's our animal nature to separate ourselves from identification with the other, whether we recognize it or not. Compassion, love, altruism are also in our animal nature, our genetic gift from our ancestors. So is the ability to choose what works rather than what what our inner ape likes -- for are we not human?


"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,"— in those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease. "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me," — in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred will cease. For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.
-Dhammapada Verses 3-5 -

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