Wednesday, June 24, 2020

862: Stories.......

"Whole passages of Machiavelli seem to be directly applicable to the behavior of chimpanzees," 


noted the biologist Frans de Waal in the early 1980s in his book "Chimpanzee Politics" (1982). 


The alpha chimp, the monarch, walks around like a macho and is the greatest manipulator of the bunch. 


Below him are the aides: other chimpanzees who keep the monarch in the saddle, but can also stab him in the back. 


Forty years ago, scientists already knew that we share 99 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees. 


It is no coincidence that in 1995 Newt Gingrich, a prominent Republican, distributed dozens of copies of De Waals book to his employees.


According to him, the American Congress would not differ essentially from a chimpanzee colony: people only make a little more effort to hide their instincts. 


But what was barely known in the 1990s is that we have another close relative. Another monkey with which we share 99 percent of our DNA: The bonobo. 


The first time Frans de Waal saw one was in the early 1970s, when bonobos were still called "pygmy chimpanzees". The chimpanzee and bonobo have long been considered one species.. 


In reality, the bonobo is a completely different creature. The animal has domesticated itself, just like the Homo Sapiens. 


Bonobo females appear to have played the leading role in this process. They prefer and favor the friendliest male bonobos.


An American anthropologist analyzed some 48 studies of hunter / gatherer tribes and concluded that Machiavellism had almost always been the recipe for failure. 


What qualities did you need in prehistoric times to gain leadership. In his article "Egalitarian Behavior and Reverse Dominance Hierarchy" (1993), 


Christopher Boehm comes up with a list of qualities that a hunter / gatherer must have as a leader. 


"Generous. Nice, Brave, Charismatic, Impartial, Open, Reliable, Calm, Strong, Enthusiastic, Modest". The hunter / gatherer tribes live a fairly relaxed life.


With the rise of the first settlements and the growth of inequality, the chieftains and kings had to explain why they had more privileges than their subjects. 


In other words: they had to start propaganda. While the leaders of hunters / gatherers were still modest themselves, leaders now started pounding. 


Kings proclaimed that they had been chosen by the gods. Or that they themselves were divine. 


Today, the propaganda of most rulers is much more subtle. But that is not to say that there are no more ingenious ideologies to justify why some people "deserve" more power, status or wealth than others. 


It has become customary in the Western world to dress up this defense with so-called meritocratic arguments. The question then is: who has the most merits? 


Who contributes the most to society? A garbage collector, or a banker? A nurse or a manager? 


The more convincing your story, the greater your power and wealth. We can summarize the history of civilization as a history in which rulers keep inventing new reasons for their privileges. 


Yet there is still something peculiar going on here. After all, we don't have to believe the stories of our rulers.  


But yet we do. To keep millions of people together you need a good story, be it a religion or a political ideology.


We are together because we are willing to believe in the stories our rulers tell us.


Thank you for your attention....

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
Rutger Bregman, "De meeste mensen deugen",, 2019


The Discussion

[13:21] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Thank you Herman

[13:22] herman Bergson: start

[13:22] oola Neruda: we have a lot of people acting like they are brain dead

[13:22] herman Bergson: the modern word is "narrative"

[13:23] herman Bergson: I don't know oola, but what I know is that we believe stories

[13:23] Jack Lust (jacklust): it's interesting, the rulers basically inventing reasons to justify their existence in the first place..then going to extremes to hold on to it

[13:23] oola Neruda: true

[13:23] herman Bergson: For instance the believe that a piece of paper or a piece of metal represents a value...we call it money

[13:24] herman Bergson: or that gold is valuable

[13:24] herman Bergson: And the main issue is...that is we refuse to believe it we get in trouble.....

[13:25] herman Bergson: When you stop paying your taxes and bills you'll go to jail. lose your house etc

[13:25] herman Bergson: If you don't believe in god he'll punish you

[13:25] Jack Lust (jacklust): we won't just stop using money, as much as everyone would love that, heh.  the greedy and powerful won't let that happen

[13:26] herman Bergson: it's interesting to see how the stories we (have to) believe in are underpinned by the threat of some kind of violence

[13:27] Jack Lust (jacklust): it's all based in fear, of course, fear of being poor, going to hell etc

[13:27] herman Bergson: indeed Jack :-))

[13:27] herman Bergson: It keeps our society together

[13:28] herman Bergson: The question is....

[13:28] Jack Lust (jacklust): and religion is being used as a weapon as it always has

[13:28] herman Bergson: How do you get millions of people to work together.....

[13:28] oola Neruda: wfar

[13:28] Jack Lust (jacklust): tell them covid is in the air

[13:28] oola Neruda: war

[13:28] herman Bergson: yes, by stories and mythes

[13:29] Jack Lust (jacklust): scare the bejezuz out of them, heh

[13:29] herman Bergson: this is a unique feature of Homo Sapiens

[13:29] Jack Lust (jacklust): us and our big brains

[13:29] herman Bergson: our imagination and fantasy

[13:29] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): can a bonobo do that too to the group?

[13:29] oola Neruda: divide and conquer

[13:30] Jack Lust (jacklust): no one said evolution kept only the good bits

[13:30] herman Bergson: what do you mean Beertje?

[13:30] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): fear the group

[13:30] herman Bergson: To some extend, yes....

[13:31] herman Bergson: when a male bonobo is nasty to a female one, the females join together and scare that male off....even can bite off his penis...:-)

[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): iew

[13:32] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): but not fear the group to get power over it

[13:32] Jack Lust (jacklust): moral of the story is don't be mean to girls, lol

[13:32] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): true Jack:))

[13:32] herman Bergson: An interesting point is that in the 80s de Waal and others knew only about chimp life and the DNA realtion with us.....

[13:32] Jack Lust (jacklust): they will mess you up, lol

[13:33] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): smiles

[13:33] herman Bergson: fitted in perfectly with the inclination to see Homo Sapiens by nature as mean basically

[13:34] herman Bergson: and then the bonobo was discovered as another possible ancestor....

[13:34] herman Bergson: and in fact in our behavior we share more with the bonobo than with the chimp

[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): girl power:)

[13:34] herman Bergson: right Beertje \o/

[13:35] Jack Lust (jacklust): even when it comes to using fear tactics?

[13:36] oola Neruda: i see that as male

[13:36] herman Bergson: Bonobos use sex to solve their conflicts, Jack

[13:36] Jack Lust (jacklust): as it should be, heh

[13:37] herman Bergson: de Waal once looks like the bonobos have read the Kamasutra

[13:37] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): maybe they invented it:)

[13:38] herman Bergson: If they are our ancestors it might be true Beertje

[13:38] Jack Lust (jacklust): too bad these days sex is looked at like it's a shameful thing

[13:38] herman Bergson: Next lecture I'll tell you what we added to the picture to stay living in peace with eachother :-)

[13:39] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): so wy have the male homo sapiens almost all the power in the world now?

[13:39] Jack Lust (jacklust): and, speaking of fear, religion says you should be scared of it

[13:39] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): scared of what Jack?

[13:39] herman Bergson: yes...religion and fear are good comrades

[13:39] Jack Lust (jacklust): sex

[13:40] Jack Lust (jacklust): religion tells you if you have sex, except for this specific circumstance, it's hell for you

[13:40] herman Bergson: Am I lucky that I am not religious, Jack ^_^

[13:40] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): me either:)

[13:40] Jack Lust (jacklust): me either, lol, but I grew up with it

[13:40] SAHUD 10.0.34 BETA (WEAR ME!): Enter SIM: Keith Link

[13:40] oola Neruda: i think inheriting wealth is the point of fear of sex... who is that kid????

[13:40] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): and still scary?

[13:40] herman Bergson: Guess we all know the drill  ^_^

[13:41] SAHUD 10.0.34 BETA (WEAR ME!): Exit SIM: Keith Link

[13:41] Jack Lust (jacklust): religion is about the most scary thing I can think of

[13:42] Jack Lust (jacklust): I couldn't imagine actually believing it

[13:42] herman Bergson: I did a project on atheism, Jack

[13:42] herman Bergson: You can find it on my site

[13:42] Jack Lust (jacklust): I saw the board on the wall

[13:42] herman Bergson: Is an interesting subject

[13:43] herman Bergson: It is about the stories we are willing to believe in and why

[13:44] Jack Lust (jacklust): and you see the hate they preach down in the US, no wonder so many people are leaving it

[13:44] herman Bergson: Unless you have  that special question, let's look into this issue further next  Thursday...:-)

[13:45] herman Bergson: Thay subject can keep us here for hours Jack :-)

[13:45] Jack Lust (jacklust): days, perhaps, heh

[13:45] herman Bergson: weeks :-)

[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): years

[13:45] herman Bergson: So...I'd better dismiss class :-)

[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman

[13:45] herman Bergson: Thank you all again :-))

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