Forwarded from Anthony (biology, etc.)

ermadog at ermadog at
Sun Dec 23 19:58:03 MST 2001

On Sun, 23 Dec 2001, Louis Proyect wrote:

> That depends on what you mean by tribalism. What I mean is a large
> extended family group living together, raising children together,
> protecting each other, sharing food with each other, and
> communicating with each other. Many mamals live in such tribes,
> especially primates (although not all do) and elephants.

Yes, they do, which is why I reserve the term "tribalism" to human
behaviour. The canids all exhibit behaviour in which multiple adults give
care to the young. Amongst the smaller canids, such as foxes and coyotes,
the non-productive females are press-ganged into service caring for the
young of the alpha female. The non-productive animals, the majority, do
not mate; and I suspect this does something grievous to the notion
favoured by the evil-psyche people that sex is a biological determinant,
or to the notion that animals give a rat's a** what happens to their

Amongst wolves, the uncle will do his turn staying home with the kids
while the mom goes off to play. The need for entertainment is not a
uniquely human need.

> Our big brains were a product of the thumb, the communication needs
> of tribal living, and possibly the motive needs of upright posture.

How do you explain the overdevelopment of that part of the elephant's
brain that is connected directly with its agile trunk? If I remember
correctly, this part of the brain is larger, and contains more
nerve-endings, than the rest of its brain combined.

> However, our big brains could not have evolved, had we not already
> been living in tribal societies. The little big headed babies would
> have been eaten up before they ever could walk.

Neither would the big headed adults. We're just not very impressive
fighting machines, as individuals. I suspect that if my dogs had ever
figured this out, I would have been deposed as the alpha female.
> And about carrots sleeping.

Ok, I goofed big-time, here. Do me a favour and don't ever mention it
again, ok?

You asked me to define human nature. I'm not sure I can.

Are the people in Argentina acting on biological determinants? They are
acting to satsify a very basic animal need. They are hungry; they are
raiding supermarkets.

But they are acting in ways very diiferent from those displayed by animals
in a feeding frenzy. According to the report of Pablo Malizzio (I can't
read the Spanish reports), at every step of the way, the masses made
choices: they strategized, they reacted to the attacks, they made
decisions. And they seem motivated more by anger than by hunger.

But this is a comment about their behaviour. Where do we see human nature
manifest? I believe it is in their search for meaning in this moment. If
they believed that God would rain down manna, that the grey aliens would
feed their cosmic brothers, that they could meditate themselves into
nirvana and never need bread again, they would sit patiently and wait, and
convince themselves that hunger is an illusion.  Instead, they have seized
on a piece of material reality, a piece of the social order which Marx and
Engels describe as having a certain material reality of its own, in order
to make sense of it themselves. I presume the ruling classes have been
telling them the usual lies: we love you, we will take care of you; if you
are not being taken care of, it's because you don't deserve it; and
besides which, there is no alternative. But these lies no longer make even
a modicum of sense; and the masses have taken hold of the tree - a
government that has promised to take care of their interests - and have
shaken the bad apples out of the tree. Will the rotten tree itself be
pulled down, and perhaps provide firewood so the people can warm

One thing we know, the masses aren't going to let go till they shake some
sense out of this moment.

Joan Cameron

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