The male of the species, Part Two

Further musings on dogs, women and men.

A few weeks ago, I read a book entitled The Republican Brain written by Chris Mooney and to quote WikiPedia:

The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science — and Reality is a book by the journalist Chris Mooney that is about the psychological basis for many Republicans’ rejection of mainstream scientific theories, as well as theories of economics and history.

On page 83, Chris Mooney writes (my emphasis):

Here also arises a chief liberal weakness, in Lakoff’s view (*), and one that is probably amplified by academic training. Call it the Condorcet handicap, or the Enlightenment syndrome. Either way, it will sound very familiar: Constantly trying to use factual and reasoned arguments to make the world better and being amazed to find even though these arguments are sound, well-researched, and supported, they are disregarded, or even actively attacked by conservatives.

When glimpsed from a bird’s eye view, all the morality research that we’re surveying is broadly consistent. It once again reinforces the idea that there are deep differences between liberals and conservatives – differences that are operating, in many cases, beneath the level of conscious awareness, and that ultimately must be rooted in the brain.

(*) George Lakoff, Berkeley Cognitive Linguist and author of the book Moral Politics.

What Chris Mooney is proposing is that the difference between liberals and conservatives could be genetically rooted, at least in part.

That underlines in my mind how each of us, before even considering our gender differences, is truly a complex mix of ‘nature and nurture’ with countless numbers of permutations resulting.

That there are deep differences, apart from the obvious ones, between man and woman goes without saying. In earlier times, these differences were essential in us humans achieving so much and leading to, in the words of Yuval Noah Harari from yesterday’s post., ” … few would disagree that humans dominate planet Earth; we’ve spread to every continent, and our actions determine the fate of other animals (and possibly Earth itself).”

Speaking of earlier times, let me turn to dogs, for it is pertinent to my post, and I would like to quote an extract from what Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine, Jim Goodbrod, writes in the foreword of my forthcoming book:

But what exactly is this human-dog bond and why do we feel such an affinity for this species above all others? My feeling is that it may be associated with our deep but subconscious longing for that age of simple innocence and innate human goodness that we supposedly possessed before we became truly “human”: that child-like innocence or what Rousseau referred to as the “noble savage”, before being corrupted by civilization, before we were booted out of the Garden of Eden. We humans, for better or worse, somewhere along that evolutionary road acquired consciousness or so-called human nature and with it we lost that innocence. What we gained were those marvelous qualities that make us uniquely human: a sense of self-awareness, an innate moral and ethical code, the ability to contemplate our own existence and mortality, and our place in the universe. We gained the ability to think abstract thoughts and the intellectual power to unravel many of the mysteries of the universe. Because of that acquired consciousness and humans’ creative and imaginative mind we have produced the likes of Shakespeare, Mozart, and Einstein. We have peered deep into outer space, deciphered the genetic code, eradicated deadly diseases, probed the bizarre inner world of the atom, and accomplished thousands of other intellectual feats that hitherto would not have been possible without the evolution of our incredible brain and the consciousness with which it is equipped.

No other living species on this planet before or since has developed this massive intellectual power. But this consciousness was attained at what cost? Despite all the amazing accomplishments of the human race, we are the only species that repeatedly commits genocide and wages war against ourselves over political ideology, geographic boundaries, or religious superstition. We are capable of justifying the suffering and death of fellow human beings over rights to a shiny gold metal or a black oily liquid that powers our cars. We are the only species that has the capability to destroy our own planet, our only home in this vast universe, by either nuclear warfare, or more insidiously by environmental contamination on a global scale. Was it worth it? No matter what your or my opinion may be, Pandora’s Box has been opened and we cannot put the lid back on.

What can we do now to reverse this trend and help improve the quality of life for humanity and ensure the well-being of our planet? I think, if we recognize the problem and look very critically at ourselves as a unique species with awesome powers to do both good and bad, and put our collective minds to the task, it may be possible to retrieve some of the qualities of that innocence lost, without losing all that we have gained.

Dogs represent to me that innocence lost. Their emotions are pure. They live in the present. They do not suffer existential angst over who or what they are. They do not covet material wealth. They offer us unconditional love and devotion. Although they certainly have not reached the great heights of intellectual achievement of us humans (I know for a fact that this is true after having lived with a Labrador retriever for several years), at the same time they have not sunk to the depths of depravity to which we are susceptible. It could be argued that I am being overly anthropomorphic, or that dogs are simply mentally incapable of these thoughts. But nevertheless, metaphorically or otherwise, I believe that dogs demonstrate a simple and uncorrupted approach to life from which we all could benefit. I think the crux of Paul’s thesis is that, within the confines and limitations of our human consciousness, we can (and should) metaphorically view the integrity of the dog as a template for human behavior.

“Dogs demonstrate a simple and uncorrupted approach to life …”

I closed yesterday’s post with these words, “It is my contention that humankind’s evolution, our ability to “cooperate flexibly in large numbers”, is rooted in the gender differences between man and woman.”

The premise behind that proposition is that until, say one hundred years ago, give or take, that co-operation between large numbers of humans was critically important in so many areas: health; science; medicine; physics; exploration; outer space and more. (And whether one likes it or not: wars.)  My proposition is that it is predominantly men who have been the ‘shakers and movers’ in these areas. Of course not exclusively, far from it, just saying that so many advances in society are more likely to have been led by men.

But (and you sensed a ‘but’ coming up, perhaps) these present times call for a different type of man. A man who is less the rational thinker, wanting to set the pace, and more a man capable of expressing his fears, exploring his feelings, defining his fear of failure, and more. I don’t know about you but when I read Raúl Ilargi Meijer words from yesterday, “And if and when we resort to only rational terms to define ourselves, as well as our world and the societies we create in that world, we can only fail.”, it was the male of our species that was in my mind. As in, “And if and when we [males] resort to only rational terms to define ourselves …”.

Staying with Raúl Meijer’s words from yesterday (my emphasis), “And those should never be defined by economists or lawyers or politicians, but by the people themselves. A social contract needs to be set up by everyone involved, and with everyone’s consent.”

Dogs demonstrate a simple and uncorrupted approach to life but that doesn’t extend to them making social contracts. Women do understand social contracts, they are predominantly caring, social humans. Less so for men. But for that social contract to be successfully set up by everyone it must, of course, include men. And that requires men, speaking generally you realise, to find safe ways to get in touch with their feelings, to tap into their emotional intelligence, using positive psychology to listen to their feelings and know the truth of what they and their loved ones need to guarantee a better future. What they need in terms of emotional and behavioural change. And, if I may say, sensing when they might need the support of subject experts to embed and sustain those behavioural changes.

It was the fickle finger of fate that led me to the arms, metaphorically speaking, of a core process psychotherapist back in Devon in the first half of 2007. That counselling relationship that revealed a deeply hidden aspect of my consciousness: a fear of rejection that I had had since December, 1956. That finger of fate that took me to Mexico for Christmas 2007 and me meeting Jean and all her dogs. That finger of fate that pointed me to the happiest years of my life and a love between Jeannie and me that I could hitherto never ever have imagined.

However, as much as I love and trust Jean, wholeheartedly, it comes back to dogs.

For when I curl up and wrap myself around a dog and sense that pure unconditional love coming back to me, I have access to my inner feelings, my inner joys and fears, in a way unmatched by anything else.

Where learning from dogs is a gateway to learning from me.

Pharaoh – more than just a dog!

11 thoughts on “The male of the species, Part Two

  1. “My proposition is that it is predominantly men who have been the ‘shakers and movers’ in these areas. Of course not exclusively, far from it, just saying that so many advances in society are more likely to have been led by men.”

    I think here Paul, we have to take account of the fact that patriarchal societies – having endured persistently throughout known history – would almost inevitably have given rise to this phenomenon. In other words, one cannot accurately evaluate the respective societal contributions in terms purely of physiology and gender. You may have taken this into account in your thesis of course, and simply had no room here to include cultural effects. Are you saying that men have in the past tended to be ‘shakers and movers’ purely due to their physiology?

    1. To be honest, I don’t know. In other words, I don’t have the knowledge and expertise that your question demands. The Mooney book opened my mind to something I had never before considered but one might argue that his ideas would explain why we have had patriarchal societies in the first place. And still have.

      1. As you very correctly point out in your excellent article Paul, it is a matter of nature and nurture. Much of our nurturing is effected sub-consciously in biases rooted within our patriarchal paradigm. Something is clearly amiss when we look not only at the areas you point to – health, science, medicine, physics, exploration, outer space – but also at the arts and philosophy. Can it really be so that there were no potentially great female renaissance painters, or potentially great Baroque composers, or even potentially great Enlightenment thinkers for that matter (Wollstonecraft acknowledged)?

  2. Val Boyco of the blog Find Your Middle Ground published a post today under the title of Paradox. It included the following poem that seemed to resonate with some of the ideas in my post above. It is republished here with Val’s permission:

    Fear and love seldom
    stand, shoulder to shoulder;
    Its rare to laugh and
    lie in the same breath.

    But strength and weakness,
    failure and success,
    faith and desolation –
    they are different ends
    of a single stick.

    To pick one up
    is to receive both poles –
    stark contrasts contribute
    to a knowledge of the whole.

    What is life but growing
    wide and deep, so
    open from weeping
    that opposites, ambiguity,
    and a thousand shade
    of gray can co-exist
    without despair?

    Danna Faulds from Go In and In

  3. What a good article Paul. It did get me thinking!
    As a woman and history major, I am very aware of the patriarchal society and its impact – still today. (Well said Hariod ) I can only imagine what society was like when the lifespan was in the 30’s and instead of birth control there were multiple deaths of babies and children. Women have never been freer than in the last 40 years, yet there is a long way to go to shift the paradigm from left brain thinking to a more holistic approach accessing our emotions, intuition and sense of compassion and connection.
    Funnily enough Paul, I too saw a psychotherapist after the end of my first marriage, who helped me open up to feeling fully and being present in the world! Until then, I relied on my dogs to nourish my need for unconditional love and acceptance. I think a lot of men feel so much for their dogs because it is the part of life where they can allow themselves to open their hearts and allow themselves to feel.
    Thank you for the share my friend.
    💛

    1. Val, how special of you to leave such a delightful reply. And thank you for supporting my penultimate paragraph because, if I am honest, I felt a little exposed in saying what I did. I, too, sense that many men can bare their souls to their dogs. The trick is getting those men, who in their hearts know the changes that we all have to make to offer the next generations a future, to be true to themselves and be the change they know we need. Especially those men in positions of power and influence.

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