I get what you are saying but we have cultures today that don’t live like this. They are small hunter-gatherer societies and other small pockets of humans such as the Na of China, that don’t exhibit this kind of behavior because their culture doesn’t endorse and support it.

Hunter-gatherer tribes actively work together to keep disruptive, violent, power-hungry men from getting ahead and causing too much trouble. Some anthropologists have characterized it as a reverse hierarchy, where the weak band together to keep the strong and aggressive in check. These cultures tend to be characterized by their expressions of connection with each other because that is how they have survived and succeeded.

I can’t remember now where I read it or I’d link it, but there was one example of two boys squabbling near their fathers. In one culture, that has a more aggressive bent, each boy’s father gave them a stick and they would take turns hitting each other until somebody concedes. In another culture, each father would hug their son until they eventually relaxed into a calmer state.

“Social play — that is, play involving more than one player — is necessarily egalitarian. It always requires a suspension of aggression and dominance along with a heightened sensitivity to the needs and desires of the other players. Players may recognize that one playmate is better at the played activity than are others, but that recognition must not lead the one who is better to lord it over the others.

This is true for play among animals as well as for that among humans. For example, when two young monkeys of different size and strength engage in a play fight, the stronger one deliberately self-handicaps, avoids actions that would frighten or hurt the playmate, and sends repeated play signals that are understood as signs of non-aggression. That is what makes the activity a play fight instead of a real fight. If the stronger animal failed to behave in these ways, the weaker one would feel threatened and flee, and the play would end. The drive to play, therefore, requires suppression of the drive to dominate.

As I have explained in a previous post, hunter-gatherers employed a style of parenting that others have referred to as “permissive” or “indulgent,” but which I prefer to call “trusting.”

“Ju/’hoan children very rarely cried, probably because they had little to cry about. No child was ever yelled at or slapped or physically punished, and few were even scolded. Most never heard a discouraging word until they were approaching adolescence, and even then the reprimand, if it really was a reprimand, was delivered in a soft voice. … We are sometimes told that children who are treated so kindly become spoiled, but this is because those who hold that opinion have no idea how successful such measures can be. Free from frustration or anxiety, sunny and cooperative, the children were every parent’s dream. No culture can ever have raised better, more intelligent, more likable, more confident children.”[4]

The childrearing theory overlaps with my play theory, because hunter-gatherers allowed their children, including teenagers, to play essentially from dawn to dusk. The children grew up believing that life is play and then went on to conduct esssentially all of their adult tasks in a playful mood — the mood that counters the drive to dominate.”

I’m not saying it would be easy to translate the cultures of these small societies into our modern world, but it does tend to indicate that the way that we currently live is not inevitable and is instead linked to the kind of society and culture that we currently inhabit.

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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