Sunday, July 4, 2010

The birth of bossiness

Experts, experts everywhere, and not a moment's rest. They tell us to speak one language instead of another, eat these substances instead of those, act this way instead of that ... A disposition to urge other people to change their behavior could be an Anthropological Constant. If this turns out to be a momentous discovery, remember to mention my name when you pass it along.

What can we imagine to be the evolutionary advantages of this imperious meliorism ? Perhaps there aren't any. The only offhand explanation I can think of for the phenomenon itself is longevity overhang. By that I mean this. We may assume that fathers and mothers have always told their kids how to behave. Over many millenia, the average lifespan was only 35 or so. By the time parents were no longer able to tell their kids what do to - when the kids became adolescent and would no longer listen - the parents just died. But as life expectancy increased, there were more and more parents left with time and wisdom on their hands, since the captive audience had flown the coop. This was the birth of bossiness.

Of course this tendency expresses itself in different ways. Some old people get a pet, others get a license to practice psychological counselling, still others learn Esperanto.


AJP Crown said...

I think a) the bossiness gene is dominant and b) there is nothing to stop bossiness winning over politeness. Therefore we're looking at survival of the bossiest.

Stuart said...

And here I thought politeness was supposed to have sociobiological advantages. You mean I have been trying to restrain my temper for no good reason ?? Well, not exactly trying, but at least considering the pros and cons every now and again.

Stuart said...

What a depressing prospect. I survive, but there's nobody to snap at effectively. There might be some excitement in the ensuing squabble over the conditions of a new social contract - but how likely is it that the founding bossies could ever agree on anything ?

No wonder so many people reject the idea of evolution.