The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, May 18, 2007

Odd Humans, and the Tribal Monkey

Human beings are such odd creatures. I have a friend who has had an affair for some years with a married guy. The guy’s wife had a recent serious illness, he re-thought his life, and dumped my friend. She was quite upset, felt he’d been dishonest, “we had agreements” and so forth. What boggles my mind is that she KNOWS the guy is a slime-ball, but on some level is surprised when he acts…well, like a more responsible human being. Or that he didn’t dump her in a way that was convenient. It reminds me a bit of Britney Spears starting an affair with K-Fed while he’s living with the mother of his children. On what basis did she think she had the right to expect better treatment than he gave the mother?

If you are living in alignment with your values, you know what costs you pay to do so. And you recognize that when people are dishonest, they are rarely dishonest selectively—a warped map is a warped map. And you get to be “surprised” when the lover does to you what he/she does to others. Of course, the most interesting thing is that here, he seems to have done a more mature thing, and recognized that he’s been acting like a selfish child, risking his family for sexual pleasure. I think that what my friend is really upset about is that the situation is a mirror for her: she has no one in her own life who even TRIES to do for her what this man is trying to do for his wife: be a good husband. Behave as part of a mated pair. This is a good lady. I hope she will one day address the wounds that created her situation. She deserves to treat herself better.
I want to reiterate that anything I say about I.F. is in reference to my own experiences, not intended as medical advise. If it sounds interesting, do your own research, and PLEASE consult with your doctor. In no way can I be responsible for your results. This is powerful stuff, and you must be careful.
I was asked why I considered the Maryland study ( )
“evidence of racism” since so few whites killed blacks. The gentleman also considered that the differential sentencing had to do with the fact that blacks killed whites in conditions of greater violence. I believe this is false, but the link is posted, and I’d love for others to look at the data. My answers:
1) There are greater penalties for killing across race lines than within them. People are more likely to be killed by members of their own group.
2) Robbery is often a motivation for murder. Robbers go where the money is. A differential in average income between whites and blacks could certainly explain why blacks are more likely to rob whites than vice versa.
3) That notwithstanding, the stats were adjusted for such factors. Given severity of violence and circumstance and so forth—when all of those factors are held steady, there was STILL a statistical blip.

Again, I don’t treat these stats as evidence of racism if you mean “white racism.” I do treat them as evidence of human tribalism, that human beings have a natural preference for their “own” group, and a 5-10% discomfort with “the other” which comes out…well, everywhere. And the less conscious people are, the more it gets to come out. I don’t think its deliberate. I DO think that you have to be deliberate to prevent its effects. (This is why the hair on the back of my neck twitches when I hear Conservatives say: can't we all just forget about race..?" The little tribal monkey in the back of our minds would LOVE for the forebrain to forget about race. Then it could go right on playing its 5-10% games, and things would slide right back where they were. The only way this wouldn't be true is if everyone was the same color. In that case, of course, the Tribal Monkey would find something else to discriminate against: height, fashion, sexual preference, gender, whatever. It thrives on finding differences, and throwing shit at them.)
The figures in this study were compiled from information from the 70’s through the 90’s. I’d bet anything that if you went further into America’s past, you’d find that the differential punishments were far more egregious. Not because whites are evil, but because human beings have certain tendencies that are cumulative when there are masses of them, and devastating when they have numerical and power advantages.

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