What animals teach us about politics

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Andrea Bernal Shirai. The dolphins "burst-pulsed" as a way to avoid possible aggression in situations of high excitement and energy, possibly when competing for food.

What Animals Teach Us about Politics

An unlikely love affair between a swan and a tractor reveals an important truth from the animal kingdom: Love is blind, and it can be found in even the most surprising places. Swans mate for life, and when eight-year-old Schwani couldn't find another swan to be with, he sought partnership elsewhere.

What Animals Teach Us About Good & Evil - Jeffrey Masson PhD

At a German hotel, the swan became infatuated with the groundskeeper's tractor. According to CBS, Schwani "just can't get enough of the mechanical companion. Many species of animals mate for life , including swans, wolves, albatrosses, termites, bald eagles and gibbons the closest species to humans to do so, although they do occasionally seek pleasure outside the relationship. Most bird species that mate for life, like eagles, pigeons and turtle doves, will only choose another partner after their mate has died.

And despite popular wisdom from Friends , lobsters don't make the list their mating system more closely resembles a harem. News U. HuffPost Personal Video Horoscopes. Newsletters Coupons. Follow Us. Part of HuffPost Wellness. All rights reserved.

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Enter your Postcode or Suburb to view availability and delivery times. See Terms for more information. Contact 07 online qbd. The RRP set by overseas publishers may vary to those set by local publishers due to exchange rates and shipping costs. He drifted right behind Clinton, impatiently pacing back and forth or firmly gripping his chair.

Brian Massumi’s “What Animals Teach Us About Politics” | Somatosphere

Had he been a male chimp, he would have hurled that chair through the air or lashed out at an innocent bystander to demonstrate his superior strength. Right away we got the primate parallels, also reflected in the observations from body language experts. I have never heard alpha references thrown around as freely as during this period. But the primate alpha male is much more complex and responsible than just a bully. Merciless tyrants do sometimes rise to the top in a chimpanzee community, but the more typical alphas that I have known were quite the opposite.

Males in this position are not necessarily the biggest, strongest, meanest ones around, since they often reach the top with the assistance of others. In fact, the smallest male may become alpha if he has the right supporters. Most alpha males protect the underdog, keep the peace and reassure those who are distressed. As soon as a fight erupts among members of a group, everyone turns to him to see how he is going to handle it. He is the final arbiter, intent on restoring harmony. He will stand impressively between screaming parties, with his arms raised, until things calm down.


This is where Trump deviated dramatically from a true alpha male. He struggled with empathy. Instead of uniting and stabilising the nation or expressing sympathy for suppressed or suffering parties, he kindled the flames of discord — from making fun of a disabled journalist to his implicit support for white supremacists. Emotions structure our societies to a degree we rarely acknowledge.

Why would politicians seek higher office if not for the hunger for power that marks all primates? Why would you worry about your family if not for the emotional ties that bind parents and offspring? All our most cherished institutions and accomplishments are tightly interwoven with human emotions and would not exist without them. This realisation makes me look at animal emotions as capable of shedding light on our very existence, our goals and dreams, and our highly structured societies.

That we are social animals is not so special, he said referring to bees and cranes , but our community life is different thanks to human rationality and our ability to tell right from wrong. While he was partly right, he may have overlooked the intensely emotional side of human politics. Rationality is often hard to find, and facts matter far less than we think. Politics is all about fears and hopes, the character of leaders, and the feelings they evoke. Fearmongering is a great way to distract from the issues at hand.

Like most primates, we are a hierarchical species, so why do we try to hide it from ourselves? The evidence is all around us, such as the early emergence of pecking orders in children the opening day at a daycare centre may look like a battlefield , our obsession with income and status, the fancy titles we bestow on one another in small organisations and the infantile devastation of grown men who tumble from the top. Fully grown men may relapse into displays of uncontrolled rage more often associated with juveniles whose expectations are unmet.

When a young primate or child first notices that its every wish will not be granted, a noisy tantrum ensues: this is not how life is supposed to be. Air is expelled with full force through the larynx to wake up the entire neighbourhood to this grave injustice.

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  • The juvenile rolls around screaming, hitting its own head, unable to stand up, sometimes vomiting. Tantrums are common around weaning age, which for apes is around four and for humans around two. The reaction of political leaders to the loss of power is very similar. What has happened? For men, as Kissinger once said, power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. They jealously guard it, and if anyone challenges them, they lose all inhibitions.

    The same occurs in chimps. The first time I saw an established leader lose face, the noise and passion of his reaction astonished me. Normally a dignified character, this alpha male became unrecognisable when confronted by a challenger who slapped his back during a passing charge and slung huge rocks in his direction. The challenger barely stepped out of the way when the alpha countercharged. What to do now? In the midst of such a confrontation, the alpha would drop out of a tree like a rotten apple, writhe on the ground, scream pitifully and wait to be comforted by the rest of the group.

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    And like a juvenile who during a noisy tantrum keeps an eye on his mother for signs of softening, the alpha took note of who approached him. When the group around him was big enough, he instantly regained courage. With his supporters in tow, he rekindled the confrontation with his rival.

    Once he lost his top spot, after every brawl this alpha male would sit staring into the distance, unaccustomed to losing. He refused food for weeks. He became a mere ghost of the impressive leader he had been.

    What animals teach us about politics What animals teach us about politics
    What animals teach us about politics What animals teach us about politics
    What animals teach us about politics What animals teach us about politics
    What animals teach us about politics What animals teach us about politics
    What animals teach us about politics What animals teach us about politics
    What animals teach us about politics What animals teach us about politics
    What animals teach us about politics What animals teach us about politics

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