Monday, March 8, 2010

Late Night Conversations

"If you call woman
African woman no go ‘gree
She go say I be Lady o
I want tell you about Lady:
She go say him equal to man
She go say him get power like man
She go say anything man do
Him self fit do

African woman -
She know him manna Masster
She go cook for am
She go do anything he say
But Lady no be so 
Lady na Masster" 
[Fela Kuti - Lady

"This is my dream. Have you ever had [a] Chinese woman?" I see his eyes light up in the rear mirror. "I want [to] try [a] Chinese woman." What would be life without moments like these: Listening to an Ethiopian cab driver philosophy about women.

He had just finished praising the beauty of the women of his homeland, and now gets ready to marvel at the greener grass on the other side. Or so I thought. "What do you like about Chinese women?" I ask, to keep the conversation flowing.

He raises his hand, two of fingers outstretched, slowly, while leaving his eyes on the road. "They [are] not cut." He snaps his fingers as if they were scissors. It took me a while to understand what he was getting at. I cringe. It had never occurred to me that female genital cutting ("genital mutilation") is still employed frequently enough for me to encounter men who could tell me about their experience with women who underwent the procedure. 

"Are Ethiopian women usually cut?" I ask naively (later I should find out that it still is the norm for this and many other countries.). I wanted to learn more. He had somewhat reacted to my surprise and I was afraid he would stop talk openly about the matter. 

"Used to. Now less. Big problem, you know." He went on linking the cultural changes associated with that to the exploding divorce rate in his home country (I was surprised to find out later that it was 45%, in 2000 and climbing - with war and poverty accounted as main contributing factors). 

"So you do like a woman cut?" I ask after he finished his diatribe. "No. I like [to] touch woman uncut. You can tell, [that] woman [is] hot."

Women hold a certain power over men that is equal to the death penalty on a cosmic scale: Women can eliminate a man's genes from the gene pool - without his knowledge.

Life is nothing but the progression of one generation to the next. The meaning of the whole dance is to keep the dance going. Just as any other living being, we are primed to do just that. And this means that the male instinct is hypersensitive to the possibility of getting tricked into putting a life's resources into the offspring of a competitor. 

The extreme measure this African man described only makes sense if one takes this is into account. Men monopolize women, stone adulteresses to death and veil them in tank like clothing under the dessert sun. They even mutilate the very organs that cause sexual desire in women - for one reason only. They fear paternity theft. And what this cab driver described is that the certainty of having children of their own is worth even the decreased sexual pleasure that comes with frigid partners (interestingly this might not have been a problem before Westernization).

And it doesn't stop there. In Ghana, for example, it is the mother's brother (or uncle) rather than her husband who are the most important men in their lives. Men literally care more for their sister's families than their own. And this system is not unique to African culture. As an avid reader of this blog you might know, it also emerged in regions as remote as the polar caps. And again it is the chance of paternity theft that seems to give the best explanation for this bizarre cultural construct:
A tribal man can never know for sure whether the kids of his wife are his own. But the kids of his sister are definitely related to him, as she stems from the same mother's womb and her kids are definitely hers.

No matter what your political opinion is about these cultures, they all demonstrate one thing: The Power of Biology. As much as we like to see ourselves as rational beings with a free will that sets us apart from animals, a good look at how we live proves otherwise. 
Our genes don't just impact our personal decisions, they even influence our cultures. 

12 comments:

  1. As much as we like to see ourselves as rational beings with a free will that sets us apart from animals, a good look at how we live proves otherwise.

    Yes, because animals are notoriously good at building particle accelerators and sending probes into outer space. And African cultures are an ideal way of assessing the rationality of human civilization.

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  2. there was a different yet similar stereotype of the mother's brother vs the father's brother and how they treated the respective kids in ancient Rome.

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  3. animals are notoriously good at building particle accelerators and sending probes into outer space
    Different animals excel at different aspects of life. The fact that we are good at doing Physics is not sufficient to distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

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  4. there was a different yet similar stereotype of the mother's brother vs the father's brother and how they treated the respective kids in ancient Rome.
    Interesting. Do you have a reference?

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  5. Nothing to add, other than I'm digging this post.

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  6. Different animals excel at different aspects of life. The fact that we are good at doing Physics is not sufficient to distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

    There is not an animal species on this planet that is anywhere close to humans (which are not animals) in terms of intelligence and ability.

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  7. Nothing new here. Humans are just sophisticated mammals. Pretty much sociology and most of psychology can be explained through biology, natural or evolutionary biology. To the genes the end goal is replication, everything else is a means to an end. The most alpha is the individual with highest fitness level in Darwinian terms.

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  8. Is the ceiling more important than the foundation?

    http://www.mindbodypsychotherapy.net/images/triune_brain.gif

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  9. I cannot believe you quoted Lady by Fela Kuti... its in my MP3 player along with Zombie, Gentleman and of course Mr Grammarticalogylisationalism Is The Boss.

    I guess it proves your point about music tastes..

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  10. @ G - The triune brain model is not well accepted in neuroscience. There is lots of anatomical and phylogentic evidence against it. The same goes for the frontal lobe in humans, although the evidence for that being an evolutionary add-on that inhibits primordial urges is somewhat tighter.

    Funny thing about the shared music taste.

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  11. Can you point me to some sources where you have encountered a controversy over the triune brain.

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    ReplyDelete