Dominance and the tyranny of cool

Bacteria bump into something, and simply react to it. The pieces inside you still do this: you drink caffeine, the molecules mechanistically bind to the right receptors, and you don't feel so tired. This level isn't usually interesting to you.

The next level up, is simple dominance, or primal dominance. These are creatures who are able to think and make decisions but have no emotions about it, so when they interact with anything, they ask "Is it going to kill me and eat me?" And if not, they ask "Can I kill and eat it?" And if not, they mostly ignore it. This may not seem relevant, but what is theft, robbery, bullying? Most of the people in prisons are there for reasons of primal dominance.

The next level, that has 80% of humanity's awareness in it, is tribal dominance. It's a lot like primal dominance, with the exception that it says "It's bigger than me and it CAN hurt me ... but it's a member of my tribe, my pack, so I'll let it eat what it wants and in return it'll protect me." There is an agreement on dominance and submission. You see this in packs of dogs - but it is also a huge part of humans.

You have trouble accepting that tribal dominance is such a big part of everything you do, because the next level up is about mental things and laws and logic, it's about enforcing social rules. Everything in your society is telling you "Don't act like animals", so you've come to think of it as a bad thing. Dating, relationships, are mostly tribal dominance. Marriages fall apart over this. You're all aware of this social level of dominance. You know it when you say "This person is out of my league." or "That one, not ever!" You recognise there is a social dominance structure, and you have placed yourself in that. Everything you do in life is either an expression of social dominance, or an ignoring of social dominance. Humans don't do well alone.

That's why people are trying really hard to be "cool", to increase their social dominance. It's a huge investment, and people are driven to all sorts of things because it's "cool", whether it's a hairstyle, a new car, an attitude. Yet no one can really define what cool is. With this idea, you can consider "cool" as a currency of anything that increases social dominance. It gets people to treat you with respect, to look up to you, to treat you better.

Angel, 2014-09-23

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