Chapter 8: Play and egalitarianism Primate oddity: social hierarchy, especially among males, is ubiquitous among primates. From chimpanzees to corporate boards, primates organize themselves into hierarchies. Glaring exception: human hunter-gatherers Human h-gs are aggressively egalitarian. Chapter argues that play is an important component of hg activist egalitarianism Play and promoting egalitarianism Play fighting goal: keep the interaction going for as long as possible Real fighting goal: end interaction quickly with clear winner (dominant) To achieve goal players must consciously exercise restraint, stronger must self-handicap; players much strive for equality, not dominance. Play and promoting egalitarianism • In play, positions of submission or vulnerability (such as being chased, rather than chasing) are often more pleasurable. Play reverses typical rules of dominance/submission • In play, rules abound. Signals of intention (play bow) invite or initiate the interaction. “Fair” play is the expectation (this keeps the interaction going) rule violations require “apology” – usually some ritualized act of submission. An implicit moral code governs play. Play and ritual aggression • Play is not ritual aggression. In other species these two are clearly distinguished. In humans, competitive games (sports, Olympic games, etc.) are combos of play and ritual aggression. This appears to be unique to our species. Play and egalitarianism in nonhuman primates • Japanese macaques are very hierarchical, and play infrequently • Tonkean macaques are much more egalitarian and play much more frequently. This difference is especially true among females. • Bonobos are more egalitarian than chimpanzees and have more adult-adult play, especially rt play and sex play among females Play among hunter-gatherers • Hypothesis: H-gs culturally promoted playfulness as a guard against dominance; groups shunned and expelled dominant non-playful members, females preferred playful males as mates. Both cultural and sexual selection favored playfulness over dominance. Characteristics of human play • Self-chosen and self-directed (people chose to play, not cohersed) • Intrinsically motivated (satisfying for its own sake, suggests that it served some adaptive purpose) • Guided by mental rules (players understand how they are supposed to play and what is not play) • Imaginative (mentally distinct from serious realworld instrumental activities) • Conducted in alert, active, but non-stressed frame of mind H-g game playing • Most h-gs have free time daily: subsistence activities on average take 5-6 hrs. Rest of day spent in leisure activities – talking, resting, mending tools, games, dancing, playing. • Non-competitive games common among most h-g’s, often games stress coordinated rhythm, teamwork, creating and enjoying drama (as in story-telling), cooperation of some kind. • Even games superficially competitive are rarely ones where winners and loser are established. They don’t keep score, they mock those trying to win, etc. Playfulness and H-g religion • H-g religion not dogmatic or theological: Instead it stresses story and ritual that gives meaning to daily existence and help motivate members to put group interests above self-interests. • H-g religion emphasizes ceremony and group ritual. Not somber and heavy, but celebratory, lots of intense dancing and drumming. Shamanistic trance and healing ceremonies nearly universal. • Most h-g religious are polytheistic, many more-or-less equal god, spirits. Not strictly hierarchical as are the global religions. Common element is trickster god, or “trickster” nature of many gods. • H-g religion never conflicts with practical reality: it is a way of giving meaning to tasks and daily activities, not a means of solving practical problems or tasks. • Ex: Gwi of Southern Africa do rain dances not to bring rain, but to celebrate the appearance of rain clouds. Playfulness and h-g work • Work as toil is agricultural, industrial, modern world notion, not found among h-g’s • Why not? Work among h-g’s (hunting, gathering, tool-making, mending, child care, etc.) are seen as voluntary (no one forces anyone to do it, but no one will do it for you either), it requires skill and intelligence, so it is not boring drudgery; It is not done all day; always time for other “leisure” activities. It is highly social, with lots of talk, collaboration, enjoyment. Playfulness and h-g work • Free-rider problem largely avoided by social pressure and the enjoyment of sustenance activities. • Extensive use of teasing to promote humility and equality. • To avoid teasing, successful members of the group will often cloak pride in over-blown self-deprecation. A good hunter will say his (very fat) antelope was too skinny or that he was lucky, etc. Others know he is not serious, but they appreciate that he does not openly gloat. If he does gloat, he can expect to be teased extensively (insulting the meat). Children’s play • in h-g groups is largely unstructured and undirected by adults. Also note: that these play groups are often mixed age, so older kids probably do some supervising, directing. Important point: often play of children is imitation of adult activities, so sustenance activities are, from early on, voluntary and filled with spirit of play. • As with play, in h-g groups anyone can quit – leave and join another group.