Dogs And Democracy
On the natural language of the human animal
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Among the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett’s best aphorisms is “dogs aren’t democratic.” He was, of course, correct. Dog social structures are hierarchical and based on dominance. There is a clear head dog, under whom is a subordinate dog, under whom is another subordinate dog, and so on. While the “alpha wolf” trope is untrue of wolf families in the wild, there is an element of that trope that is absolutely true of dogs. Uncertainty as to their position in a hierarchy makes them uneasy; they are unhappy until it is sorted out and clarified to their satisfaction.
In The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, Karenin, the dog owned by Tomas and Teresa, is an intensely regular animal. Kundera makes the point that dogs experience time as a circle, with every day being like the last, and like the next. There is the walk, and breakfast, and the walk, and dinner, and sleep, and waking, and the walk.
Of hierarchy and predictability is a stable family unit made. Pancho (pictured above) makes my life more stable. He needs to be walked, so I must have a predictable schedule so as to be able to take him on regular walks. He needs to eat, so included in my schedule must be work for pay so I can afford food for him. And as a dog, he must be socialized so that he is accustomed to his place in the hierarchy of dogs and humans; it must always be at the bottom.
As such, I walk through doors before him. I eat before him. When I play with him, I maintain and gently insist on access to his belly and throat, where he is physically vulnerable. These and a hundred other subtle behaviors remind him that he is the subordinate, because knowing his place makes a dog feel safe. It is important that Pancho feels safe; positional security underlies the good citizenship of all well-behaved dogs. I very much want him to feel safe forever; I love him, and I do not want him to ever feel threatened. Nor can he ever believe he is the dominant dog in any interaction with people. Dogs most typically bite out of either fear or territorial dominance, and Pancho is a superbly muscled sixty-five-pound torpedo. There is no abstraction layer, no intermediate step between thought and deed in the mind of a dog.
Ashas pointed out in a recent essay on Tonic Intersectionality, there are universal social dynamics that scale at all levels. This is true both in terms of the complexity of a society and in terms of complexity of an organism. While humans are not dogs, things that make dogs happy also make us happy. We need hierarchies and predictability too.
Dogs are formal creatures. Those surprised by this assertion will most likely be people used to anthropomorphizing them or treating them as “fur children,” but there is a sense in which it is obviously true. “Dog” is a social language. It is focused on social dominance and carnal appetites, as are all animal languages, and as such, it is an unambiguous language made up of ritual and rigid etiquette and not much else. Hierarchies are expressed linguistically in all species, regardless of whether the language that is used to express them visual, behavioral, or spoken, and misunderstanding of linguistic cues in the “Dog” social language will spark anxiety if it is taken as a challenge, or arouse contempt in the dog if it is interpreted as an expression of submission. This is undesirable, to say the least, and can lead to serious problems.
Sociolinguistic facility is a marker of elite status, and I speak fluent “Dog.” As far as my dog is concerned, I am an elite.
Recall that my priority with regards to Pancho is to maintain dominance over him. This is for reasons of safety, Pancho’s and mine. To that end, I constantly remind him in “Dog,” which is behavioral and physical, that I am variously his parent, his pack leader, or just a very big wolf to his very small one. Pancho is a good dog, so he responds accordingly and appropriately; the Dance of Men and Dogs has been danced for as long as there have been men and dogs.
Elites use their sociolinguistic superiority to maintain dominance over other humans in more or less the same way, for what are from their point of view, the same reasons. In a sensible world, cognitive elites recognize both the common humanity they share with the rest of their species and the plain fact that a dominance toolkit has limited utility; ashas pointed out on more than one occasion, in hunter-gatherer tribes, bullies who take from others and do not contribute themselves often meet mysterious ends on hunting trips when none of the other hunters is looking.
In our world, which is less sensible, not so much. We live in a society in which our elites use “nudge architecture” to manipulate us and spout empty threats about dominating Americans with drones. They do not treat us with respect; their fear and contempt are obvious to anyone with eyes. We aren’t dogs, but they don’t seem to know the difference.
Henderson (a genuine cognitive elite himself) points out the distinction between dominance-oriented status and a prestige-oriented status. His summary of the differences between the two is so good I can’t improve on it; I’ll just quote it in full:
In a recent paper titled “Beyond Populism: The Psychology of Status-Seeking and Extreme Political Discontent,” a team of researchers investigated whether the desire to obtain status underlies extreme political discontent.
There are two different kinds of status: Dominance and prestige.
Dominance: Associated with narcissism, aggression, and disagreeableness. Joseph Stalin obtained status through dominance.
People confer status to dominant individuals because of what dominant individuals can do to them (inflict costs—pain, humiliation, injuries, disfigurement, violence, etc.).
Prestige: Associated with stable self-esteem, social acceptance, and conscientiousness. Stephen Hawking obtained status through prestige.
People confer status to prestigious individuals because of what prestigious individuals can do for them (provide benefits—teach them things, grant them access to resources, increase their status by being associated with them, and so on).
There is no secret to what we’re doing with the Tonic Masculinity Project. Our goal is to shift societyfrom a dominance orientation to a prestige orientation.
I don’t want elites using sociolinguistic expertise to dominate others. To be clear, it’s a thoroughly selfish desire on my part. I don’t like being dominated myself, and a dominance-oriented society is one in which the majority is unhappy; as someone who reads people without effort, I absorb the environmental emotional state shared by everyone around me. If everyone around me is unhappy, I’m unhappy.
But there has to be a hierarchy; we’re not unlike dogs in that we are anxious if we don’t know which social strata we inhabit. And the impossible feat woke Marxcissists always try to accomplish—changing the inbuilt biological rules that govern human behavior so as to put the marginalized on top of the hierarchy by fiat—is madness. It is an insult to human dignity; it does not and cannot ever work.
So what we’re all doing, all of us in the Neo-Gonzo Axis, and all of the projects with which we’re affiliated, is changing which set of rules we follow.
Tonic Masculinity is an attempt to live by rules established and codified by the Founders of the United States: a prestige-oriented hierarchy based around competence, excellence, and initiative. No more, no less.
Our elites lead. Theirs rule.
A society premised on Tonic Masculinity is one in which the slices everyone gets are a little smaller, but the whole pie is much, much bigger. The net effect of a world in which everyone instinctively looks for positive-sum games is that everyone ends up with a little more, not a little less, and the common goal becomes being happy as opposed to ingesting as much as you can consoom.
I am here playing fast and loose with the definition of “society,” and I invite the reader to contextualize it any way he or she wishes. As Harrison points out in his article, society is fractal, larger iterations recapitulating smaller ones, from the family unit all the way up to the nation.
Fantastic distinction between a hierarchy based on dominance and one based on prestige! The "tabula rosa" humanists insisted that hierarchies could be done away with entirely, but when that didn't work, they seemed to pivot towards co-opting and subverting the dominance hierarchy to match their worldview (with the professional victims on top, passive-aggressively oppressing those beneath them, whom they misleadingly label "oppressors"). A much better solution than trying to fix a dysfunctional dominance hierarchy would be, as you and others have noted in these tonic masculinity posts, to replace the dominance hierarchy with one based on prestige. Great essay!
That's one of the keys to true revolution, you have to provide the means to a better life. Most revolutions fail because the elite assume the people will accept reduced circumstances for the benefit of the new order. They will, but if they are hungry too long they will eat the revolutionaries.
Our elite are basically eating the people, and the people are putting up with it to not get eaten, but also because they don't see anyone offering a better order.