Don't call it a spade
The Relentless Pursuit of Advantage
Let’s see if I can expand SP theory.
Early October is the anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, and the people there get a one week vacation. As a result a billion people start moving in one direction or the other. Tourist spots in China become hell on earth, the closest thing to an ant colony. Those who can afford it choose to travel abroad, where there’s bound to be less people. The yen being quite cheap these days, Japan is one of the top destinations for Chinese tourism.
You gotta give it to them, that the Japanese bureaucracy can really pull stuff off when it puts itself to work. 5 years ago I started to hear how one of the “growth strategies” of Japan was to be tourism, and the Japanese government was starting to move in order to achieve that. I thought it was madness; have they looked at a map? Japan is far away. There’s not that much to see to be honest, most old cities having been burnt by Curtis LeMay, and replaced with quite uninspiring jungles of concrete. Japanese hotels are also old, small and expensive. And nobody speaks foreign languages. It can’t work.
Well, 5 years later Japan has more than doubled the number of visiting tourists. From 8 to what might well reach 20 million this year. That has a lot to do with Chinese tourists. The yen being quite cheap right now, Chinese tourists find Japan to be quite cheap. It’s also quite close. So a zillion Chinese came to Japan during the October holidays. Chinese news sites bombastically published how “Chinese armies invade Japan” and “city after city opens its gates in surrender”. Some surrender it was. The average Chinese tourist spent $7,000 in a 4 day trip. Never an invasion army had been so generous. Never was a country so happy to be invaded. Chinese tourists are also famous for buying completely extravagant stuff. Like $1,000 rice cookers. Who the hell buys that? Well, Chinese tourists. It’s painfully obvious that Japanese manufacturers make them exclusively for them: they’re impractically big, painted with shiny black, and has written in big letters on the front “Made in Japan”. That’s catnip for the Chinese. Obviously no native would buy that. But there’s money to be made, and Japanese companies are all to happy to cater to whoever has it.
This year my wife had some friends from China coming to visit. And yes, they bought all sorts of stuff. Clothes, accessories; all very expensive. As far as I know they’re not particularly rich, but China now has increasing numbers of married couples without children, making two middle class incomes, eating cheap food, using cheap smartphones, saving money in daily life to splurge in yearly trips abroad. Children? Oh no that’s SO expensive. Have you seen this bracelet?
The day before leaving these friends asked me where to buy a camera, so I took them to an electronics store. They seemed to have no clue about cameras in general. All they did was look at one, then google it on their smartphone. After a while they decided for one.
-Why this one?
-Oh it’s 20% cheaper than in China.
(Oh, so that’s what they were checking.) -But anyway, who cares about the price difference. Is it any good or not?
-Whatever man, I can’t tell the difference anyway.
Then it struck me; of course if they had any actual knowledge of cameras they’d have bought one before coming, or at least just on arrival. They’re on a fucking trip abroad, which is when cameras are used. But no, the camera was just a signal. A signal of their superior luck, having acquired it 20% cheaper than any of their peers back in China. 20%, man. Awesome, huh? They’ll be bragging about it forever. The camera will probably never be used. That’s what smartphones are for.
What’s the point of that? To keep up with your peer group, of course. If possible to gain some small advantage, some surplus SP. But if you can’t, at the very least you have to keep up, to go through the motions. For most people it’s second nature.
René Girard just passed away, and his intellectual career dealt with this precise phenomenon. Why do we talk so much about individual freedom, when the vast majority of people are all doing the same shit? That’s because people are mimetic animals, he said. We are for some reason wired to copy the people around us, to desire the same things. That breeds conflict, and conflict leads to the selection of scapegoats to harness collective energy into one single focal point, lest the whole tribe collapses in a war of all against all.
Now I haven’t read much of his oeuvre, so perhaps I’m being unfair. But I think Girard got the whole thing backwards. People aren’t mimetic, which leads to conflict. People seek advantage, which leads to conflict, which leads to imitation. The logic is simple; the pursuit of advantage requires a single yardstick to compare others. In order to show yourself to be superior you must excel at something whose value is understood by everyone. And as everyone seeks advantage, conflict naturally evolves around this single yardstick. Which is why people all do the same retarded thing. Because that’s the only way you can settle the match. The eternal tournament of life.
I’ll give credit to Girard for using his clever theory to argue for the superiority of Christianity, with Christ being the last scapegoat and all that. The thing has a nice poetic feel to it, and it’s refreshing to listen to apologies of Christianity with a solid anthropological ground. But still, that doesn’t make much sense. Christians didn’t sacrifice children, sure. But neither did Jews for centuries before Christ. Nor have the Chinese for millennia. Not that there weren’t plenty of scapegoats around. What about all those witch hunts? Temporary lapse into pagan madness? Come on.
My reasoning is simpler, and without mythical allegories. People seek advantage because they must have an edge to reproduce. During most of human existence only 1 in 17 males (or 40%, or whatever) was able to reproduce. And that’s hardly unique to humans. In any sexual species, the males have orders of magnitude more sperm than females hold eggs. Males in turn evolved to have higher trait variance. Females have to choose, one way or another. There’s not enough eggs for every sperm out there. It follows that males must necessarily compete.
But compete how? Well it doesn’t really matter, as long as there’s a winner, or several, and everyone can agree to the result. The typical answer tends to be “good genes”, but that’s a tautology. And females don’t necessarily know what good genes are. Good genes by definition are genes which are more likely to reproduce; which in a male’s context means more likely to attract females. So females like what females like. Cool. And what to females like? Peacock tails. Bright colors. Fancy songs. Long antlers. Corkscrew penises. Tall men. Who cares? It doesn’t matter. As long as a game theory equation computes an area of competition, a common yardstick, the men will get busy in optimizing for that. And the next generation by definition will be the children of those who were better at playing that game. Animals are all built to play the game. Evolution must have made a big chunk of all brains into calculating how the game is played. The ranking of players at that game, even in animals, can be defined as SP. Everybody wants SP. For a peacock, a long tail gives you SP. For a pig… well I don’t know how female pigs choose their mates, but you get the point.
Now of course humans are rather special animals. We can use weapons, which puts the brakes on the fitness advantage of sheer physical force. And we’re social. Being social means we make groups. But we’re animals, and animals must compete. Animals are built to find common yardsticks of value and seek superiority in whatever is valued by the group in order to reproduce. Now it doesn’t follow that the same genetic mechanism gets inherited down the line. We don’t all have peacock tails. But the fundamental logic of sexual selection means that every species must develop some yardstick by which to compare males and make a choice. Every species can, and as far as I can see does evolve a different process of its own. Now imagine what happens when you apply humanity’s massive brainpower into that basic animal process.
Humans also have a fairly basic physical yardstick, male height. But as I was saying humans are social. If the tall guys are getting all the girls, the rest of the men can gang up and slit the throats of all tall guys while they sleep. Group dynamics are very important. But group dynamics are still animal dynamics; we are all built to seek advantage in every circumstance. So once you make a group, people start to seek advantage inside the group. To seek SP. How do you do that? Well one way is what Girard pointed out; people often can and do gang up to grab some poor guy and kill him or make his life miserable. Women do that too. Fellow humans are rivals for resources and mates, and sometimes somebody in your group may genuinely not be that useful. And by pushing some guy down, your SP naturally rises a little bit, if only in comparison (remember it’s a relative measure). Once this dynamic gets established, the ability to not become the scapegoat, the ability to navigate group dynamics so that you can rise in the pecking order, if only to survive, becomes a major factor of evolutionary fitness. SP was important enough to reproduce. But now there’s another avenue of competition. Sexual competition created one sort of SP, now ingroup competition creates its own sort of SP. Sexual SP drives attraction, group SP drives social behavior.
How do people in groups decide who to scapegoat? It doesn’t matter. As long as there’s a single criterion, the specifics don’t matter. The only thing necessary is the ability to measure SP. Once one gets game theoretically computed, the bets are off, and the game starts. Some people choose ability in sports. Others, like my friends, the ability to gain a (apparent) bargain. Others fashion sense. It doesn’t matter; every human group has a pecking order based on whatever they have. Even 8ch incels compete in being edgy or something. Japanese nerds compete on whose anime “wife” is prettier. And of course SJW compete in making up the weirdest leftist madness they can come up with.
This explains intra-group pecking order. Female choice closely follows group SP. But only if the females are closed inside the group. Small bands of primitive humans develop all sorts of weird aesthetic practices, like lip plates or breast-ironing or face-tattooing, and the females are very happy to accept the groups SP yardstick and choose mates according to it. Lip plates are sexy if they’re the only stuff around. But civilized societies have many sorts of groups, all with their own internal hierarchies, living together. How does female choice work in that setting? What are they attracted to? The top fisherman? The top warrior? The top merchant? Denied their ability to use sexual SP, women are left only with Group SP as a criterion. How do they choose?
They don’t. The answer is females had no choice in civilized societies. Not until modernity, of course. Males had their pecking orders and they traded their daughters according to the male’s understanding of SP. Ugly bookish nerds with enough money could have no problem acquiring a wife, and unless his public SP was outrageously low, she’d accept it. But modernity broke that down. Male solidarity, the ability of men to run groups under their own values, is now forbidden. For good reason; the only threat to the power of the state is men raising an army to overthrow it. Which happened all the time; we call those rebellions. Well governments don’t like rebellions, and the most effective way of preventing rebellions is to forbid men’s freedom of association. No male solidarity, no trading of women; no control of females. Let them choose.
I’ve said a lot here, and it’s late. Let me recap:
– Rene Girard noted how everybody imitates everybody else.
– Everybody imitates everybody else, because sexual selection requires a criterion for comparison, and you can’t compare effectively unless everybody does the same thing. The best strategy is to do whatever the guy getting the chicks is doing, and do it better.
– Sexual selection causes competition. Human groups cause competition by other reasons, like scapegoating. Animals are used to compete because of sexual selection anyway; the scapegoating racket creates a new avenue of competition, added to sexual.
– Sexual SP drives attraction. You like what others like. Humans evolved a quite typical archetype; the tall, fit man with high social savvy and a tint of psychopathy to survive human group dynamics.
– (social) Group SP drives behavior. The group has a pecking order, and the musical chair is always running. The best strategy is to play safe and do what everybody else is doing, preferably better. Seek advantage in everything you do, but just a bit.
– Human Civilization developed a way to stave off sexual competition, and subsume it inside group competition through patriarchy.
– Modernity, i.e. industrialized centralized states, has destroyed patriarchy and male group competition. There is only one group now, which drives the scapegoating racket into a mad light-speed signaling spiral, while females are left to choose mates according to paleolithic sexual SP. The distance between social SP and sexual SP is so big that a majority of women either refuses to mate, or are constantly unhappy and underfertile.
Please make any suggestions in the comments.