Yesterday we talked about the distinctly male characteristic that is known as “competitiveness”. You know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t, read yesterday’s entry. It’s a semantic distinction whether we see this as a good thing or bad, and there are two sides to each coin, this one most of all. Of course, the flip side of this coin is to call it “gambling”, where males will bet all on an extremely unlikely outcome rather than work to earn a slightly less valuable sure thing. To gloss this over by calling it “competitiveness” misses certain important aspects of male-oriented competition.
The competition is compulsive. There is no consideration of whether it is the best way to accomplish a goal, and in fact it might be highly counterproductive.
I often look on it as “scoring points”. You score points by inconveniencing somebody else, by preventing them from getting something, even though doing so may mean that neither of you gets it. So you score points by cutting off someone as they are about to put their car in a parking space, even though doing so may prevent you from getting a better one yourself. You score points by passing someone, even if you have to do it 100′ from the exit you are taking while traveling at 80 mph.
So in a fourth grade class, I observed a boy sharing his love of skateboarding with a visiting adult reader. A few seconds later I saw a scuffle in the area. What had happened? Another boy, hearing that the first boy had said he like skateboarding, had said, “I bet you can’t do (some professional stunt).” The speaker, when questioned, said he had asked the first boy if he could do that stunt. The first boy took it as the challenge that it was. Why did he do this? It was the instinct for gambling, for jockeying for position and territory. The feeling that If he can’t do that stunt, I will get points for making sure everybody knows he can’t do it, even though I can’t myself.
This was but a trivial example, hardly life and death. Now let’s look at a more serious one, published in the Boston Globe yesterday.
SCSU student’s shooting followed religious argument
Witnesses told police that Stetson and Bell got into a philosophical argument outside a local strip mall. Stetson was waiving a bible at Bell, who is a devout Muslim and currently uses the name Malik Abdul, according to the affidavit.
When the argument escalated, Stetson pulled out a pellet gun and Bell responded by pulling out a real gun and shooting Stetson in the chest, the witnesses told police.
He did what? Well, let’s see. He got points for trying to convert a muslim to his religion, and he probably gave himself more points for sticking with the argument in spite of the clear lack of interest of the other participant in conversion. Then he got points for pulling out a gun and pointing it at the other guy, too. Too bad his points got reset to zero when the other guy had a real gun that he was willing to use, eh?
I would say there some sort of logical disconnect going on, except that logic doesn’t seem to have played any role. Clearly the dead guy was gambling that pointing a gun at some muslim was going to increase the likelihood of him accepting jesus as his savior (more points!) while having no possibility of repercussions.
Any of you males out there who think this was a logical thing to do, please feel free to comment.
All this brings to mind a story that was in the local news around here a year or two ago. Two guys were drinking in a trailer, and one of them ended up shot, allegedly by the other one. There weren’t a lot of details available, but I heard on the local public radio station news that the dead man’s last words were, “You don’t have the nerve to shoot me.”
It is well-known that men outnumber women in the upper echelons of business. In spite of the efforts of women on the outside and on the ladder of what ought to be success, women are not coming close to men in upper management, and we have yet to figure out why.
Researchers Lise Vesterlund of the University of Pittsburgh and Muriel Niederle of Stanford University ran an experiment to find some reason why only 2.5% of women make it to the top.
In the first part of the experiment, men and women were asked to add up as many sets of double-digit numbers as they could within a five minute period, and were paid 50 cents for each correct answer. Next the volunteers were divided into groups of four. The same amount of money was going to be given out, but all of it would go to the person at each table who scored the most right answers.
For the final part of the experiment, the test subjects were asked to choose whether they wanted to go back to the ‘piecework’ model or continue with the ‘competitive’ model. Women overwhelmingly chose to go back to the ‘piecework’ model, even those who were best at solving answers and likely to win all the money in their group.
The researchers concluded that the factor in the difference is that men enjoy competition and women do not. I think this is a little simplistic, as “competition” is not the only thing that was being tested here, and certainly not the only character trait that would come into play.
In fact, “competitiveness” is a loaded word, with positive connotations that are valued in our culture. Is it really competitiveness when somebody without significant math skills is willing to wager that they will manage to take all? No, of course not. That is gambling, of which competitiveness is a small part. Gambling is, as we all know, a typically male behavior.
Again, look at what the women did and how we are describing them. If the women who participated (and by extension, those in society at large) are not “competitive”, then they must be “non-competitive”, surely a bad character trait.
Now look at what the males were doing as gambling. What’s the opposite of gambling that you’ll win or lose all? How about working to assure equitable distribution of earnings? Is that such a bad thing?
Fossil evidence shows that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor from about 7 million years ago. Recently geneticists have been comparing genetic sequences to learn more about this. Guess what? The data show that although humans and chimpanzees split about 7 million years ago, they apparently did some interbreeding a little more than 5 million years ago.
According to an article in the paper, for the offspring to be fertile, it must have been a female, and it was probably the human male that mated with a female chimp. Male hybrids of this sort are sterile. Then, the offspring had to mate again with a proto-human. Eventually the population of the early proto-humans became extinct, leaving two lineages: the proto-chimps, and chimp hybrids, which evolved into us.
Among the numerous comments from the scientific community were remarks from those who could not believe that a “human” could bring itself to mate with a “chimp”. Why, chimps walk on all fours and humans on two legs! Some pointed out that the difference was undoubtedly not as great at that time as it is now. Obviously nobody has considered the fact that this semi-interspecies mating was probably the result of a prehuman male falling head-over-heels in love with a chimpoid.
Is it bestiality when a protohuman mates with a protochimp?
BOULDER – An investigation of a professor who likened some of the Sept. 11, 2001 victims to Nazi Adolf Eichmann found serious cases of misconduct in his academic research, including plagiarism and fabrications, a University of Colorado spokesman said yesterday. One member of the five-person investigative committee recommended that Ward Curchill, an ethics studies professor, be fired, and four recommended he be suspended, university spokesman Barrie Hartman said. Churchill has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. (AP)
It looks like miscreants young and otherwise have decided to help law enforcement agencies with their work. Police are now hanging out on myspace, looking for members who boast about their crimes and indiscretions by putting up evidence, and there is no shortage of volunteers.
Hello?!? Pedophiles, thieves, conspirators, kids posting pics of their friends having sex, pictures of their drinking parties… The word that comes to mind is DUMBASS. Yes, that word just comes up again and again. So many wannabe dumbasses, it’s like a competition to be the world’s greatest dumbass.
The bravado in posting evidence of your rule- and lawbreaking on the internet is stunning, boys. Please continue to save my tax dollars on law enforcement. Thank you.
Visit my website for more keen insight into the tender young mind, and how it can be shaped with discipline, even if you thought it was years too late.
For older posts, visit my previous blog, where I have just stopped writing posts. I’ve decided I want more control (Hey, so I’m a control freak. But you knew that…) over structure, appearance, and advertisements. The old blog will be an archive, new posts will now be posted on this blog.