March 1999 Notebook Entries

Notebook entry, March 30, 1999

A Denver Post March 30, 1999 story tells us of the visit to Denver of CBS 60 Minutes correspondents Leslie Stahl. She was in town to participate in the 1999 Unique Lives & Experiences lecture series.  She gave a light-hearted talk of her experiences as a reporter, but had one serious note about how the power of television is not just the pictures on the screen, but the imagery those pictures create.  One example, she told of a report she did in the closing days of the 1980 presidential election that was highly critical of Ronald Reagan.  In the clip, Reagan was seen "being presidential," by greeting crowds, cutting ribbons, and other "positive" activities.  But, in the voiceover that accompanied the clip, Stahl was being critical of Reagan because of his inconsistencies with his California governership. 

Only minutes after the report, Stahl received a call from Reagan's campaign staff thanking her for the report. "Didn't you hear what I said?"   She said, and they replied, "Nobody heard what you said. When the pictures are powerful, and what you say contradicts the pictures, the pictures will drown you out."

Her report was then shown months later to a focus group where the sound was eliminated, the participants overwhelmingly thought it was a Reagan campaign ad.   When the sound was adding, still over 50% of the group thought it was a "positive" view of Reagan.

What's going on here is what I call the "Marlboro Man Complex."   It is the image, in the eye of the viewer, of the tall, masculine  male -- and in this case, a male of European descent -- that reinforces the mental concept of the person being viewed in positive activities which could be interrupted as an image of the male "leading" us to protective action that will help to perpetuate our clan, village/race/gender.  The male of this complex is a plain-talking, rugged individual who can hold his own in an emergency and as seen as a  protector of the people, and "leader."  In many hunter-gatherer societies, "big man" means "leader."  In the past 19 of 24 presidential elections, the taller of the two presidential candidates won. (S. Pinker, How the Mind Works, pp. 495 & 496)   Marlboro men in our cultures have been given a boost by Hollywood.   Other "big men" include, Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchem, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and more recently, Harrison Ford.  Get the picture? 

I place this observation into my Evolutionary Snipettes section.

Notebook entry, March 24, 1999

19 allied forces, including the United States, began attacking the military forces of Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic.  What does this have to do with evolution and human behavior?  What is significant is that the 19 united armies have intervened into another's territory and are attempting to stop what we all know what would happen.  Based on past performance in Bosnia just a few years ago, the Serbians would undoubtedly slaughter as many Kosovons as possible in what has been called "ethnic cleansing." It is altruism in its highest human form; countries sending their young warriors into a foreign territory in an attempt to prevent a subspecies from extinction that are not related by close genetic ties.  We no longer live in isolation in the world, and no military force can kill hundreds of thousands of people and bury them in mass graves without the rest of the world knowing about it.  Trying to stop this disgraceful slaughter of innocent civilians by armed forces is the right thing to do.  I wish the males and females engaged in this activity God's invisible hand in guidance.

Notebook entry, March 23, 1999

A New York Times story by Carey Goldberg brings us some important news from academia.  In a very important, and surprising statement--because of the wide distribution of the news item--the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Charles Vest said in comments to be published in the faculty newsletter that his institution engaged "in a pattern of sometimes subtle -- but substantive and demoralizing -- discrimination toward female professors in areas from hiring, awards, promotions and inclusion on important committees to allocation of valuable resources like laboratory space and research money."   I want to congratulate the faculty of MIT for revealing their true feelings and the depth of the news report. Now, gentlemen you have to admit those "subtle discriminations" also are directed towards blacks, Chicanos, or any other person from the lower socioeconomic levels.  What is being admitted is that mechanisms are in place to keep resources for one's own clan/village/race/gender for their exclusive benefit and keeping them away from "others" deemed -- by "unconscious" thoughts -- inferior, and thus unworthy from gaining access to those resources.  Ultimately, its about the resources.    I have named this The Resource Retention Rule.    Ice glaciers move slow -- but they do move.

Notebook entry, March 17, 1999

Met with my editor, John Martin, today.  We went over the progress of THE BOOK.  I was feeling really down because I don't have enough time with the day job, web upkeep, research, and then the creative process itself.  He tells me to keep on plugging away, and is amazed that I can even find time to write at all.  I thank him and give him a stock tip.

Notebook entry, March 16, 1999

A New York Times story by Allan Coukell tells the story of a group of scientists, conservationists, and academics in New Zealand calling for a plan that would grant basic "human" rights to bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.  Arguing that great apes share many human emotional and psychological characteristics including self-awareness, the ability to reason and the ability to imagine what others are thinking and feeling, the group proposed guarantees be given to the apes.  Included in these rights would be: the right not to be deprived of life; the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel treatment; and the right not to be used in medical or scientific experimentation. A good plan brought forward by good people.  It will take time, but it will happen.

Notebook entry, March 3, 1999

Time Magazine's March 8, 1999 issue is a go out and buy as a keeper.  Cover story "The Truth about Women's Bodies: The latest research into the secrets of biology and evolution reveals that women are tougher, stronger and lustier than anyone ever thought."  Written by Barbara Ehrenreich, who has a Ph.D. in biology, she introduces us to a new buzz word: femaleists-- women who embrace biology, as opposed to feminists who have been leery of biology in the past.   Her arguments lack depth and true understanding of the complexities of evolutionary psychology, but what she has written is lucid, powerful, and determined voice of the female gender's refusal to accept as a continuation the behavior that our species has evolved from in our ancestral past.  As I have written in my essays: Our past is not a roadmap to our destiny, we can, and we will change the course of evolution to our own betterment.  As Eleanor Roosevelt has written: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent and the Time piece written by Ehrenreich this week is proof positive that the female gender will never again give consent to feel inferior -- while still embracing the new sciences of biology.   You go girls!

Same Time issue, page 36. "Prejudice? Perish the Thought"  A study in the New England Journal of Medicine had a sensational piece about doctors who, upon viewing video tape interviews of black, white, male, and female subjects complaining of chest pains with the same symptoms found that blacks were 40% less likely to be to ordered to take more sophisticated tests.  The doctors were shown the exact same charts and blood work and the video actors performed the exact same script.  The worst recipient, and less likely to believed was the black female.  The study's authors "concluded that the disparity in what are literally life-and-death decisions about medical care was most likely due to unconscious biases about gender and race."  To me, it's not about gender or skin color, but about controlling the resources to benefit one's clan/tribe/race/phenotype and keeping them away from "the other" clan/tribe/race/phenotype.