Reflection 140: May-December Consciousness

August 10, 2009

(Copyright © 2009)

Hey, it’s August; I’ll try to make this short.

I’m not talking months of the year here but old guys getting together with young sweeties. Rich, horny old guys with sexy young things looking out for their futures. When I was younger I thought it was gross, but now I see evolution’s point. The geezer is a proven survivor, and probably with enough money in the bank to give sweetie what she wants. For her part, Sweetie wants to bankroll her future, and getting in bed with Uncle Scrooge is one way to do that if you are a looker with not a lot of skills to fall back on. Young guys can be fun and energetic, but they lack the wherewithal to provide Sweetie the lifestyle she wants or thinks she deserves. Old sweeties that are Scrooge’s own age would be past menopause, so not be able to provide the children that is the larger point of the union as proof that Scrooge still has what it takes to be a man at his age.

Crazy, yes, but not as crazy as it might seem. Skewing the age relationship between sexual partners in this direction connects the sperm of proven male survivors with the eggs of women having the brightest prospects for living long enough, well enough to raise their children to sexual maturity, and as well-funded matriarchs, their grand and great-grandchildren. We think of women as losing their “looks” as they age, while men acquire a dignity of demeanor that makes them seem ageless. So evolution tilts the scales toward younger women getting together with older men for the sake of the probable survival of their children and furtherance of their respective genetic lines. In other words, what works works. Evolution is ever practical, rating performance higher than ideals and good intentions. If the past belongs to these old geezers, then the future belongs to their young partners. It’s as simple as that.

It is on this level of thinking that the true difference between Republicans and Democrats becomes clear. One party is for Everyman and the downtrodden poor, the other for the Haves who can afford to provide their kids with the best of everything. Republicans take care of their own, Democrats want to give everyone a chance to get ahead of where they are now. Politics is no more rational than sports, organized religion, or economics. These are gut-level, emotional activities people engage in for personal benefit as they see it. If there’s an abundance stockpiled at the top, then let a few crumbs trickle down; or, by a different view, Everyman deserves equal treatment and to share in a redistribution of wealth that was taken from them in the first place.

Under this way of thinking lurks the pecking order that establishes a social hierarchy from the powerful all the way down to the weak and infirm. That way, everybody knows her place in society and doesn’t get uppity or go after more than he deserves. It’s as if Republicans speak for the leading half of the social order, Democrats for the trailing half. Alpha and his mate deserve the best of everything, Omega and his mate get whatever’s left over. I know a thing or two about pecking orders from personal experience:

It is mid-March and the ice in the bay is starting to go out on the tide. The upper shallows are still frozen, but the seaward ice has already gone, leaving a serrated edge separating the ice shelf from open water almost as a sign of the division between winter and spring—or at least of warmer days ahead. I am watching 700 greater scaups (ducks that feed on mussels) have their seasonal fling. First a banquet in which for an hour they dive to the bottom and bob up with mouths stuffed with green and red algae; then an hour-long nap with heads tucked neatly under wing; and now this final procession in which they line up along the edge of the ice as sunset approaches and cruise along a foot or two away from the ice, males and females mixed together, forming a great line of ducks processing in orderly fashion as if to mark the end of winter and the beginning of the mating season.

I witnessed these festivities in 1987, and didn’t know what to make of them. Thinking about it, I now believe the ducks were pairing off according to their standing in the population, literally mapping out the pecking order, each duck taking the position in line appropriate to its rank. I’ve seen scaups fly in a line, and take off one at a time when threatened by an approaching eagle, each waiting for its neighbor to clear before leaping out of the water and flying around the point, making way for the next, next, and next after that. 

I think Republicans believe in a pecking order for humans, and Democrats don’t. Or put differently, Republicans see themselves at the head of the social order, Democrats themselves at the rear. Trickle-down works for Republicans, upward mobility for Democrats. The odd thing is, Republicans are happy to keep Democrats where they are while Democrats put all their energy into moving ahead and getting a fair share of the public purse. The two ends of the line will never conga together, so with both clinging to their respective views of social order, disorder and conflict are sure to ensue. Without doubt, Cheney-Bush placed themselves and their ilk high in the sky, and instigated a regime that would keep them and their pals aloft, while Obama-Biden are now clawing their way out of the hole their predecessors dug for them, hoping for a glimpse of the sun.

Does that mean the old geezers are apt to be Republicans, sweet young things Democrats? Hardly. Each sticks to its own kind at its own end of the line, and revels in complaining about its opposite numbers. But the rules you play by differ according to where you place yourself in the social order strung out in your head. If you don’t vie with Alpha, you go by the one who sets the standard and tone for your neighborhood and define your place in relation to him or her.

In truth, there are multiple pecking orders, depending on the criteria for success in one social idiom or another. If age, wealth, and power put you at the top of one social order, youth, beauty, and agility put you at the top of another. So Sweetie is an Alpha in her idiom as Scrooge is in his. The strong, the fast, the knowing, and the clever are all Alphas in their respective spheres of consciousness. Crime bosses and drug lords are Alphas outside the law. Sweetie herself may even be a Democrat, pulling for social justice, fairness, and equality, and Scrooge is happy to humor her because she brings him so much pleasure and happiness.

Consciousness is the place where all this plays out, each person evaluating her gifts and accomplishments by her own lights in relation to those around her. One of the joys of being alive is watching each one’s self-opinion play out in the surrounding arena of striving humanity. If you can’t be at the head of the line, you can claim to be the head of your segment of the line, and that’s just as good. May-December matches are given us to celebrate and enjoy along with every other mixed metaphor. In nature, cross-pollination keeps genetic strains mixed up and healthy so species don’t get too fixed and revert to outmoded ways. Even Democrats battling with Republicans might be a good thing to keep each side on its toes. It is sometimes painful to watch, but it seems to have become one of our most popular entertainments.

Scaup Procession 


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