What if “status” IS a terminal value for most people?

[In­spired by a few of the sci­ence bits in HP:MOR, and far more so by the dis­cus­sions be­tween Draco and Harry about “so­cial skills”. Shared be­cause I sus­pect it’s an in­sight some peo­ple would benefit from.]

One of the more promi­nent the­o­ries on the evolu­tion of hu­man in­tel­li­gence sug­gests that hu­mans in­volved in­tel­li­gence, not to deal with their en­vi­ron­ment, but rather to deal with each other. A small in­tel­lec­tual edge would foster com­pe­ti­tion, and it would re­sult in the sort of re­cur­sive, es­ca­lat­ing loop that’s re­quired to ex­plain why we’re so SUBSTANTIALLY smarter than ev­ery other species on the planet.

If you ac­cept that premise, it’s ob­vi­ous that in­tel­li­gence should, nat­u­rally, come with a de­sire to com­pete against other hu­mans. It should be equally ob­vi­ous from look­ing at hu­man his­tory that, in­deed, we seem to do ex­actly that.

Posit, then, that, linked to in­tel­li­gence, there’s a trait for poli­tics—us­ing in­tel­li­gence to com­pete against other hu­mans, to try and es­tab­lish dom­i­nance via cun­ning in­stead of brawn.

And, like ev­ery­thing that the Blind Idiot God Evolu­tion has cre­ated, imag­ine that there are hu­mans who LACK this trait for poli­tics, but still have in­tel­li­gence.

Think about the hu­mans who, in­stead of look­ing in­wards at hu­man­ity for com­pe­ti­tion, in­stead turn out­wards to the vast un­car­ing uni­verse of physics and chem­istry. Other hu­mans are an ob­tain­able tar­get—a lit­tle evolu­tion­ary push, and your tribe can out­smart any other tribe. The uni­verse is not nearly so eas­ily cowed, though. The uni­verse is, of­ten, un­defeat­able, or at least, we have not come close to mas­ter­ing it. Six thou­sand years and peo­ple still die to storms and drought and famine. Six thou­sand years, and we have just touched on the moon, just be­gun to even SEE other planets that might con­tain life like ours.

I never un­der­stood other peo­ple be­fore, be­cause I’m miss­ing that trait.

And I fi­nally, fi­nally, un­der­stand that this trait even ex­ists, and what it must BE like, to have the trait.

We are ge­netic, chem­i­cal be­ings. I be­lieve this with ev­ery ounce of my­self. There isn’t a soul that defies physics, there is not a con­scious­ness that defies neu­rol­ogy. The world, even our­selves, can be mea­sured. Anger comes from a part of this mix­ture, as does hap­piness and love. They are not lesser for this. They are not!

This is not an in­ter­lude. It is wo­ven in to the mean­ing of what I re­al­ized. If you have this trait, then part of your val­ues, as fun­da­men­tal to your­self as eat­ing and breath­ing and drink­ing, is the de­sire for sta­tus, to as­sert a cer­tain form of dom­i­nance. In­tel­li­gence can al­most be mea­sured by sta­tus and cun­ning, and those who try to cheat and use crass phys­i­cal vi­o­lence are in­deed gen­er­ally con­demned for it.

I don’t have this trait. I don’t value sta­tus in and of it­self. It’s use­ful, be­cause it lets me do other things. It opens doors. So I in­vest in still hav­ing sta­tus, but sta­tus is not a goal; Sta­tus is to me, as a fork is to hunger—merely a means to an end.

So I have never, not once in my life, been able to com­pre­hend the sim­ple truth: 90% of the peo­ple I meet, quite pos­si­bly more, value sta­tus, as an in­trin­sic thing. In­deed, they are meant to use their in­tel­li­gence as a tool to ob­tain this sta­tus. It is how we rose to where we are in the world.

I don’t know what to make of this. It means ev­ery­thing I’d pieced to­gether about peo­ple is ut­terly, ut­terly wrong, be­cause it as­sumed that they all val­ued truth, and un­der­stand­ing—the pur­suits of in­tel­li­gence when you don’t have the poli­ti­cal trait.

I am, for a mo­ment, deeply, deeply lost.

But, I no­tice, I am no longer con­fused.