The Love is Progressive Series

September 3

Love is Progressive Part 12: The Politics of Love

Now we come full circle to the progressive politics of love. Political conservatives have long played to politics of hate. It is time for progressives to play the politics of love. Unfortunately, the politics of hate have been far too successful in gaining power for its advocates over time. The success of the politics of hate depends upon our flaws as human beings -- our paranoia, pride and prejudices. In order for the progressive politics of love to succeed in the long term, our strengths as human beings must predominate -- our intellligence, rationality, sense of oneness, and most of all, our love.

Let me contrast the politics of hate with the politics of love. The politics of hate uses hate-talk radio and political speechs and ads to incite fear in the public. The politics of love uses love-talk radio and political speeches and ads to inspire the public to work together for the common good, giving us hope. The politics of hate views human nature as evil except for the chosen few, but not hopeless. The politics of love views human nature as basically good but not perfect. The politics of hate says that government is the problem; thus, everything should be privatized, that is, in the hands of corporations. The politics of love says that government can be the solution if done properly, and that government represents the interests of, and should operate to advance the welfare of, the people. The politics of hate is xenophobically fearful of foreigners. The politics of love, loves foreigners as human beings, as much as fellow citizens. The politics of hate is paranoid and afraid of attack to the point of creating international crises. The politics of love starts from a point of cautious trust, and is not afraid to engage in dialogue with peoples of all nations and worldviews. The politics of hate is afraid of socialism; their preference is for a "me" society. The politics of love is concerned with the greater welfare of the public, and views socialism as a natural and necessary part of society. The politics of hate divides and conquers. The politics of love unites and progresses.

As an individual, I have certain talents, but active advocacy is not really one of them. That is, advocacy does not really come naturally for me. However, I am teaching myself to be an advocate for progressive politics, not just a sideline bystander. The following are some things we can do to put the politics of love into action. I may not be particularly adept at these, but at least I can try.

1. Avoid hate-talk; listen to and engage in love-talk instead and encourage others to do likewise;

2. Be an optimist about human nature and our future;

3. Support government programs that work for the public good. Attend town hall meetings; write about it; write to politicians to advocate good government programs; be active in political organizations which advocate for the public, and for sure, vote according to your conscience with the greater good in mind;

4. Support policies which help to undo the influence of corporatism. Support the enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act, Campaign Finance Reform, the limiting of lobbying in government, and so forth;

5. Promote international relations on a personal level. Befriend peoples of different nationalities and learn about their cultures. If you have the opportunity, consider traveling to other nations.

6. Support the politics of peace; be an advocate for pecaeful international relations, international governmental cooperation, and negotiations rather than conflict;

7. Don't be afraid to work for a common goal. Help create a "we" society. Who would you rather trust our future to, big business, or responsible representative government?

We all have lives to live which can be very demanding. Very few of us is likely to be able to devote our entire lives to promoting the progressive politics of love, but each of us can do something motivated out of love to advance our political state. Remember, everything we do, even the little things, matter.

August 31

Love is Progressive Part 11: The Clothing Hypothesis

Today's post is about a strange topic, but it occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that this was part of the "love story" I am writing. I have heard certain people on the radio argue that as a society we are too avoidant of nudity, and that there is nothing wrong with people being naked in public. One of these people was actually Ronald Reagan's son, Ron, whom I heard interviewing a photographer who has been artistically photographing naked models (both men and women) in New York City. A couple of days ago, I saw on my computer that the photographer's latest model, a young woman, was arrested for being naked in a museum. I don't know why the photographer was not also arrested, since the project was obviously his idea. Nonetheless it is my position that public nudity is a violation of useful social boundaries which have evolved in the great majority of cultures over thousands of years, boundaries which help people distinguish how to behave around each other.

Of course, people on the "gosh, maybe people should wear clothing" side of such discussions are always obligated to preface the discussion with the "I am not a prude statement." The other common accusation made by proponents of nudity is that people who do not like to show their bodies in public are ashamed of themselves. Frankly, I think the entire frame of the discussion as prude, versus non-prude or nudist or whatever, is entirely the wrong one, and so is the accusation of shame. These are disingenuous or misguided attempts by proponents of public nudity, to derogate their opponents. In any case, I won't be adding any photos of naked people to this post, but I am perfectly happy to go around with no clothes on in front of my wife, as she is in front of me. It is not a matter of being embarrassed for me or my wife. Rather, clothing is something to be worn in public because certain parts of one's body are reserved for one's mate. (Note: Given the hot weather in Moreno Valley recently -- over 100 degrees every day -- I am tempted not to wear clothing, but still am fullly clothed in public, and wear at least some clothing even in my house.)

Let us consider the evolution of clothing in humans. Think about it. Human beings are the only species to even conceive the idea of clothing, much less actually use it. Furthermore, clothing is traditionally found in nearly all cultures, including those who live in warm climates. Thus, for the great majority of cultures, clothing serves another function aside from providing warmth or protection. In addition, when a relatively small portion of a person's body is covered, the covered areas invariably seem to be sexually strategic areas such as genitals, buttocks and in women, breasts. Although there are cultural differences, it is clear that the areas most likely to be covered, in men, women or even children, are these parts of the body.

This leads me to the clothing hypothesis: Although factors such as warmth and protection also played a role in the evolution of clothing, the role of clothing soon became inextricably linked with the sexual bond between mates. Men did not want other men seeing certain parts of his woman's body, nor did women want other women seeing other parts of her man's body. The idea of their mates being viewed in the nude by others soon became upsetting to both members of a couple, and consequently, the social convention of wearing clothing in public became the norm, with, of course, cultural influences on the amount and nature of the clothing worn. Clothing helps to reinforce sexual exclusivity and thus the monogamous nature of a relationship.

What does this clothing hypothesis have to do with progressivism? Simply, as with Oxytocin which I wrote about in a previous post, clothing serves as a sort of social glue which increases the bond between mates. Oxytocin biologically serves to reinforce a bond between mates, while clothing socially serves to reinforce a bond between mates. Over time, clothing also evolved other functions. Clothing of certain kinds, or the lack of it, is often used to attract one's own mate as well, or to attract a potential mate. At the same time, clothing is also used to create boundaries between friends, neighbors and strangers. Clothing expresses one's individuality, but at the same time, it tells us that relationships have boundaries which are not to be crossed. The use of clothing plays a major role in the building of a sophisticated society, and most importantly, making the bond between mates more special -- some would even say, sacred.

And, as I have argued in previous posts, it is the bond between mates which really set our ancestors apart from our Chimp and Ape cousins, and set us on the course to humanhood and our current world dominance. Had we never invented clothing, I speculate that our society never would have progressed to anywhere near the level of cooperative sophistication that it has.

August 29

Eunice and Isabella are now in Taiwan, so I am here with the cats, fish and plants, making this a purr-fect topic for todays post.

Love is Progressive Part 10: Pets are Good For Us

Growing up, I always had pets. I still do. Thus, it came as no surprise to me when I heard about research showing that pets are good for people. They reduce stress and make people happier. I don't know whether some types of pets have better effects on people than others, but studies of dog and cat owners show that both of these species have the same positive effects on people. If these effects result from affection by the animals, then more intelligent, affectionate species such as dogs and cats should be more effective than species incapable of such affection, such as fish or reptiles. However, my speculation is that the positive benefits of having pets come more from caring for and feeling affection for other living creatures, and not so much the affection we receive. I will further speculate that having pets is a human need. Throughout the world, people of all cultures have traditionally had pets, so the desire to bond with other species and take care of them is, I feel, an integral part of life as a sentient being. It is also an integral part of life as a social creature, especially to be around other social species.

When I was a child and teenager, I had many types of tropical fish in several aquariums (including a species of Tilapia, which I wrote about before). I cared deeply about them and grieved when one died, but while they were alive, they soothed me. We also had a pond in the backyard, in which gamefish such as Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, and Channel Catfish lived. We also had Koi Carp, Goldfish and Mosquitofish. Finally, in 1980, there was a large fire to the north of Riverside where my parents' house is. The wind blew a large quantity of ashes into the pond, which killed all of the fish except for the little, translucent Mosquitofish, which basically serve to eat any Mosquito larvae. Needless to say, it was upsetting and quite a tragedy, especially for my parents. Following that, my mother and father bought some more Koi Carp and Goldfish, and believe it or not, some of the same ones have been living in their pond for the past 29 years. Even at my house, I have several small ponds with Water Lillies, Water Hyacinths -- and Mosquitofish. And yes, I am fond of the Mosquitofish, those little Mosquito Larvae eaters, as inconsequential as they appear. I like seeing them flitting about in the water. My parents, meanwhile, still have a dog and a cat. In recent years, they have begun feeding the wild birds in their yard, some of which have become almost like pets to them. No wonder they are doing so well for an 82 year old and an 80 year old.

Our male grey tabby cat Smurfull Strayborne just showed up here as a kitten and decided to be our cat -- at least part of the time; he likes to patrol the neighborhood still. Our other cat, Gorjilina, we adopted from the Riverside Animal Shelter over 7 years ago. It is by loving these animals, whatever the species, we gain a sense of wellbeing and peace, and reduce our stress levels. I often call cats, my "Stress Reduction Kitties" as in "Stress Reduction Kits." For me, at least, there is something particularly soothing about the way that cats purr and meow. Earlier this morning, I was given a happy "good morning" for instance, by both Smurfull and Gorjilina, who both came running together toward me as I walked out the front door with the cat food in my hands. I found the head and tail of an Agile Kangaroo Rat (not an endangered type of Kangaroo Rat) in front of my door, a common occurence. Although the hunting skills of cats are bad for the rats, I know the cats are proud of their hunting successes, and like to show mommy and daddy their catch. In addition, last night I heard Smurfull serenading me with his "singing" on several occasions, and when I heard him, I would call his name or whistle to him. All of these events serve to sooth and bond cat and human together. However, another cat, Beautricia, has been missing recently, a source of great worry for me. She had been living on our next door neighbors' roof and in their front yard, coming to our yard to greet me and to eat her food. The neighbors went on the roof a few weeks ago, several times, because there were rats in their attic. Apparently, this scared Beautricia, a very shy cat, so she ran off. At first, she was missing for 3 days, then returned, but since then, has been missing for 3-4 weeks. I can only hope that she is okay. Perhaps she found the people who have been taking care of Hissy Cat, a stray cat I didn't see for 9 years (and probable mother of Smurfull), who suddenly reappeared for about 1 week a few months ago, then disappeared again. (I wrote a post about Hissy Cat's miraculous return at the time.) But our worries and sorrow are also part of the social-bonding emotion building process which having pets enhances. It is not just about the happy emotions, but also, certain negative emotions such as worry which bring us together.

I must admit I am more of a Cat person than Dog person. In contrast to cats, Dogs make jarring, barking noises, which helps explain why I prefer cats to dogs. Other reasons why I prefer cats to dogs include the potty habits of dogs versus cats, the aggressiveness (and potential dangerousness) of dogs, and the indiscriminate nature of their bonding with humans. In fact, I have had two cats (both of them kittens) killed by neighborhood dogs in the past few years. Nonetheless, both dogs and cats seem to be equally good for people. My impression of dogs versus cats, at the risk of offending dog owners, is that dogs, especially large ones, are more appealing to people who wish to gain control over others, while cats are more about giving and receiving unconditional love, and forming a unique bond. Both dogs and cats give people unconditional love to their humans; perhaps one's choice to have dogs, cats or both is just a matter of preference.

Because of the research about the benefits of having pets, plus informal observations, it is now common for convalescent hospital, or childrens' hospital, workers, to bring cats or dogs to these places to commune with the residents. It does them much good. I don't expect Boa Constrictors to become common features of convalescent hospitals in the near future, but non-threatening, people loving animals are a good addition there.

The point of discussing the role of pets is that it is all about love -- love received to some extent, but more importantly, love given. Caring for pets gives us a template for how to build a loving, progressive society. We must love and care for the weaker, less capable members of society, and not discount their contributions. Their love and affection are the greatest gifts they can bring to us, whether we are dealing with animals, or human children. We also know that when we care for others, they will be inclined to do what they can to care for us in our times of need. There are many recorded instances of dogs or cats doing something to save their humans, and of course, children who call 911 or otherwise go to extraordinary measures to save their parents or caretakers. Having pets as children, also builds empathy, which serves people well for the rest of their lives, and helps create unbreakable bonds. Empathetic children grow up to be empathetic adults, who strive to treat others well. Thus, having pets serves to reinforce positive emotional and moral lessons which children need to learn in order to become loving adults.

In short, pets are an indispensible part of a progressive, "we society."

August 24

Love is Progressive Part 9: Love is Healthy

When I was a child, I remember going to my grandparents house in Ojai, California. My father's parents were very kindly people, and had an inspirational love story. They had met in high school in Lyons, Kansas, but when my grandmother was 18 years old, she contracted tuberculosis, and nearly died. She was sent to a place in rural Arizona (near, Sedona, I think) where she wasn't expected to survive, but did. She spent two years there recuperating, until she was well enough to be released. She got back together with my grandfather, who in the meantime had studied infectious diseases with the aim of becoming a doctor, probably motivated by his love and concern for my grandmother. I am not sure about the chronology of their early lives, but they did get married before long, and also, pursued their educations. My grandmother went to college, then became a schoolteacher, while my grandfather eventually became a radiologist. It wasn't until they had been married over ten years that my father, their first child, was born, followed by his brother. In case, if that seems like a case of adoption, that is not true. They were my grandparents biological children; the family resemblance and characteristics both physical and psychological are unmistakable. Apparently, they were concerned that it would be difficult for my grandmother to bear a child due to the weakening effects of her tubercolosis, until they had been married several years. As it turned out, she was fine. In fact, she lived to be 89 years old, I believe. My grandfather died of a stroke when he was in his 70s.

According to my father, he never heard his parents argue, even once. They got along beautifully, obviously cherished their two "miracle" children, and exemplified the essence of a happy marriage. Perhaps this was a sign of my future as a psychologist and a proponent of the progressive power of love, but one of my more distinct memories from going to my grandparents' house as a child, was that they had a book called "The Art of Loving" by psychiatrist Erich Fromm. (By the way, my grandfather's brother was also a psychologist.) Apparently, they were doing their best to follow Dr. Fromm's advice. In brief, Fromm in his book made the case that love keeps us sane and psychologically healthy. According to Fromm, love validates us as human beings. Love keeps us in touch with reality, providing "reality checks." When a person does not feel loved, his or her "reality checker" breaks, so the person loses touch with reality. If this state of unlovedness continues for long, the person is at great peril of becoming psychotic -- schizophrenic, for example. Thus, according to Fromm, love literally keeps us sane. Although the connection of schizophrenia with lack of affection seems somewhat inaccurate, given the biological side of this disorder, on the whole, Fromm is correct. Love makes us healthier, both physically and psychologically. My grandfather's love for my grandmother, in particular, probably added many years, and her two children, to her life.

In fact, the health benefits of marriage are well-known to researchers; married people tend to be healthier than unmarried people. According to the Developmental Psychology textbook I teach with (by John Santrock, 2008), "Individuals who are happily married live longer, healthier lives than either divorced individuals or those who are unhappily married." Santrock goes on to describe a study comparing women in happy and unhappy marriages, which found that the women in happy marriages had better blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index levels, and lower levels of depression, anxiety and anger than women in unhappy marriages. Although this study was about women, similar results presumably pertain to men. In fact, if anything, men in previous research benefited from marriage healthwise more than did women. Other research showed that people in unhappy marriages were more likely to get sick, and had a life expectancy four years less than those in happy marriages. Looking at the effects of divorce, researchers have found that both men and women who are divorced "have higher rates of psychiatric disorders, admission to psychiatric hospitals, clinical depression, alcoholism, and psychosomatic problems, such as sleep disorders, than do married adults." The explanation for these findings is that happy marriages reduce stress, which is good for both physical and psychological health. The explanation for these findings is that happy marriages reduce stress, which is good for both physical and psychological health. These are correlational studies, so it is possible that people who have happy marriages were physically and psychologically healthier in the first place, but the totality of the findings (such as the negative effects of stressful events over which the individual has no control) make that seem implausible. The most plausible explanation is that the primary reason for the findings is that a healthy marital relationship leads to actual health, both physical and mental, although it is probable that people who are happy before marriage tend to have happier marriages as well. In other words, love is healthy. Furthermore, I would assert that it is not marriage that aids health, but rather, being engaged in a happy love relationship.

What does all of this have to with progressivism? Don't we hear the "Neccesity is the mother of invention?" What about, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger?" Well, clearly, psychologists did not make up those sayings, nor do they endorse them. Regarding the first saying, dire circumstances or specific needs do tend to lead to solutions or attempted solutions to the immediate problems being faced. However, this tends to be a "finger in the dike" type of approach. People are at their creative best when not under pressure. In culture after culture, this effect is seen. Once people have a surplus of food, and are able to spend some time in leisure pursuits, they become creative; they make inventions which improve their lives, and artwork to aesthetically enhance their lives. When people are living hand to mouth, as in any system in which a few rich people are allowed to control society, people are both too stressed and too busy to be creative. The application of this principle to the modern era of corporatism is obvious. People who are struggling to get by financially are too busy to develop their talents, and so stressed that their physcial and psychological health suffers. As a result, a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle tends to occur, in which the masses of society, the peons, find themselves by and large unable to lift themselves out of their position. They are largely uninventive, relatively uneducated, unhealthy, and to the few anointed rich people, seem inherently inferior, justifying the further repression of the populace. In fact, the typical person is not inherently inferior, but rather, a victim of circumstances. But one factor which can help any person is love, with its healthy and esteem-giving effects. A healthy, well-loved person has a much greater chance of contributing to society in a progressive way, and are more capable of mounting a protest against repressive powers. People who are struggling with physical or mental health issues are probably too stressed to complain, except about their health and their personal problems.

Regarding the second statement, research has shown that to be patently false, in the sense that stress generally has a cumulative effect. While it is true that we may learn important lessons from stressful experiences -- principally how to avoid them in the future -- the more lifetime stress one has experienced, the more vulnerable and weak a person becomes. Once again, a vulnerable, weak person finds it difficult to mount a defense against the repressive powers that be, or further, to work to change the system to become a more equitable one. Those who hold sway over the masses implicitly know this. Thus, they prefer to keep wages down, a la Alan Greenspan, provide minimal incomes and living conditions for the average citizen, and hope they don't have the time or energy to revolt. In fact, cult leaders learn many of their techniques from the rich, and vice versa. Cults overwork and underpay their followers, fatiguing them, barraging them with propaganda, sooothing them with fundamentalist religion, and convincing them that in order to be good people they must be obedient and self-sacrificing, thus existing at minimal standards of living. That is pretty much the same thing that corporations and their political flunkies do to people, only not quite as obvious or extreme, so that the public maintains the perception of freedom and the notion that they live in a fair democracy, failing to recognize the cultlike properties of the society which surrounds them.

With love, as Fromm wrote, we can see things more as they really are. Not ony that, but love gives us the strength to change the world around us for the better.

August 7

Love is Progressive Part 8: The Science-Spirituality Connection

I was planning to write this post about compassion, its spiritual basis and its scientifically demonstrable benefits, but when I checked the dictionary definition of compassion, I found that it did not encompass the feeling which I am trying to express. My Random House Webster's School and Office Dictionary defines compassion as "a feeling of sympathy for another's misfortune." This feeling is important. It is an important component of empathy, and central to Bhuddism. The Dalai Lama, as leader of the Bhuddists, with his kind, gentle, compassionate approach, is very well-regarded and popular around the world, and deservedly so. He is already a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and seems to be showing up on television more often than ever recently. The emphasis on compassion manifested by Bhuddism makes it appealing to more Westerners in recent years, as well. Sympathy for the suffering motivates us to help those in need. It forms the basis for a purposeful, spiritual life.

However, love's connection to spirituality goes far beyond compassion. In a number of my posts, I have mentioned love for the world and all in it, or love of the universe itself. This approaches what I mean by love's spiritual connection. Although we are confined to our own small location somewhere in the universe, humans have long looked to the stars and wondered about the entirety of this realm in which we find ourselves. At first, people had questions, then primitive, naive, unscientific answers -- which make much of the basis for the world's long-established religions. Eventually, people began to investigate the universe scientifically, as scientific methods and equipment progressed. Now, as time goes on, we seem to be developing a better understanding of the universe, although much of what the scientists talk and write about is still speculative.

Science is often viewed as a non-spiritual approach to understanding, as opposed to religion which is characterized as a spiritual approach to understanding. I object to that characterization. While it is true that most of what science does has no direct application to spiritual understanding, it is patently false that science has no relevance to spiritual understanding. In fact, I would argue the opposite. It is through science that we can develop a true understanding of spirituality in ways for which a religious approach is woefully inadequate. Perhaps a more religious approach can help people gain a subjective understanding of their personal spirituality, but it lacks objective validity. Thus, I would argue that scientific evidence, when available, should be the basis for our spiritual understanding.

How is science specifically relevant to spirituality? I would argue that science as a whole has relevance to spirituality, even when it is not directly about any spiritual topic. If the universe does have a spiritual nature, which I would argue the evidence shows, everything about the universe is connected to our spirituality. This includes the physical sciences, biological sciences, and social sciences. The physical sciences such as physics and chemistry inform us about the measurable energies of the universe and how they form matter. The biological sciences inform us regarding evolution and the nature and possibilities of life, and allow us to speculate, at least, in an educated manner about how all of this is possible. The social sciences study our sentient processes and how they allow us to connect and communicate, and at least speculate in an informed way about how this is possible. There are certain areas of research which directly address spiritual questions. These areas of research are often subject to ridicule, but often have well-performed, controlled research which shows something of a spiritual nature going on. These areas of research include: studies of extrasensory perception, studies of people who communicate with the spirits of the dead, studies of near-death experiences, and studies of the effectiveness of prayer. For example, certain people have been found to guess the correct object in remote viewing studies consistently at a better than chance level, indicating a form of extrasensory perception. Similarly, certain mediums who communicate with spirits of the dead have been found under controlled condition to be far more accurate in their information than it would be possible for them to know through conventional means. Of course, studies of near-death experiences cannot be controlled experimentally, but the experiences described are very compelling and striking in their similarities. The research on prayer is perhaps the most well-developed, showing that people who are prayed for after medical procedures tend to have better outcomes than those who are not prayed for, even when they do not know they are being prayed for, and regardless of the kind of beliefs or lack of beliefs of those doing the praying. Thus, prayer seems to be contributing to what Thom Hartmann refers to as a morphogenic field.

Of course, naysayers will attempt to debunk such research as having only spurious, illusory findings. I have a very skeptical side, myself, and a scientific background as a Social Psychologist, so I realize that many studies may have misleading results or conclusons. However, the research over time has improved, and even well-controlled studies continue to find results which find spiritual phenomena happening. At some point, if such research continues to have such findings, even the skeptics will have to admit that something is going on. The growing weight of the evidence is that spiritual phenomena are real.

How does love fit into all of this? Science, particularly the social sciences such as psychology, sociology, or even anthropology, can show us the importance of love. Research consistently shows that love, marriage and social support help people both physically and emotionally. Part of this effect is due to compassion, but much of it has to do with people connecting in emotionally enjoyable ways. To return to the original topic -- the feeling which transcends compassion or specific love for another -- we also can experience love for the world, even the universe. Once we understand the universe as having a spiritual nature -- whether based on scientific evidence or not -- we can relate to the universe on a spiritual level, which may involve prayer, belief in God, Gods, Goddess or some other higher power, or even the feelings of universal love which we have, feelings which the higher power of the universe can understand and appreciate. Actually, people who have no belief in spirituality can have feelings of universal love just as readily as can those with spiritual attitudes; however, they lack a sense of reciprocity in those feelings, or a sense that those feelings in and of themselves may actually help, as prayer seems to. This unlimited feeling of compassion and love makes us more progressive. It is not only about one's family; it is about humanity. It is not only about humanity; it is about the ecosystem. Ultimately, it is not only about our world; it is about our universe.

Science is an instrument of progress, and science informs us that love is, as well. Science and love need each other. Science without love lacks moral direction. Love without science lacks understanding and creativity. Science with love connects and lifts us all. Love is the greatest spiritual connector. It motivates us to do what we can to create a more loving place, not only in our immediate environment, but in the larger environment as well.

August 6

Love is Progressive Part 7: The Oxytocin Connection

In Love is Prgressive Part 1, I discussed the similarities and differences between humans and our closest relatives, the Bonobo Chimpanzees. In this post, I will discuss the role of Oxytocin in bonding, and how it might be a factor in human evolution.

Oxytocin is a chemical which is both a neurotransmitter and a hormone. Since it is a sex hormone in women, women have more of it than men, but men have Oxytocin as well. The role of Oxytocin appears to be a chemical supplement to encourage bonding. For example, the release of Oxytocin in the bodies of new mothers helps them to bond with their children. However, Oxytocin also is involved in bonding among couples. For example, in a recent study of Chinese and American couples who were in love, Oxytocin levels were found to increase over time; the longer the couple had been in love, the higher their Oxytocin levels were. This was true for both men and women, and both Chinese and Americans. Oxytocin is our natural love drug. In other words, the Oxytocin connection is that the evolution of Oxytocin allowed us to connect.

I do not know whether Bonobo Chimps have Oxytocin or not, or whether that has been studied, but my guess is that either they have none of it, or much lower levels than humans do. Thus, Bonobo Chimps do not form specific bonds the way that humans do. By evolving enhanced levels of Oxytocin, our distant ancestors progressed as a species, because both parent-child and male-female mate bonds were greatly enhanced. Thus, children were given a sense of security and love in their relationships with their parents, especially their mothers, in part due to Oxytocin, which also helped allow them to have a childhood, the youthful period of practice and learning which allows great cognitive development. Meanwhile, couples were more inclined to stick together through good times and bad, and raise their offspring as a cooperative unit. This also allowed children to have more of a childhood, with less stress and more time for learning and play (which also functions to help children learn).

The fact that women have more Oxytocin than men, means that women bond with others more readily than men do. In this sense, it may be argued that our evolutionary progress as humans owes more to women than to men, and our continued social progress may also owe more to women than to men, although it is not the fault of men such as myself that we are not blessed with as much Oxytocin as women have. Of course, as rational, sentient, feeling beings, we men can recognize the importance of bonding and work to enhance our success as bonders to those who are most important to us. Furthermore, we need to form compassionate bonds with all of humanity and other creatures. This can be seen as an extension of our primary bonds with family members. The better we bond, the better we can function as a society.

On a more general level relating to relationships at large, psychologists say that men respond to stress by mobilizing stress hormones such as Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, and Cortisol, which tends to result in a fight-or-flight syndrome. Thus, the biological tendency of men when faced with stress is to either become belligerant and fight the perceived source of stress (aggression), or flee the situation (avoidance). In contrast to men, women experience the bend-and-bond response, due to the predominant role of Oxytocin in women. Thus, the biological tendency of women is to talk to others, negotiate and cooperate, and of course, form greater bonds with others in order to solve problems when stressed. Once again, as rational, sentient, feeling beings, men such as myself can learn how to handle stressful problems better by watching how women handle stress. Rather than responding with aggression, we should listen to our Oxytocin and be commited to conversations, negotiations and cooperative solutions as a response to a problem. Rather than ignoring problems or running away from them, we should allow our Oxytocin to take over and encourage ourselves to form stronger bonds with those around us.

Meanwhile, we should thank whatever miraculous force is responsible for the fortuitous mutation which made Oxytocin a part of our nature, and be thankful for Oxytocin's role in connecting us.

August 3

Love is Progressive Part 6: The Emotions, Thoughts and Behavior of Progressive Morality

In Love is Progressive Part 5, I mentioned that morality has cognitive, behavioral and emotional components. I further discussed how the emotional aspect of empathy lies at the root of morality. Today, I wish to discuss in greater detail how morality can incorporate all 3 of these components.

The most common example of moral platitude is the saying "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This represents a behavioral view of morality. Like many other common sayings, it has a certain common thematic appeal, similar to a song which easily comes to mind and once there, is difficult to remove from one's mind. However, like many of these sayings, it is overly simplistic and misleading. In this way, it falls into the same category in my mind as "freedom isn't free" (whatever happened to Jeffferson's inalienable rights?) or "innocent until proven guilty" (does that mean that no crime has been commited until someone is convicted of it?). The problem with the "do unto others" saying is that different people have different wants and needs. The implication of the "do unto others" saying is that other people want and need the same as oneself. Thus, according to the "do unto others" saying, people should buy their own favorite things as gifts for others, something which happens all too often. A kid who wants an Outlaw Lazer Robo Geek for Christmas should buy one for his parents, and so forth. Of course, that is only self-serving. Actually, the implications of this type of reasoning can be much more serious. For example, those who wish to indulge themselves in selfish ways are encouraged to also indulge the most self-centered among us in ways which may be harmful to society. In the extreme, a rapist could justify raping a woman he wishes to have sex with, by pointing out that he was doing unto her what he wished she would do unto him (although presumably he does not wish to be raped). The point is that simplistic sayings are far too subject to self-serving misinterpretations, although the "do unto others" saying in its essence is very well-intentioned. In terms of Kohlberg's cognitive theory of moral development, it represents the third of 6 stages of moral development, the stage which is concerned with social harmony and conformity. That is not a very high rating.

What we really need is a more nuanced and individualized approach to morality. A better guiding principle than "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" would be, "do unto others what will best serve society while empowering and serving the individual." The emotional aspect of morality is based on empathy, compassion and love for all we find in the world around us. The goal of emotional morality is the service of our sense of wellbeing and fullfillment. Emotionally moral feelings inform our sense of cognitive morality -- that is, our sense of justice. A high level of cognitive morality is represented by an understanding of life's complexities and the individualization of people's needs and wants. This results in the development of universal ethical principles and/or social contracts in which the self's rights and obligations are balanced with those of others. The final step of the integrated morality process is when emotional and cognitive morality which is thoroughly internalized and integrated into one's personality guides the individual's behavior, with the goal of creating better conditions in the world around us which can benefit the greater good and progress.

An integration of emotional, cognitive and behavioral morality should be a natural outcome of a person's growth -- spiritual, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral -- as a person. For many people, fortunately, this is indeed the case. However, a disturbing aspect of morality research is that research shows that moral behavior often does not correspond with moral attitudes. Researchers are puzzled and disturbed by this finding. For example, while almost everyone agrees that stealing a television would be wrong, a significant percentage (close to half, I believe) of respondents admit that they would steal a television if they knew they would not be caught. Also, people who show high levels of behavioral moral development in some instances, may slip and operate at a much lower level behaviorally in other instances. For example, a person who operates a business very ethically, and who believes in marital loyalty, may slip into a modality of having affairs while on business trips, or vice versa, a person who is a loyal, loving spouse, may behave unethically in business dealings, perhaps justifying these actions by referring to his family's "needs" which require more money than can ethically be earned.

How do we encourage people to have consistent moral emotions, cognitions, and behaviors? This is a really good and important question. One technique which psychologists have found works in a variety of contexts, is to remind people, or better yet, teach people to remind themselves, of their own attitudes (emotions and thoughts). Once a person is cognizant of his/her own emotions and thinking regarding a topic, behavior becomes more consistent with mental processes. Far too often, people go through life on autopilot, without really examining the connections between their thoughts, feelings and behavior. Education can also play a role in making the 3 aspects of morality come together nicely. Classes which encourage self-examination, whether psychology, philosophy, sociology, history, spirituality, or whatever type of classes, help people to make appropriate connections between these aspects of a person's being. Parenting similarly can help children internalize their morality and make their behaviors consistent with their moral attitudes. By using reasoning, and pointing out the relevance of their moral attitudes to their behavior, and the consequences of their behavior, parents can help children's moral development toward an integration of emotion, cogniton and behavior. Finally, we need to realize the importance of morality, and recognize the ways in which it has an impact on the world around us. We need to point that out to ourselves, and to others as appropriate. Perhaps historical examples of how moral attitudes have impacted the world in the past could be helpful. After all, we are all in this together.

Ultimately, progressive morality should be an integration of emotion, cognition, and behavior which manifests a person's love of the world and its people.

July 27

Love is Progressive Part 5: It Starts With Empathy

Empathy is the ability to sense and experience the feelings of others. In Love is Progressive Part 1, I mentioned that Bonobo (Pygmy) Chimps and Humans show empathy for others, but non-Pygmy Chimps, to which we are less closely related, do not. Further, I mentioned that biologists speculate that Bonobo Chimps and Humans share an empathy gene in common which is not found in regular Chimps. In this post, I will examine the psychological impact of empathy and how it allows evolutionary, cultural and spiritual progress.

One of the hottest issues in psychology in recent years is the concept of emotional intelligence, popularized by Harvard Psychologist Daniel Goleman. In my understanding, the gist of emotional intelligence is that there are two crucial aspects of emotionality which help individuals to suceed. The first is that people who are empathetic, starting in childhood, do much better than those who are not empathetic. The other crucial factor is the ability to delay gratification (lack of impulsiveness) which also helps people do well in the long term. The general rule regarding empathy is that empathetic people don't do bad things to other people, or animals for that matter. People lacking in empathy are likely to behave atrociously at times toward their fellow human beings. Personality disorders associated with criminal behavior such as Antisocial Personality Disorder and Narcisistic Personality Disorder are characterized by a lack of empathy, for example. With regard to the ability to delay gratification, patient people are persistant and do not take ill-advised actions. Impulsive people have difficulty controlling and regulating their behavior, exacerbating a myriad of potential problems such as addictions of all kinds, crimes of opportunity or passion, suicidal tendencies, and so forth. Both of these qualities, empathy and patience, begin in childhood, and can be fostered by empathetic and patient parenting practices.

Moral development can be viewed in terms of its cognitive, emotional and behavioral aspects. Most of the research on moral development, and the earlier theories of moral development, such as those by Piaget and by Kohlberg, took a cognitive perspective. However, more recent research and theorization about moral development, headed by Developmental Psychologist Carol Gilligan, takes an emotional perspective. Gilligan argues that the cognitive viewpoint regarding moral judgment is the masculine one, while her emotional perspective describes how women deal with issues of morality. Women's moral judgments are viewed as emotion-based, while those of men are viewed as cognitively based, according to Gilligan. Women are concerned with how people take care of each other, while men are concerned with obtaining justice, in Gilligan's view.

I see morality differently than Piaget, Kohlberg, or Gilligan. Gilligan's care-based approach to moral judgment which she applied to women, actually depends on empathy, and is at the base of all morality, I believe, including the translation of moral judgment into action. It may be true that men put more emphasis as a whole on law and order, and cognitive factors relating to justice, but even the concept of justice is made possible by our recognition and emotional appreciation of our commonalities as human beings, as sentient beings. Without empathy, we would only be concerned with personal wellbeing. Any concerns about the wellbeing of others would exist only to the extent that our wellbeing depended upon theirs. This is basically the libertarian, each man/woman for him/her self, aspect of politically conservative philosophy, which at a primitive level, we see played out in the brutal behavior of the non-empathetic, non-pygmy Chimps. Somehow, an exclusive concern with self-interest is supposed to benefit all of us, so empathy is not required, and in fact, not even welcome in this individualistic, conservative philosophy. That is its downfall.

In fact, it is empathy-based morality which lifts all of us, and acts as a social glue, binding people -- and whatever other creatures we humans empathize with -- together. From an evolutionary perspective, the development of empathy was necessary in order for humans to form complex, cooperative societies. When we cooperate, and when life goes well, we all feel good together. When we have problems, we all feel bad together. This motivates us to create a better society. Empathetic people want to create a happier world in which to live. If people had no empathy, they would not care at all about society as a whole, and thus, lack motivation to work with others to do that which could not be accomplished as individuals. Thus, cultural evolution and progress also depends upon empathy. Finally, spiritual progress also depends upon empathy. Empathy underlies our understanding and feelings of our spiritual connectedness. People who think spiritually conceive of the great energy imbuing all of reality as an empathetic entity who loves us all, whether we call it God or give it some other name. We are connected and grow spiritually, that is to say, in a universal, sheerly energy based sense, which transcends time, space and our own physical reality, through our own empathy and our understanding of the empathetic being of the universe which makes our own empathy possible.

There is nothing more important that one can learn as a child, than to be empathetic. That is where our better future begins.

July 23

Love is Progressive Part 4: For Eunice on Her Birthday

My wife Eunice is one of the bravest people I have ever known. When she broke her left wrist a few years ago, she had a jade bracelet on it which her doctor, Tom Jackson, said needed to be removed before he could do the required surgery on the wrist. Rather than having Dr. Jackson remove the bracelet, she went home and had me slowly work it over her swollen wrist, all the while in great agony, without any medication. Dr. Jackson had given her a prescription for Vicodin, but Eunice had a bad reaction to it, so she refused to take any painkillers. (I finally used the Vicodin myself when I had pneumonia. It made me sleep like a rock for 12 hours, preventing the heavy coughing of pneumonia, then wake up with a very dry mouth.) Along with Eunice, I have learned that true love requires courage. Eunice had the courage to come to America (Mei-Guo in Chinese) on her own, facing all the difficulties that entailed, meanwhile, maintaining ties with her family in Taiwan. She also has the courage to immerse herself in our relationship, with all the risks that entails. True love also takes faith and confidence in one's partner. Eunice gives me that, and I do my best to give her my faith and confidence as well.

Three years ago in August, as part of our Tour America program which Eunice initiated, we went to Minnesota. While there, naturally, we got Minnesota fishing permits and did quite a bit of fishing. However, about halfway through our 12 day trip, I saw a large, shallow lake (which Minnesota is full of) named Pelican Lake, with a fishing pier nearby, and decided to quickly try fishing there. Eunice elected to stay in the car. While I was catching fish, Eunice, being a very religious Christian, read something from her Bible. What she read told wives to be obedient to their husbands, so she quickly got out of the car and headed down the path to the lake to go fishing with me. On her way to the lake, however, she somehow slipped on the wet path, wearing flat bottomed shoes with no traction, and severely sprained her ankle. Thus, when I left the pier to check on her, I found Eunice lying on the trail in pain and unable to walk. I helped her back to the car, and we continued our trip. Eunice refused to go the doctor or let her sprained ankle alter our itenerary. She limped her way through the rest of our trip as we toured Minnesota and neighboring states. That was the last time that Eunice was obedient to me.

To tell the truth, I have never wanted Eunice's obedience, and I know that she knows that. It was only her adherence to an ancient, self-serving male-written text that led Eunice to try being obedient. To tell the truth, Eunice is not cut out for obedience. She is far too independent for that. Forget the stereotypes about demure, submissive Chinese women; those are definitely false, at least in modern times. What both of us are cut out for is egalitarian love. We do nearly everything together -- shopping, yardwork, housework, fishing, watching television, talking of course, and so forth. We may do some things in different degrees, but most activities, we do together. The only activities we do not do together are my teaching and my internet writing.

But true love goes beyond shared activities. Love means not only treating each other as equals, sharing and cooperating together. It means making sacrifices and putting each other, mutually, above one's own self-interests. It means making compromises, and taking each other's ideas seriously. When Eunice applied for her daughter Isabella, to immigrate to the U.S., I was just finishing my Ph.D. We decided that Eunice would use her savings to buy a house in the area, where I could provide a home for all of us adjacent to my parents. I began teaching part-time in this area, and have been doing so ever since. I have never looked for more lucrative or higher status work elsewhere. Admittedly, I have never found myself well-suited to the cut-throat competitive atmosphere of university professors, but also, Eunice, Isabella, and family are much more important to me. Teaching part-time allows me to spend as much time as possible with Eunice and other family. True love means making personal sacrifices, and putting the welfare of others ahead of one's own personal gratification or glory.

Eunice and I have a sort of agreement. I participate in her activities, and she participates in mine. I take her wherever she wants to go (since she doesn't drive), indulge her shopping interests, let her plan home improvement projects, let Eunice monopolize our television with her Chinese programs when her favorite ones are on, even accompany her to church, while she accompanies me on fishing trips, lets me plan vacations, and indulges and even encourages my internet blogging and posting. For instance, she told me to spend this morning working on my blog, as she often does, so given that today is her birthday, I am writing this post dedicated to her. True love means making compromises, and taking each other's ideas seriously.

True love also means having a sense of playfulness and enjoyment which creates an atmosphere of equality and togetherness. I often find myself having to "translate" Eunice's english. Sometimes, it is easier to communicate in Chinese phrases, in fact. Other times, in the presence of other Americans, I have to explain to them what Eunice means, assuming I can figure it out myself. Rather than allowing communication to become a burden, we have made it into a playful game. We have developed our own way of saying

things, a phenomenon which I suspect is common in couples who get along well together, whether they admit to it or not. This sort of idiosyncratic communication is an important part of relationship solidarity (to use Erikson's term). We have taken our speech to the level of an artform, which we call dollspeech, and is part of the basis for our website Dolly-verse. Dolly is an easy way to say "darling" which is difficult for Chinese people to pronounce, as well as meaning doll-like. A few of our more popular words are the following. The first one is "Gorjible" as in gorgeous. For example, our cat Gorjilina is very gorjible, and so is You-Nice, the other way of saying Eunice. Genie means very smart, as in genius or clever like a genie. Veridiculous is a short version of very rediculous. We also pepper the conversation with Chinese phrases such as Tao-Yuan (disgusting) for something we don't like, Dian-Nao (computer brain) for something very intelligent, Zhu-Nao (Pig brain) for forgetfulness or dull-wittedness, and so forth, including of course, Wo Ai Ni for "I love you." We also add the suffix "ful" to many words for added meaning, as in "genie-full" or "Wo Ai Ni-full." For that matter, we named the stray male cat who "adopted" us Smurfull (actually Smurfull Strayborne in full). True love means creating your own loving reality. Furthermore, this private reality creates a positive energy which helps build a better public reality.

True love is egalitarian, unselfish, nurturing, sacrificing, compromising, faithful and courageous. It lets us connect as equals, individuals who form a greater entity together, and allows us to accomplish great things together which would not be possible as individuals. True love allows us to make true progress.

Happy Birthday to Eunice, my beautiful, courageous, loving, nurturing faithful and generous wife! Let me add my Zhu Ni Shengri Kuaile (literally, "wish your birthday be happy") to the cavalcade of emails and phone calls from Taiwan wishing you a happy birthday.

July 22

Love is Progressive Part 3: Love Lifts All of Us

Cultures which show the greatest bias toward women tend to define their roles as bearers and raisers of children. Such cultures usually have high birth rates which contribute to the overpopulation of the world. Traditionally, many of these cultures have been polygamous societies in which the wealthiest men have multiple wives; the wealthier they are, the more wives they have. Emperors usually had the greatest number of wives. In fact, in ancient China, the emperor often had 3,000 "wives," although he rarely saw most of them. Nowadays, polygamy -- one man with multiple wives at the same time -- has been outlawed in most places, but not everywhere. Even where it has been outlawed, the more macho societies often tolerate or even expect wealthy men to have mistresses, and perhaps children with these mistresses. I expect that the appeal of prostitution is also greater in such societies, although prostitution is a rather ubiquitous problem.

In addition to their macho qualities, derogating women and limiting them to roles as sexual partners and mothers of men's children, what such societies have in common is a conservative, traditional mindset. Men hold the power, and justify this by making the false assertion that males are superior to females. To some extent, this may be true in all cultures, but is particularly obvious in cultures where more macho attitudes are prevalent. Because men and women in such societies are treated unequally, a schism develops between men and women. The most obvious example of this is in Middle Eastern culture which literally segregates men and women at a more or less physical level. Other cultures create a psychological barrier between men and women. Actually, this was true of American culture prior to the women's liberation movement, as well as many other cultures around the world. The psychological barrier consists of the conviction that men and women are very different creatures, leading different lives with different thoughts and feelings from each other; thus men and women in such cultures are percieved as incapable of understanding each other. The popular book, "Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus" is objectionable to me, for example, in that it promotes such a worldview. Being unable to understand each other, or worse, not even trying to, limits the depth and scope of the love which can grow between a man and a woman.

Over time, however, gender relations progress has occurred. Relations between men and women have become more egalitarian. There is considerable evidence for this, both in research by psychologists and sociologists, and in measurable cultural trends. For example, authoritarian parenting as a means of raising children has decreased in popularity, replaced by greater numbers of parents who use reason based ("authoritative" parents), nurturing based (nurturing parents), or purely love based parenting (permissive parents). Also, fathers have been observed in research by developmental psychologists to be more involved in raising their children than in the past. Finally, the roles played by husband and wife have become more equal, flexible, and egalitarian. For example, greater numbers of husbands have willingly become "stay at home dads" AKA Mister Moms in recent years. These men are primary caregivers for their own children, defying tradition. Greater numbers of men make joint decisions with their wives, rather than insisting on being "the decider" (to quote George W. Bush), and cooperate with their wives in every aspect of their lives together, rather than expecting their wives to obey their wishes.

No trend could be a better one for the future of humanity, in my view. Egalitarian relations between husbands and wives creates the conditions necessary for the deepest understanding and love to evolve between them. When love partners treat each other as equals in the most intimate of relationships, the couple connects in the deepest way that it is possible for two mortal (and moral) human beings to know each other. This is the basis for my conviction that love -- true, egalitarian love -- is the basis of much of our potential and progress as human beings. By the way, this type of love does not have to be between husband and wife, but usually is, given the social and biological facts of life with which we are faced. Non-married couples, including homosexual couples, may also engage in deep, loving, egalitarian relationships. No matter who the individuals involved are, being in love in such a genuine way is a good thing. Egalitarian emotional intimacy creates the conditions for humans to reach their greatest potential.

Egalitarian emotional intimacy allows men to realize the true value of women, which in turn results in the empowerment of women. Once men admit that women are their moral, intellectual and emotional equals -- somewhat different, but equal -- and realize that by and large men and women are similar despite having some differences, men are willing to accept women as having equal status in society. From that, follows: men being willing to vote for women politicians and accepting their presence in positions of power; men accepting female bosses and business owners as part of the natural order; men taking the opinions of women as seriously as those of men; men respecting the intellect and knowledge of women academics; men accepting women with non-traditional lifestyles, and so forth. Similarly, in a more egalitarian society, women also have less rigid expectations of men, which benefits men as well. Once women are empowered, birth rates decline and get under control, divorce rates decline, and couples experience greater intimacy and "solidarity" to use Erik Erikson's term. As I hinted at before, I suspect that rape rates and the use of women as sex objects through prostitution should also decline, although data on these problems are unreliable and thus difficult to assess. In short, love lifts us all, men, women, and children.

By way of some further evidence for my assertions, divorce rates are consistently higher in the so-called "Red States" in the United States than in the so-called "Blue States." This does not prove that conservatives are more likely to get divorced, but that would appear to be the case. My reasoning, which I wrote about before in a post called "Do Liberals Make Better Lovers?" is that conservatives, with their traditional mindset, have less egalitarian relationships between husband and wife, understand each other less well, and experience less deep love and affection for each other. Moreover, although sexual scandals are not limited to Republicans, the recent spate of affairs revealed by Republican politicians is revealing. The party of family values has the wrong idea about how to promote them. Family values, and true love, are not traditional values of male dominated societies. In fact, true family values in which children are treated with love and respect, and true, egalitarian love between partners are non-traditional, progressive values. The sooner "family values" conservatives realize that, the faster we will be able to progress as a socety, because love is progressive.

July 19

Love is Progressive Part 2: Love's Progressive History

Whether viewed politically, philosophically, socially, psychologically, humanistically, spiritually, or religiously, a thread of love runs through the history of humanity's progress. Although the Bush clan tried to popularize the concept of "compassionate conservatism," love is best suited to progressive ideology.

World religions largely trace their roots to people who had revelations of love and compassion, whether attributed to God, nature or the universe itself. Bhuddha, living around 2500 years ago, sought oneness with nature and the universe as a way of understanding and overcoming suffering. The ancient Jews talked of God's love, although they apparently felt it was restricted to the Jewish people. Jesus took God's love a step further by teaching people to love all others, even their enemies, and take care of even the least among us, no matter what their beliefs. Mohammed taught us that all of us could experience God's love directly, not only through authorities. Concepts linking love with the spiritual and religious have continued to evolve over the ages. This is part of my spiritual quest as well, but more relevant at present, the universal value of taking care of each other and loving each other remains at the base of progressive ideology, whatever the source of such ideas. In order to be a "we" society instead of a "me" society, a society which moves forward together as a people and values the greater good and social responsibility, we must start from a basis of love for humanity.

Such values are reflected in references to the common welfare in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, although individual rights are also delineated. Populist political movements always revolve around the desire to serve the greater good. Modern psychology also promotes progressive, loving values, especially the humanistic branch of psychology. According to humanists such as Carl Rogers, the most important thing we can do is show unconditional positive regard for each other, which allows people to progress toward self-actualization. Similar ideas pervade various world views, especially modern ones, whether they involve philosophy, spirituality, religion, or whatever. In short, there is a historical trend toward the realization that we must love and care for each other in order to progress as a society.

This realization is a profound and true one. We can talk and write all we want about individual rights, and they are important, but at the risk of being redundant, human beings can accomplish little if anything alone, and for that matter, probably enjoy little if anything without the help of other people. We are social, cooperative beings by nature. Love lets people cooperate, tolerate, build, create, invent and progress. Nothing could be more progressive than love.

There are different types of love, but every form of love is nurturant and progressive. The love of parent for child is often characterized as "generative love," which nurtures younger generations, and by extension, future generations not born yet, usually with the hope that the younger generation will progress and do better than their elders. The love of things as they are, is known as "existential love," which gives people a sense of the value of our lives and the world around us, and motivates us to make the world better. Of course, one may also view love as consisting of: spousal love as discussed last time, which is deep, intimate, and specific; love of family, which is similar to generative love; and love of humanity, the world, or even the universe as a whole, which is an outgrowth of the most basic form of love, existential love. All types of love are progressive because they motivate us to nurture that which we love and allow it to progress. Love also motivates us to use reason to find solutions to our problems. Love's progressive history has allowed us to come as far as we have, and as long as we continue to love the world and those around us, as we should, so shall our progress.

July 16

Love is Progressive Part 1

In the post "The Long View," I mentioned that I felt that valuing love and family were progressive values. I think it is time to elaborate on this issue.

Often, people confuse libertarian ideology for progressive ideology. In fact, libertarians are people who want to do whatever they want to without interference from others. This is a naive, self-centered view of freedom, and is actually a conservative form of ideology, which often masquerades as liberal thinking. Yes, its "live and let live" mantra promotes tolerance, but it ultimately does not promote freedom or the social welfare. One basic problem with libertarian ideology is that it allows the selfish to impinge on the rights of the unselfish. The second problem with libertarian ideology is that it is too individualistic, and fails to recognize that our welfare, happpiness and freedoms depend on the types of interrelations we build.

In order to understand why love is a progressive value, we need to take an evolutionary approach. If we examine the behavior of our closest relatives, the Chimpanzees, we can see that love, and close attachments to mate and family differentiate us from them. There are 2 types of Chimpanzees, the regular Chimpanzees, and the Bonobo, or Pygmy, Chimpanzees. According to evolutionary biologists, our early hominid ancestors diverged from the Chimpanzees around 4-5 million years ago. Regular Chimpanzees are promiscuous, but males strive to become dominant, which accrues to them more than their share of mating opportunities. Much of their behavior is pretty atrocious. They have brutal fights with other groups of Chimpanzees at times, in which Chimpanzees may be killed. It is common for dominant males to kill the offspring of other males. They even eat them, engaging in unself-conscious cannibalism without compunction. They do have friends and are fond of certain individuals. Mothers, especially, care greatly about their offspring, but that does not prevent dominant males from killing them, and strangely, the mothers will subsequently mate with the murderous male. They do not seem to form loving bonds, except perhaps between mother and baby. They also seem to have no sense of empathy or compassion.

Bonobo Chimpanzees, in contrast to other Chimps, are very loving and gentle Chimpanzees. Humans are actually more closely related to Bonobo Chimps than they are to other Chimps. They do not engage in Chimpicide, and show considerable empathy and compassion for each other. They are promiscuous, like other Chimps, however, and do not form long-term bonds between mates. In fact, Bonobo Chimps use sex as a means of soothing each other's feelings. Whenever there is emerging conflict among Bonobo Chimps, rather than escalating the conflict into violence, they engage in either simulated, or actual sex, which makes all parties involved feel better. They have created a sort of "free-love" society, reminiscent of stereotypical "hippies" of the 1960s and 1970s. It is loving and peaceful, but their lifestyle does not push their species to evolve into a more intelligent, highly evolved form. Evolutionarily, they, as well as normal Chimpanzees, seem to be fairly stagnant.

Similar to Bonobo Chimps, our closest relatives, humans also form a cooperative society built on love, family and relationships. Evolutionary biologists speculate that humans and Bonobo Chimps seem to share an "empathy" gene, which regular Chimpanzees lack. In addition, however, humans form permanent, or at least long-term, bonds between mates. I do not think it is an accident that humans, the species which forms specific love bonds between mates, is the species which evolved greater intelligence and a greater society. Why? Among our distant ancestors, love between mates, as in marriage or other long-term bonds such as common-law marriage, took attachment to a higher level. It allowed a higher level of organization in society, as families integrated into a larger society. The bonds which developed between mates also, significantly, greatly increased the role of fathers in childrearing. Instead of vying amongst each other for dominance and access to mates, adult males invested their energies in the well-being of their own families. Also, the bonds which were formed between mates spurred more complex communication, which combined synergistically with the development of larger brains and hands with opposible thumbs to catalyze human evolution. As communication improved and language became more complex, our ancestors presumably began to specialize, and the division of labor was born, further increasing complexity of social organization.

In contrast to humans, Bonobo Chimps have relatively loosely organized societies -- somewhat anarchic, even. Thus, I postulate here that it is the bond between mates which set our ancestors on the evolutionary course from a more Chimp-like ape to the fine example of intellectual and cultural evolution that we now are. Furthermore, love continues to be a progressive force -- all types of love, including love of spouse, love of one's children, love of humanity, love of the ecosphere, our world and all in it, love of the universe and whatever we conceive God to be. Although love of children is vitally important, the volutional love of one's spouse remains the strongest basis for the egalitarian understanding of our connectedness.