The nightly news is sometimes bad for us. We see carnage on the other side of the world we have no power to stop. A boy loses his legs and calls out in agony for his father to carry him when he can no longer walk, but we cannot halt men from desiring power and dropping bombs because of the innate sexual, predatory impulse of the thousands of alpha males across the globe we call leaders. They can poison their enemies in England with polonium, and the simple-minded will call them strong and smart.
My wife and I recently watched a nature documentary about elephant seals. There were penguins too, so we let my two-year-old daughter Jasmine look on until the filmmakers cut back to the obese males with their obeisant female seals. Then we covered her eyes. These monsters do not question their importance. The 50 supple mates each elephant seal commands praise their blubbery, slobbering kings. When another male desires more cow elephant seals, he roars and flops across the ice. The emperor and his challenger slam against each other like Sumo wrestlers. The beasts have tusks and sharp teeth, which they use to rip flesh from each other’s throats. It is a combination of poorly executed mixed-martial arts and the old 1990s reality television show “When Good Pets Go Bad,” which begged the question: When did a scorpion become a good pet? In the end, these clashes for a wider range of breeding stock often culminate in death. If you believe there is no sophisticated life on Antarctica, I can assure you it is just as bloody as the ‘civilized’ Nordic sphere. After a victory for the history books—in the king’s eyes—the larger male, bloodied but satiated, hops back to his adoring fans. The challenger departs to brood and train for the next battle.
“The wonder of God’s creation,” I deadpanned to Jennifer.
“God’s sense of humor,” she corrected me.
Next came the mating, and we finally just had to shut off the television for Jasmine’s sake.
The original people who spoke Sanskrit once did not have a word in their language for war. They called this impulse ‘the desire for more cows,’ but that suggests an inclusivity of other modes of obtaining a better herd beyond the knee-jerk reaction of violence. Since the dawn of man, the desire for more cows has led to religious persecution and territorial aggression. Of late, the desire for more cows manifested itself in the idea of a heaven possible on earth, in the desire for more happiness, and it resulted in hell on earth through nationalism and Communism. Sometimes a country’s god encouraged the holocausts. Other times the absence of God placed an insane amount of importance on matters of time. But regardless the fancy justifications, it all leads back to our virulent development of intelligence and strength in order to exalt ourselves, and the simple hatred and lust for power demonstrated so well by more primitive mammals.
I do not want to look in the mirror and see an elephant seal. I apologize if that makes me seem uppity.
On another television program, from the 1980s, a Canadian game show host keeps trying to kiss a 10-year-old daughter as her mother sits right next to her. “If you kiss me, you’ll win,” the host hisses in her ear. He seems oblivious to how inappropriate this is, as though he was born with a condition. She still refuses to kiss him. “I guess you won’t win, then,” he whispers.