The Enlightened Caveman


Artifacts of the Caveman Mind
June 10, 2004, 2:35 pm
Filed under: Enlightened Caveman Concept

Original Post (with comments)
Now that you know the background behind the Enlightened Caveman concept, it’s time to see how the ancient design of the human mind translates into behavioral tendencies that are pervasive in our society. I call these the artifacts of the caveman mind. The enlightened caveman has disposed of their influences. The result is an entirely new and comforting view of life in our modern world.

  1. In-group prejudice. We naturally sort people into groups – those who are like us and those who are not. Those who are members of our in-group are given irrational and often unjustified prejudicial treatment. This is what I call the team mentality. Our innate desire to be a part of a group has interesting implications in today’s world. In contrast to how things worked for our cave-dwelling ancestors, we now have the luxury of choosing our team. This is most obvious in politics and sports. It is my view that most people choose their political leanings and favorite sporting teams by siding with the people they get along with. The merits of political views take a backseat to the team mentality. The same is basically true with respect to how people choose their favorite sports teams. Why else would anyone be a Cubs fan:-) However, with sports, this is not an issue. With politics, it is a major problem, one that I’ll elaborate on later.
  2. Comparative Analysis. We naturally compare ourselves to our contemporaries and base our self-opinions on the results of those measurements. This has its roots in man’s quest for status. If our neighbors seem more successful than we (by society’s standards), it is common for us to internalize this and end up feeling bad about ourselves. This is a mistake. Our self-esteem must be based upon ethics and ethics alone.
  3. The Herd Mentality. We naturally gravitate toward beliefs and actions that are held and taken by the majority. This is a consequence of pursuing group acceptance. Once again, ideas and opinions are embraced without regard for their merits. This is a major problem.
  4. High Status Admiration. Those who receive the most attention in society are irrationally admired and emulated. In caveman times, one would emulate high status members of the group in order to obtain status for him or her self. But in those days, there weren’t many ways to get status – they were all tied to survival and reproductive skills. Today, status is more a function of attention. Those who can best distract individuals from their daily lives are unconsciously perceived as the high status members of society. The caveman emulation mechanisms take over and voila, we’re comparing ourselves to popular people and basing our self-esteem on how we stack up. This is perhaps the greatest source of feelings of insecurity and inadequacy in our world. Furthermore, this causes us to adopt twisted value systems such as materialism. It also prevents people from pursuing their talents and interests if they don’t fall into the realm of social acceptability. The fact is that being popular is absolutely irrelevant to our self-esteem. Are we ethical people? That’s what matters.
  5. Authority-based Indoctrination. We are naturally inclined to irrationally accept and embrace the beliefs and attitudes of individuals we perceive as authority figures. This is also tied to the quest for status. In today’s world, we must reject this approach and consider ideas and attitudes rationally, based upon their merit and nothing more. If this means we end up at odds with authority figures, so be it. This is how mankind advances. It has always been so.
  6. Focus on Looks. We are naturally driven to evaluate ourselves and others in terms of outward appearance. It is a fact that attractive people have it easier than unattractive people when it comes to job opportunities, friendships, and romantic relationships. This tied to our natural assessment of fitness – we subconsciously connect tallness, muscle tone, a lean physique, symmetrical features, a full head of hair, and shiny teeth to being reproductively fit. The thing is that nowadays, these kinds of things really don’t matter. It is the content of one’s character that matters now. Of course, given the fact that most people are not yet likely to be hip to this idea, it isn’t necessarily bad to compare ourselves to others with respect to our looks. However, we have to be careful with what we do with these assessments. We needn’t feel bad about ourselves. We must simply accept the reality of how our looks impact our opportunities in life. Average-looking and not so attractive people often have to bring other qualities to the game if they want to achieve their goals. And when it comes to evaluating other people, we have to endeavor to take looks out of the equation. It’s that simple.

Before anyone gets steamed at me about these gross generalizations, let me just say this. I am well aware that many people do not fall prey to these caveman tendencies. For whatever reason, they have figured out that these approaches to life don’t really bear fruit. Nevertheless, these artifacts of the caveman mind are everywhere. If they don’t apply to you, it is still worthwhile to note their existence in the people all around you. (You’ll be surprised at how rarely you’re surprised by your fellow man.) In fact, these artifacts are the source of most of our social problems. I will refer to them again and again as time goes on.

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