Friday, 27 November 2009

755 - Cats, Pigeons and Christmas Get-Togethers

A paragraph from the excellent and provocative book Spent by Geoffrey Miller, applying kin selection to family parties and the like:
Thus, the healthiest, most attractive individuals in an extended-family clan tend to elicit the greatest attention and fondness from their relatives. They get more cookies from grandmothers and more job offers from uncles. From this viewpoint, family reunions can be seen as periodic rituals for mutual quality displays among genetic relatives: each individual tries to display his or her physical and mental traits in the best possible light to potential familial benefactors, and at the same time tries to assess which relatives are worthy of receiving his or her generosity. Poor families may have public-park barbecues while rich families congregate at estates in Kennebunkport or Balmoral, but in each case, similar social functions are served. Privileges, hopes, expectations, and resources are redistributed according to quality inspections of newborns, marital-prospect assessments of juveniles, and longevity assessments of the elderly. We all want to look worthy to our relatives, to the extent that they can do anything for us.
(p. 101)

As a recipient of profoundly average-sized caches of cookies I find this oddly comforting. It gives me a positive handle on all the tugs and torsions I've resented myself for feeling, whenever I've been at festive gatherings in the past.

This year, grasping at what is going on, Christmas is going to be fun!

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