Social Animals have Two Modes of Being

I want to describe what I think is a fundamental truth about the individual bio-psychology of social animals, including humans.

Setting for the model

The setting for my model is arguably the greatest current scientific revolution: The formal realization and empirical demonstration that virtually all of social behaviour and individual psychology is encased in the evolutionary, biological and metabolic reality of dominance hierarchy.

For example, see Sapolsky’s influential 2005 review of primate studies1, and my critical review of medicine2. The metabolism of the monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin and the associated evolutionary biology is now an established area of science3,4,5,6. In my opinion, the said area of science, although far from complete, constitutes a foundational building block of the new tectonic-plate theory of social science, whether social scientists are aware of it yet or not. And it has started to infuse the popular culture.7

This knowledge implies that the metabolic biochemistry of dominance locks us in. No socialism theory that presumes altruistic cooperation as its organizing principle can ever work. Non-hierarchical anarchism and its libertarian cousin are useful conceptual end-points that can never be sustainably achieved. The best we can do is to have a responsive and optimally (evolutionarily) beneficial dominance hierarchy that is actively prevented from exercising pathological excess.8

The model

In this setting, I propose that the animal has two modes of being, which are binary end-points on an attitudinal, self-image and behavioural psychological-state-scape.

I’m not saying that each individual is permanently in one or the other mode of being. Rather, I propose that the individual shifts and slides into one or the other mode depending on his immediate social circumstances and on his history (biological and metabolic memory) of being predominantly in one mode or the other.

The modes of being that I propose map onto the social dominance hierarchy, and are consistent with the roles of different individuals within the hierarchy.

Specifically, one mode is the mode (and strategy) adopted by the dominated individual. This mode is one where the individual seeks “fairness” and minimal aggressions in their environment. The individual seeks a “safe space” and has no actual design to displace dominants. The culture of individuals that coalesce into such a stratum of the hierarchy is one where “kindness” and “being a good person” are the highest social values that are encouraged and rewarded. Altruism and “goodiness” are elevated to a status meriting religious indulgences. Viciousness actuated by enforcers within the social stratum is turned towards violators of this code.

The other mode is the mode (and strategy) adopted by the individual who intends to be and to remain dominant. It is an outlook of waging and winning battles for dominance. This is the climber with a “killer’s instinct”, prepared to joust for relative advantage and eager to dominate.

These modes are distinct mental and physiological states of being. They occur inside the individual and cannot always be ascertained reliably from outside indicators. For example, climbers in a corporate or government office hierarchy may achieve success by “kissing ass” rather than by confronting superiors. Advancement in these institutions may arise from actuation of the goodiness mode rather than the competitive mode, or competition within an office level may be the selector used by superiors. Anything is possible in a given corporate enterprise, in terms of utilization of intrinsic human behaviours.

The two distinct modes are real regarding the individual’s experience and bodily biochemistry, in the circumstances, rather than ascertainable from superficial outside features such as house or car or ring size.

The psychological-state-scape is binary in the two modes because the metabolic physiologies of the two modes are incompatible. The holistic state of being cannot be both simultaneously. Different blood biochemistries and tissue and organ responses are in play. It’s one or the other: Vying for dominance or accepting subservience. Fight or flight. Challenge or hide. More than a billion years of evolution ain’t goin’ anywhere.

“Bosses” will find each other to fight. Subservient individuals, subservient in the circumstances, will lower their eyes, group to the edges of the room and exchange vital information about who is “a nice person”.

Application to politics

The establishment bosses that run the Left, more than the Right, exploit the population of individuals that are most easily corralled into the goodiness mode and seduced by goodiness promises.

The boss propaganda (mainstream media, institutional messaging) is clearly designed in this direction: human rights, minority rights, environmentalism, democracy, participation… whereas the state continues its vicious wars of dominance world-wide and its violent apartheid of aboriginal and low economic classes and of non-violent Criminal Code offenders.

It is a textbook illustration. Extreme social justice warriorism and safe-space obsessionism are, in my opinion, pathological and predictable outcomes of unchecked exploitation by those who ride the Left.

As a backlash against the overly successful establishment Left propaganda and institutional capture, individuals who are inhabited by the competition mode react in revolt by violating the goodiness rules of expression and behaviour, causing generalized and amplified outrage. They break the taboos, express racism, use the N-word, graffiti swastikas, speak their minds, and trigger and troll the masses.

The establishment bosses that run the Right have not been keen to use this relatively unmanageable population and have been only tentative in exploring how to use it. Trump changed that. There is no denying that Trump unsettled traditional Republican forces.

This does not mean that all Right-thinking voters are competition-mode individuals, not by any stretch. Most Right-thinking voters are conservatives who seek the “safe space” of traditional family and religious values. They are horrified at the prospect of an eroded institutional framework that could threaten this safe space and they seek the good-person representatives that would protect them.

The establishment bosses that exploit both the Left and the Right understand that goodiness is a winning electoral formula, since most individuals in a dominance hierarchy are goodiness-mode followers rather that competition-mode individuals who vie for higher echelons. This is the nature of a stable dominance hierarchy: Most people just want to be oppressed fairly, to know their place and to be safe.  In a so-called “democracy”, since show elections are required, the only question is the flavour of the goodiness.

A problem arises when the flavours of goodiness are so different that the other side is threatened when institutions are captured. Then many will feel they are in danger and the conditions are ripe for competition-mode redress.

In these circumstances, the Right voters shift to seeking and supporting competition-mode leaders that will fight back on their behalf, and more of the Right adopts a competition-style stance. It could have gone the other way, like it did for decades. The Right could have accepted defeat, accepted the humiliation of being “bad persons”, and sought refuge in their own spaces. The Right could have stayed in a social state with most of its individuals in the goodiness mode being pampered by goodiness-mode representatives promising elusive “justice”.

In Canada, I think Preston Manning was a goodiness organizer (reform by rational argument) whereas Harper organized a coup and dismantled as much Left capture of institutions as possible. The Left stuck with goodiness and turned it on, screaming about the Right’s demolition of “human rights”, “environmental protection” and “democracy”.  We got Trudeau. Now the Right is rightly pointing to some of the pathologies of going too far with Left goodiness, and its managers are exaggerating the institutional threats against family and against human nature itself, no less.

So goes the seesaw of political manipulation, perfectly in resonance with the intrinsic modes of being of the individual.  The individuals naturally self-organize and are corralled into protective communities, both within and between strata of the hierarchy.

Application to religion

Institutionally organized religion is a perfected system of goodiness rules, which stabilizes and strengthens a dominance hierarchy. Even environmentalism can be understood as such a state religion.9

Religious belief and practice, for most people, is deeply ingrained in the goodiness mode of being of the individual, as should be obvious from my above description. The rituals of recycling, healthy lifestyle practice, donations to The United Way and so on, while they have no positive effect on population health, systemic negative class bias or “the planet”, nurture and solidify a prolonged and robust adoption by the individual of the goodiness mode of being.

As long as a majority of citizens reside in the goodiness mode of being, the dominance hierarchy cannot be challenged and major displacements will not occur. Public peace will prevail.

Of course, religious seminal texts, nowadays including much of the so-called scientific literature, are more complex than state propaganda and can be used, as needed or desired, to incite individuals into the competitive mode of being, into the confrontational state, to be manipulated by political organizations.

This is actively seen today in Zionist Israel with Torah and holocaust scholarship, where the texts are used to incite and rationalize genocidal displacement, confinement and suppression of the native population. Interestingly, hard science (genetics) has established that white European Jews that have always run the modern state of Israel do not have a relevant ancestry that originated in Palestine.10 If science mattered.

Conclusion and verification

It is in our animal and human nature — inherited on our evolutionary path — to occupy either the goodiness or competitive modes of being, which represent biochemical and physiological states of either accepting or challenging the dominance of others.

The reality of my model of individual modes of being can be tested (experienced) by experimentation with LSD, which alters serotonin metabolism.11  A common description of mild LSD experiences is that the subject is able to escape their persona and become conscious of their identity programing and conscious of the identity or motivational programming of others.12 Dominance hierarchy is dissolved by blocking serotonin receptors on neurons.  No wonder that’s illegal.

  1. R.M. Sapolsky. “The Influence of Social Hierarchy on Primate Health”, Science, 29 April 2005, vol. 308, pages 648-652. DOI: 10.1126/science.1106477. []
  2. Denis Rancourt.  “Cancer arises from stress-induced breakdown of tissue homeostasis”, Research Gate, December 2015, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1304.7129. []
  3. Donald Edwards and Edward Kravitz. “Serotonin, social status and aggression”, 1997, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, vol. 7, pages 812-819. []
  4. Molly J. Crockett et al. “Serotonin modulates behavioral reactions to unfairness”, Science, June 27, 2008; 320(5884): 1739. doi:10.1126/science.1155577. []
  5. Molly J. Crockett et al.  “Serotonin selectively influences moral judgment and behavior through effects on harm aversion”, PNAS, October 5, 2010, vol. 107, no. 40, 17433-17438. []
  6. Anna Ziomkiewicz. “Serotonin and Dominance”, January 2016, In: Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1440-1. []
  7. Denis Rancourt.  “Jordan Peterson and the Threat of Working-class Intellectual and Attitudinal Liberation”, Dissident Voice, June 3, 2018. []
  8. Denis Rancourt. “Cause of USA Meltdown and Collapse of Civil Rights”, Dissident Voice, September 7, 2017. []
  9. Denis Rancourt. “The Climate Religion”, Dissident Voice, September 15, 2016. []
  10. Marta D. Costa et al. “A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages”, Nature Communications, vol. 4, Article number: 2543 (2013). []
  11. GK Aghajanian and GJ Marek. “Serotonin and Hallucinogens”, Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 21, pages 16S–23S (1999). []
  12. Larry Hagman ‘All Politicians Should Use LSD‘”, interview of Larry Hagman, YouTube, November 24, 2012 upload by xBehindthetruthx. []
Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is a researcher for the Ontario Civil Liberties Association. He has published more than 100 articles in leading scientific journals, on physics and environmental science. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. Read other articles by Denis.