Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

25 Sep 2014, 11:09 a.m.

On Status

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2014 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

From Susan McCarthy, specifically from her great book Becoming a Tiger: How Baby Animals Learn to Live in the Wild.

Animals learn about individuals through play. If little coyotes cheat, the other pups won't play with them. On the other hand, the dingo Hercules was raised by humans, an only child, and didn't get to play with other puppies. Dingo puppies learn through play fighting with other puppies when to back down. Hercules had a full repertoire of aggressive behaviors but no submissive behaviors. When he was three months old, researchers released Hercules into the wild, where he could play with a litter of five wild dingoes of the same age. The wild pups were baffled by Hercules and his apparent belief that he was invincible. No matter how badly he was losing, he persisted in aggression. "After two days, Hercules displayed no submissive behaviour (essentially because he did not know how to), and became the leader of the group; the wild pups followed his movements and usually submitted passively whenever they made direct contact." - p.54

Becoming a Tiger is charming and warm and informative, and I recommend it.

Also, if you liked that particular quote, you may also be interested in On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman Dixon (my thoughts), Elliot Aronson's The Social Animal, China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh, and How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston.