Pok et mam (and not Pokemon, for my readers under 30 years old.)
The male developed his featured characteristics outside the cave. The male as the father figure had to explore the territory, if only for hunting (for at least 600 centuries). Beasts quickly learned to flee from the human scent. To his son, the father describes the surroundings, the fauna, the trails, the landmarks. If the youngster dreams, a slap brings him back to the present. If the father had been a predator, his dreaming son would have died. In fact, it was by travelling through the unknown that men developed a keen sense of pain and the ability to assess distances (compare a woman and a man who park). Misjudging the distance to a shelter, of a prey or of a wild animal could be catastrophic.
As civilization moved toward a sedentary lifestyle, the father became the one who hits, who uses his strength against wood, stone or metal. He goes pak! pak! (the Portuguese expression to make pok pok means to be punished by his father).
At the end of my twenties, I lived as a couple with my first love, Marie, who was raising two children alone, aged five and seven. They had never had a man in the house. I could observe their reaction when, while playing, I lifted them off the ground like a ball. In their eyes, I had become Superman. At the time, I was skinny. They recorded in their memory, this virile strength. They and I established a communication around physical strength (do you remember ever shaking hands with a plumber or a mechanic?). It reminded me of my mother’s saying, wait until your father comes home (to punish me). By the time I was thirteen, I was already a few inches taller than her and I was the man on duty when it came to moving heavy objects or reaching high ones.
Nowadays, women go to school and play sports, and our activities are less physical; it makes a difference.
Women have the ability to create life. The shape of their pelvis, the fat mass (to accumulate extra energy for breastfeeding), the pain tolerance (to survive childbirth) are some of the design elements of the human female. These features perhaps contribute to their being less mobile and less adventurous. Not to mention the need to be in a safe environment from the sixth month of pregnancy and to remain with the children who are still vulnerable. Mating with a loyal male increases the probability of survival. (This may also explain the obsession with weddings in American soaps).
It is by handling herbs and food, healing children’s wounds and infections that women have developed their color perception (up to twenty times more accurate than men). Especially those colors that are halfway between brown, red, yellow and green, and those between red, blue and green. It is by shopping with women that I fully grasped this handicap. In particular, I remember when a friend pointed out a shirt of mine, brown to me, that I would never wear. But from a distance, it looked blue and stood out against a background of orange and beige shades (or so it seemed to me). I never had before been complimented as much for my outfit as when I wore this shirt (which I wore until it fell apart).
The Shock of Withdrawal
Without going into detail, the sound ma or mam, produced by the sound of sucking, evolved into the term mother in many languages. The baby’s first verbal message, I’m hungry, was transmitted by associating it with the sound of breastfeeding. Once the code was established, the mother only had to repeat this sound, questioning the baby if she was hungry (a form of classic conditioning). For thousands of years, ma was associated with the mouth, the welcoming arms, the voice and the warm body of a nursing mother. It is necessary to understand the living conditions of our ancestors. They had neither our mastery of the territory nor our reassuring knowledge. Their fears were simple and terrifying. If the telephone, electricity, heating and groceries disappeared, it would have been catastrophic for us. Yet, there are worse things. Think of all the basic knowledge about life, disease, geography or history that we possess. In short, all the little answers that evacuate so many primitive fears. Imagine that you don’t know what a simple dream really is and you have a troublingly vivid one…
In these conditions, imagine the comfort that comes from ma’s love, her sweet warmth, her affection. Without TV, radio, ipod, telephone, meeting places, books, movies or games, the other is everything. Add to this the fact that children are sometimes breastfed until the age of four (before cooked foods appear). The severity of weaning is then very real. The child goes from warm breast milk to chewable foods, from comfortable arms to cold, hard ground. With the breast, it is ma that moves away. The cut is abrupt.
Since men has no intimacy with the embryo and have no milk to offer the child so as to bond, he is out of the game when life begins. Paternity is an invention related to sexual reproduction. During the gestation of one, the other takes care of the territory. A male couldn’t be ma with a baby, only a second mother. This is what the introduction of the bottle, the father at home (like daycare) has upset. These changes must have had a violent impact on the way we memorize the nurturing mother.
Back at the Ranch
To want to judge our animal condition would be vain; to want to deny it would be worse. Father and mother are neither pok nor mam. We need to understand the role of our instincts and the consequences of using them when released from their primary role, helping to survive and procreate (see The Seven Sins of Capital.)
Perhaps this is what is happening on Montreal’s new Plateau, where vegan has become the peace and love of a new generation.