Cuteness

Cute Baby
Cute Baby (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you saw a human being whose body was only three times the size of his/her head instead of the usual six times, who lacked the ability control his/her limbs and bodily functions, who was almost unable to communicate and who needed round the clock care, would you conclude that they were unfortunately seriously physically disabled, or would you lean in and say “What a cute baby!”

When the characteristics of a baby are listed like that, it makes it seem very unattractive, but, unless the baby is playing up in some way, most, but not all people, would find it appealing. There is something in our natures that is attracted to babies and young children.


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It’s not just the young of our own species that we find attractive. A small bumbling puppy or kitten very often causes us to go “Awww!”. We often have an urge to cherish baby animals, and this urge appears to extend to other species to some extent. It is not infrequent that a mother of one species will care for the young of another species, even species that would normally be prey for the mother.

That’s quite astounding when you think about it – the mothering instinct has completely suppressed the predatory instinct. Of course, if food were scarce, possibly the mothering instinct would not be as strong as the predatory instinct.


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Obviously the pleasure that people get from babies (and pets) outweighs all the negative aspects of looking after them. Babies can be demanding, annoying, frustrating and downright unpleasant to live with, if the truth be told. And they are expensive to look after!

Other people’s children will sometimes cause you to wonder why the parents didn’t practise birth control, and your own will frequently be an embarrassment to you, but overall society tolerates the anti-social behaviour of children to an amazing extent. Of course, parents tend not to take babies and small children to events where they would cause chaos and mayhem, such as a musical concert or a play.


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We could term this attractiveness of young children to adults “cuteness”. “Cuteness” invokes the parental instincts that can in some circumstances overcome the instinct of self preservation. In having produced offspring, a parent has performed almost all that is necessary for the propagation of the species, and the only task left is for the parent to ensure that the child gets the best start in life that is possible.

The cuteness of children allows such human institutions as fostering. A child can be looked after by a non-relative, if the parent (and all the child’s relatives) are unable to bring up the child for any reason. Sometimes, maybe often, a fostered child comes with “problems”. They may have been mistreated, for example, and have become reserved or disruptive.


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Foster parents are often special people, who take in unwanted children and do their best to sort out any problems and issues that they have, trying their hardest to break through any barriers that the child may have put up, earning the child’s trust if possible, and even their love.

That is important, because the parent/child bond is bidirectional. The parent loves the child, and the child loves the parent back. I suspect that the parent loves the child first and the child learns from this to love the parent back. When a child is born, it is barely aware of its surroundings and parents grow to love their child even before the child learns to and is capable of responding to the parents.

George and Barbara Bush with their first born ...
George and Barbara Bush with their first born child George W. Bush, while Bush was a student at Yale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a tragedy that so many parents either don’t know how to love their children, or their love fades quickly over time. I guess it is not surprising that in a few cases parents don’t know how to love their kids, and I also guess that this can be the result of the parents’ parents not showing their kids much love.

However,  that is pure speculation. It’s reasonable, I’d say, but not definite, so far as I am aware. Certainly, children who come from environments where the mutual affection in a family is apparent will most likely prove to be loving parents themselves.

English: Russian Family
English: Russian Family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is hard to watch when a child goes wrong, or is caused distress by something external. Older children of even loving parents sometimes go “off the rails”. They may indulge in drugs, or alcohol, or indiscriminate sex, or may develop mental or physical illnesses. They may simply develop world views that are opposed to those of their parents. They may even vote for the wrong political party!

This wayward behaviour is often worst for parents who have rigid world views, such as those who are religious or are philosophically rigid. It may indeed be this very rigidity of viewpoint that has pushed their kids away. Most parents encourage their children to develop their own personalities, but sometimes these personalities clash with those of the parents.


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The innate tendency to find children and the young of pet animals cute serves as the glue to bind the parents to a very demanding entity in the child. The cuteness of a child is only partially visible to others though, and there may be conflict between parents and other adults in places like restaurants and planes and busses.

As children get older the cuteness factor tends to wear off. By the time that they leave the family home the bonds between parents and children have transitioned between child/parent and young adult/parent. Though the bonds are still there they are qualitatively different to the original bonds formed just after the birth.

English: Golden Father and Son Deutsch: Golden...
English: Golden Father and Son Deutsch: Golden Vater und Sohn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes the cuteness idiom is probably taken too far, as in the Japanese quality of Kawaii. In Japan many older children and young adults dress and behave in ways which in younger children would be considered cute. In my opinion this is decidedly dubious, as the Kawaii quality is too easily linked with sexual attractiveness, and making oneself more attractive by acting younger than one’s age can possibly cause younger children seem sexually attractive.

In contrast, in Western cultures children will try to dress and act older than their age when they begin to feel that they need to be attractive to others. While this is not ideal, it does mean that sexual attractiveness is directed to older looking partners, and not, as in Japan, to younger looking ones.


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Legalistic Stuff

Marooned
Marooned (Photo credit: Wikipedia

Suppose two men are marooned on a remote island somewhere. At first each is unaware that the other is there, but eventually they meet. Suppose that for some reason they don’t want to join up, but they do want to interact. So they set about working out ways to share the island, and obviously they want to live amicably until they are rescued.

So they might draw an imaginary line across the island. A can only go into B’s half as long as B is aware and approves, and vice versa. Maybe it turns out that food is easier to come by in B’s half, but there is plenty for both. B allows A to venture into parts of his half of the island and A drops off a few items that he has gathered as thanks.

The upper part of the stela of Hammurapis' cod...
The upper part of the stela of Hammurapis’ code of laws (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Later on they find that A’s part of the island has the best spots to catch fish or something, and they come to an agreement about that. Slowly but surely they build up a set of rules on how to behave and live on the island in harmony.

One can imagine that an arbitrarily complex set of rules may be developed, and these rules could be further complicated if a third man, C, were to join them on the island.


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You can probably see where I am going with this. As the population of the island rises, more and more rules will become necessary, or if not necessary, useful, and at some stage someone will have the idea of writing them down. The rules become laws and eventually attract all the mechanisms of a full legal system.

While browsing around while thinking about this sort of thing, I came across a review of “Day Z”, which the author of the review describes as “A Video Game Without Rules”. The author describes how the ability to do nasty things to others leads to characters in the game, especially established players doing nasty things to other players, usually new spawned players.

English: Uppercase and lowercase Greek letter ...
English: Uppercase and lowercase Greek letter zeta, the 6th letter of the Greek alphabet. Times New Roman font. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s possible that the behaviour of players in the game is merely an early stage in its evolution, and it may be that later on stronger players may band together to help the newly spawned players and the people who treat new players badly will be marginalised or persuaded to change their ways. One can hope.

Another dismal view of the island scenario was that of William Golding who wrote “The Lord of the Flies”, where a group of English schoolboys are marooned on an island, perhaps as the result of an atomic war. They soon revert to savagery and murder, overriding the civilised urgings of Piggy and Ralph. As Piggy says “Which is better—to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill? … law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?” The rest of the boys obviously want to hunt and kill.

Pig head for sale at Cleveland's West Side Market
Pig head for sale at Cleveland’s West Side Market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nevertheless, the process of generating laws by discussion and agreement was probably along the lines that I have suggested above. No doubt there were many tries to achieve this process which failed in the manner that things appear to have failed in the video game and how they were depicted as failing in “the Lord of the Files”, before a working system of laws was achieved.

It’s possible that the magic ingredient was the evolution of system of magistrates and a method of enforcing the laws. With a supposedly impartial system to decide the rights of a matter, and a special force or police system to enforce the laws, the weak individual would be protected against the stronger.

English: Hammurabi code. One of the first law ...
English: Hammurabi code. One of the first law sets in the world. Now it is in the Louvre museum, Mesopotamia section. Asia. Español: Código de Hammurabi. Uno de los primeros conjuntos de leyes del mundo. Se encuentra en el museo de Louvre, sección de Asia antigua. Mesopotamia, Babilonia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In early days, the system of laws and the enforcement of them would have been vested in the priests and spiritual leaders, who would have controlled the enforcement system, probably “Temple Guards” or similar.

Where do kings fit in? The rulers were often not priests themselves, but the rulers were seen to rule by divine right, so there was a tight link between the rulers and the religious leaders. Kings such as Hammurabi supposedly led the way in law making, though no doubt there was much political to and fro between the kings and the priests.

English: Priest Mongaku's forty-five article r...
English: Priest Mongaku’s forty-five article rules and regulations (文覚四十五箇条起請文〈藤原忠親筆/, mongaku yonjūgokajō kishōmon). Document requesting the restoration of Jingo-ji temple from Emperor Go-Shirakawa. Located at Jingo-ji, Kyoto, Japan. The scroll has been designated as National Treasure of Japan in the category ancient documents. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These days, in many countries the law has been secularised and in many laws are decided by the government of the country, and are arbitrated by a separate branch of the administration called the justice system, and the enforcement is carried out by the police and retribution by the prisons system.

Lawmaking, justice and enforcement are in many countries legally independent of one another so that, for example, the government cannot manipulate the system for its own advantage. The principle is that justice should be independent of lawmaking and the enforcement systems.

English: The courthouse of Tours. Français : L...
English: The courthouse of Tours. Français : Le palais de justice de Tours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How does all this affect the man in the street? Well, in practise, not very much, usually, at least not directly. When driving along the road, a motorist is aware that the speed limit is so-and-so, and usually keeps to it, more or less. He or she treats it as an advisory rather than a restriction, in that it is taken as the top speed that is safe for that road.

The man in the street also uses laws for his own protection. He will assume that the consumer protection laws back him up when he purchases something which it transpires is defective and will feel confident in returning it. In most cases the retailer would not be too upset by someone returning a defective product as in most cases the retailer would want a happy customer and can return the product to the manufacturer.

In general, laws work best when they conform with the principle of “natural justice” or what would generally be considered fair. It is not fair for example for someone to keep others awake by holding noisy all night parties, and in most cases the law will support the sleepless neighbours over the noisy one, but it could come down to a matter of perception.

Things like disputes about access to properties can hinge on such matters and are very often cannot easily be settled. The law has been evolving for thousands of years, but it can’t solve every dispute, although we would be worse off without it. It has to change as the world is changing, so it is constantly evolving. We cannot expect it to be perfect.

At the Law Rock, or Lögberg, a rocky outcrop o...
At the Law Rock, or Lögberg, a rocky outcrop on which the Lawspeaker, or lögsögumaður, took his seat as the presiding official of the Icelandic Althing (Alþing), at Thingvellir, or Þingvellir, Iceland. assembly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)