Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Apes and Altruism

Is there any such thing as true altruism ? I ask because of late I have been studying apes, not the type to be found at the taxi rank just off Sauchiehall Street on a Friday night, but bonobos. The female of the species appease an aggressive male by having sex with him, and in doing so ensure the continuity of peace within the group. That's all very magnanimous of her, but isn't there a reciprocal benefit ? As a female I know that you can't put a price on peace and quiet and what of her own sexual pleasure ? Also, what of her own increased standing in her peer group as a peace maker ?

I ask for your opinions on altruism (and do please feel free to comment) because last weekend, I raised the level of magnanimousness to infinity, I agreed to take LP to a "dance competition" in Blackpool. If the truth be known, I was rather looking forward to it because I had never been to Blackpool before and also, I knew she would enjoy the experience because she has been training SO hard, (for which read, almost taking the cat's eye out in the living room with various contortions which would have Madonna reaching for her cod liver oil).

On arrival to the recommended hotel (which by the way, I wouldn't order a sub to stay in), we were greeted with the familiar base beat of the music which was to haunt my life and my dreams for the next 48 hours.

Every parent's worst nightmare (aside from the very obvious) must surely be your treasured child, having consumed three cans of red bull, cartwheeling across the reception area of a hotel, almost knocking the zimmer frame out from under Glenda, recently arrived back from her trip to the local bingo. Ordinarily, I would die before I would allow my little darling anywhere near red bull, but here I had to concede because this is the way it's done at "comps". The dancing that they do is high energy, high effort and in repeated rounds, so if your little treasure wants to do well, taurine it is, like it or lump it.

One gets to an age where night clubs just no longer hold any appeal, the loud music, blinding lights and having to roar at each other become tiresome, a good meal out with some laughter becomes far preferable and to be honest, the thoughts of having some gobshite try and bellow some cheesy lines at me at the bar of a noisy nightclub in an attempt to get me under his duvet just fills me with horror. GET. LOST.

So, here's where the altruism comes into play. I placed myself in a darkened function room for two days, with two hundred wild eyed little princesses, all decked from head to toe in sequins and flinging themselves around to the incessant bellow of massive speakers, HELL.

Of most curiosity were the Mothers who wondered past with a broad beam, " enjoying yourself ? It's a great atmosphere !!"


From time to time, I took time out to retreat to our hotel room, and in spite of my immortal terror of them, I could enjoy the sight of several large rats scampering over the bins at the back of the hotel, (told you it was a dump) mainly because I was two floors above them. I allowed myself a flight of fantasy and pictured what it must be like as a rat. I'm sure it's pretty shit overall, what with natural predators, poisons, not to mention those eejits on a "life of grime", but at least they don't have to sit and "enjoy" two days of some truly dreadful music which would drive squatters and bed bugs out, never mind hotel "guests".

So in the end, I gave up. Sod it, if you can't beat them, join them and I necked two red bulls just to join in the hysteria and see what I was missing out on. Bugger all actually, but at least it convinced LP that an early night was in order if only to stop me doing my "Ebeneezer Good" rave moves on the dance floor, mission accomplished.

In the end, when I had all but voluntarily signed myself in to the nearest secure unit where I could draw with some nice non toxic crayons all day, came the moment, that which made it all worthwhile.

She had done it and lifted a very large trophy over her head, to tumultuous applause, and screeches from her amassed completely delirious and cross eyed peers.

"Altruism" my backside, the reciprocal feeling of maternal pride was one I won't let go of for a very long time to come.

LL xx


  1. How much better they organise the bringing up of children in totalitarian states. All youngsters are enrolled in a youth organistaion such as the Hitler Youth, Bund der Deutschen M├Ądchen and the Yuung Pioneers. These will keep them occupied thro'out the school holidays by camping expeditions, route marches, public works. No need for parents to worry about taking them anywhere.

  2. Without trying to sound like a total wank here, I suppose there's an evolutionary benefit to altruism - the people who learned to work together got on better than the people who didn't and as a result, altruism became a human trait. The fact that people (for the most part) enjoy performing altruistic acts is probably simply to ensure that people continue to perform them (a bit like eating or shagging - people enjoy it to make sure they keep doing it). Although you were obviously delighted that your daughter won (congrats on that by the way), that wasn't the reason you took her in the first place, which is why it was altruistic.

    I think any good parent has to be altrustic, because if they weren't, they would be essentially be neglecting their children.

    Well seen I'm up far too early on a Saturday morning with bugger all to do...

    1. Thanks Bobby :D

      What I found most difficult to deal with was the way some of the mothers spoke to their children, it was nothing short of disgusting. "I don't care if you've twisted your ankle, get up there and dance, that costume cost me £800".

      It seemed to be more about posturing of wealth and achievement via their children, which I think is very wrong.

      If you have bugger all to do I have a ton of ironing here. ;)

    2. If I was feeling altruistic I'd do your ironing...


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