The society of blackbirds

A group of Moluccan blackbirds squabble. On closer inspection, five of them are in the process of beating the sixth. Beak and claw strokes. The victim does not lead wide and flees with a wing, pursued by the vengeful group, which gets tired after a few moments. Guilty of a mysterious incarceration, the blackbird was tried and punished.

The scene would hardly have surprised me if the Moluccas had attacked a crow or other foreign intruder. Here this strictly internal affair raises the question: Is it advantageous for the species that its members fight, at the risk of mortally injuring themselves and reducing their numbers? A priori yes, since the Moluccas quickly conquered the entire Caledonian territory when they were introduced in 1867, despite an already strong avian presence. These birds are very intelligent, that is, capable of detailed representation of the world to better submit it to them. But does this only have benefits for the species?

Intelligence has a side effect: aggregating more parameters to refine the image of the world, it is personalized more. She distances herself from others. Each individual makes his own inner reality. Within it, the representation of the collective also takes on a personal coloration. The "common" rules are in fact a local version, which the individual seeks to assert to others. There is therefore a conflict on two levels: between clearly individual intentions, but also between the versions of collective rules carried by individuals.

The resolution of the conflict is quite different in the two cases. When the fight between two people is managed with the help of a truly common rule, the loser accepts the outcome. If the rule itself is included in the disagreement, no constructive outcome can emerge from it. Corollary: intelligence must progress in concert with social consciousness. Intelligence being a conceptual hierarchy, as we have seen here,society hierarchizes in parallel so that some members symbolize the rules. They are the only indisputably common reference between individuals.

I can therefore safely assume that the Moluccas, endowed with a keen individual intelligence, possess an elaborate language that allows them to elaborate sophisticated social rules. They have no trouble spotting when one of them transgresses them. The strength of the grouping is a much greater advantage than the risk of losing the one who does not comply. The combination of the two intelligences, individual and social, ensures the success of the species.

The most gifted in this field was Homo sapiens. Its exceptional position comes from the rigorous collectivist treatment of conflicts between individuals. It has formed a complex hierarchy for a fine-tuning between these two importances, individual and collective, which does not harm either of them. Each holds the other in respect without suffocating him. In the big cats, individualism is too strong; in insects, too weak. Despite the spectacular power of the individual in the former, of the collective in the latter, they did not win the evolutionary competition.


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