Symmetrical Motifs

So far, we have considered only what we have called "complementary" patterns of relationship, in which the behavior patterns at one end of the relationship are different from, but fit in with, the behavior patterns at the other end (dominance-submission, etc.). There exists, however, a whole category of human interpersonal behavior which does not conform to this description. In addition to the contrasting complementary patterns, we have to recognize the existence of a series of symmetrical patterns, in which people respond to what others are doing by themselves doing

13 The Balinese social system in the mountain communities is almost entirely devoid of such dualisms. The ethological differentiation of the sexes is rather slight; political factions are completely absent. In the plains, there is a dualism which has resulted from the intrusive Hindoo caste system, those with caste being discriminated from those without caste. At the symbolic level (partly as a result of Hindoo influence) dualisms are much more frequent, however, than they are in the social structure (e.g., Northeast vs. Southwest, Gods vs. demons, symbolic Left vs. Right, symbolic Male vs. Female, etc.).

14 A fourth instance of this threefold pattern occurs in some great public schools (as in Charterhouse), where the authority is divided between the quieter, more polished, intellectual leaders ("monitors") and the rougher, louder, athletic leaders (captain of football, head of long room, etc.), who have the duty of seeing to it that the "fags" run when the monitor calls.

15 For a general discussion of cultural variants of the Oedipus situation and the related systems of cultural sanctions, cf. M. Mead ("Social change and cultural something similar. In particular, we have to consider those competitive16 pat-terns in which individual or group A is stimulated to more of any type of behavior by perceiving more of that same type of behavior (or greater success in that type of behavior) in individual or group B.

There is a very profound contrast between such competitive systems of behavior and complementary dominance-submission systems —a highly significant contrast for any discussion of national character. In complementary striving, the stimulus which prompts A to greater efforts is the relative weakness in B; if we want to make A subside or submit, we ought to show him that B is stronger than he is. In fact, the complementary character structure may be summarized by the phrase "bully-coward," implying the combination of these characteristics in the personality. The symmetrical competitive systems, on the other hand, are an almost precise functional opposite of the complementary. Here the stimulus which evokes greater striving in A is the vision of greater strength or greater striving in B; and, inversely, if we demonstrate to A that B is really weak, A will relax his efforts.

It is probable that these two contrasting patterns are alike available as potentialities in all human beings; but clearly, any individual who behaves in both ways at once will risk internal confusion and conflict. In the various national groups, consequently, different methods of resolving this discrepancy have developed. In England and in America, where children and adults are subjected to an almost continuous barrage of disapproval whenever they exhibit the complementary patterns, they inevitably come to accept the ethics of "fair play." Responding to the challenge of difficulties, they cannot, without guilt, kick the underdog.17 For British morale Dunkirk was a stimulus, not a depressant.

In Germany, on the other hand, the same cliches are apparently lacking, and the community is chiefly organized on the basis of a complementary hierarchy in terms of dominance-submission. The dominance behavior is sharply and clearly developed; yet the picture is not perfectly clear and needs further investigation. Whether a pure dominance-submission hierarchy could ever exist as a stable system is doubtful. It seems that in the case of Germany, the submission end of the pattern is masked, so that overt submissive behavior is almost as strongly tabooed as it is in America or England. In place of submission, we find a sort of parade-ground impassivity.

A hint as to the process by which the submissive role is modified and rendered tolerable comes to us out of the inter-views in a recently begun study of German life histories.18 One German subject described how different was the treatment which he, as a boy, received in his South German home, from that which his sister received. He

16 The term "cooperation," which is sometimes used as the opposite of "competition," covers a very wide variety of patterns, some of them symmetrical and others complementary, some bipolar and others in which the cooperating individuals are chiefly oriented to some personal or impersonal goal. We may expect that some careful analysis of these patterns will give us vocabulary for describing other sorts of national characteristics. Such an analysis cannot be attempted in this paper.

17 io It is, however, possible that in certain sections of these nations, complementary patterns occur with some frequency—particularly among groups who have suffered from prolonged insecurity and uncertainty, e.g., racial minorities, depressed areas, the stock exchange, political circles, etc.

18 G. Bateson, unpublished research for the Council on Human Relations.

said that much more was demanded of him; that his sister was allowed to evade discipline; that whereas he was always expected to click his heels and obey with precision, his sister was allowed much more freedom. The interviewer at once began to look for intersex sibling jealousy, but the subject declared that it was a greater honor for the boy to obey. "One doesn't expect too much of girls," he said. "What one felt they (boys) should accomplish and do was very serious, because they had to be prepared for life." An interesting inversion of noblesse oblige.

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