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The Common Ancestor not only disliked being dominated; it ganged up actively in coalitions to cut down the power of its alphas or would-be alphas. Typically, people ruled in this way—whether in the former Soviet Union or contemporary Iran—are highly ambivalent about the authority above them. As a practical matter we may, of course, see benefits in having a strong, highly powerful figure govern us, especially when our groups become large and unwieldy.

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At the other extreme is our American democracy, in which people realize they need to be governed by a central authority but are determined to keep their leaders from accumulating power beyond what is necessary to keep the nation functioning. The basic assumption about human nature is that leaders will just naturally want to aggrandize their power. Democratic nations are never as egalitarian as hunting bands, yet the political dynamics are similar.

I do not mean to oversimplify the picture.

Frans de Waal | Speaker | TED

As psychiatrist Erich Fromm has claimed, people may sometimes appreciate a powerful and even ruthlessly despotic leader. And long before Hitler came to power, sociologist Max Weber argued that people may submit their autonomy to an especially charismatic leader. But of course, many despots are without charisma and use bald coercive force to dominate resentful populations. In such situations, change may come either through violent revolution or, often enough, by historical evolution when a tyrant like Stalin dies. For the most part, though, human history has rebuffed the claims of those political thinkers, most notably Thomas Hobbes , who have assumed that strong, authoritarian leadership is required to rule our inherently unruly species.

In effect these egalitarian bands did something very special about the problem of power. In doing so, hunter-gatherers were able to cooperate effectively because their societies were so small. Similarly, a large national democracy can do its best to vigilantly limit power and uphold civil rights. But just like a hunting band, it must watch carefully for would-be dictators in order to pre-emptively curb their power if need be, and stand up to them decisively if they do get the bit in their teeth. This theory about our political evolution helps us understand why we are so often ambivalent about power.

In that he was far more eloquent about wanting a listening and learning church.

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When it comes to the devil's brew of Northern politics, the new primate's nervousness will lead to considerable caution in public statements. Some Northern priests wonder about his ability to deal with the huge political pressures a Catholic primate must regularly face; whether, for example, he has the mental strength and ability to shut out his emotions which sustained Cardinal Daly during such times of crisis.


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On the other hand, he is not a defensive Northern tribal Catholic. At this week's press conference he appeared to indicate that he might be more sympathetic to Catholic parents wanting to send their children to integrated schools than his predecessor.

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Dr Brady is also no pious, other worldly prelate. He would share the constitutional nationalism of his father, once a Fianna Fail local councillor, and has a keen interest in the Republic's politics. HIS kindness is near legendary.

The story is told that, while rector of the Irish College, he insisted on taking in an elderly, ill and homeless Galway man who had somehow ended up in Rome and housing him for years in the college's basement. He will need all his physical strength for the gruelling routine of a Catholic primate, travelling , miles a year within Ireland on bishops' conference business and, as its president, acting as the recipient of all commands and communications from Rome.

Dr Brady's reputation in Rome as a good delegator will continue in Armagh.

Frans de Waal on Political Apes, Science Communication, and Building a Cooperative Society

Unlike Cardinal Daly, or Cardinal William Conway in the s, he will not dominate the bishops' conference with his intellectual powers or his. He has few of the media and communications skills of Cardinal Daly, and will rely on the advice of Cavan friends like Father Ray Brady of Killinkere, a writer and local newspaper columnist, and Father John O'Donnell of Blackljon, a former president of BLE, the national athletics body. The phrases used most frequently about the new Archbishop of Armagh are "unproven" and "unknown quantity".


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  5. Dr Brady knows that inspirational leadership is conspicuously lacking in the Irish church at the moment. If he cannot provide it, there are those in Rome who believe others will have to step into the breach, and the centre of gravity of the Irish church may move away from Armagh, as it did in the last century and in the s and s.

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    We use cookies to personalise content, target and report on ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. For more information see our Cookie Policy. New primate will stress pastoral role ahead of politics Sat, Nov 2, , Instead, the amygdala, within the limbic brain, will dominate thinking and decision making skewed by fear and looking to create disgust in the electorate. So, whilst the "costume" that the leadership hopefuls wear is based on higher brain function communications: the reasoning, and argument that emerge in debates and manifestos, and the complex problem-solving skills that are promised, this is often little more than a smokescreen for the ape-like impulses lurking just beneath the surface.

    Giveaways are overly simplistic political sloganeering and "Punch and Judy" style baiting of adversaries, however eloquent or entertaining the exposition. We can see the same phenomenon projected onto a societal scale with the rise of nationalism globally. As I explored in my TEDx talk on neuroscience and nationalism, the human brain has evolved massively but still tends to react in a tribal way. I recently re-tweeted a link to it is as a lesson for presidents, politicians and people everywhere, because we need to remain mindful that this urge to think in black and white, and to define oneself in opposition to an "other" runs deep, at neuro-biological level as well as a more conscious, narrative level.

    The sage in society talk about learning lessons from history; the popularity of books like Sapiens enable us to learn from human evolution, and documentaries like Planet Earth 2 show us there is much to learn from animal kingdoms and our impact on them. Here are three things I see as key traits for the "Limbic leader 2. We are too ready to follow leaders who make impulsive decisions and have an inflated over-confidence in their capabilities and point of view. We need to learn to seek leaders who listen more and demonstrate humility and a sense that they are willing to adapt and change their mind.

    They engage the more productive aspects of the limbic brain to counterbalance amygdala dominance and aggression.