Continuing on from my earlier post on cuilco biology, here’s the next installment: on how cuilco lived ‘in a state of nature’, and a brief overview of their social development since.
Cuilco evolved to live in small societies. The primordial cuilco ‘band’ comprises around three or four senior breeding pairs, one generation of junior breeding pairs, and one or two generations of juveniles, along with any surviving members of the last senior breeding generation. Societies thus consist of a few dozen individuals, and indeed cuilco are generally incapable of sustaining lasting social relationships with more than around fifty individuals – beyond that number, they find themselves unable to feel strong attitudes of love, loyalty, empathy, or even hatred, and are likely to struggle to remember names and faces automatically. Within the band, however, relationships are strong, enduring, and emotional. Moreover, each individual has a core relationship-group of around half a dozen individuals, from whom they are all but inseparable.
Cuilco pair-bonding begins in childhood. Young cuilco have typically found their mates in adolescence – mates are rarely (though occasionally) siblings or aunts/uncles, but a clear blood relation is not uncommon. As they age, some pairs will remain with the native band, while others will leave, sometimes with another pair, and will find another band to join, or will found a new band. This continual ingress and egress of genes prevents the gene pool of any band from becoming too incestuous – incest is thus minimised not (primarily) by limiting breeding within the group, but in the movement of breeding pairs maintaining diversity within the group.
‘Sexual’ behaviour starts at a young age and is continual, but actual breeding is rare. In adolescence, cuilco engage in mock sexual behaviour designed to reveal the sex of their playmates, but these individuals are not yet capable of breeding. Later in life, this mock behaviour continues as a form of social bonding behaviour and for enjoyment, but arousal is not great enough to enable sex to be discerned – and indeed it is often not possible to distinguish this ‘sexual’ behaviour from other forms of physical play, in which cuilco indulge extensively even in adulthood (this pseudo-sexual behaviour is enjoyable, but not so much as copulation is in most species). Females enter a breeding cycle in adulthood whereby they enter heat once a year until they conceive, and then become sexually disinterested for many years (though they continue to engage in play). This heat is very difficult to discern externally, but ought to be detected by the female’s mate. Foreplay is lengthy, distinguished by its increasing intensity over a period of several days, and by the pair’s increasing monogamy of play (outside of breeding play, pairs are no more likely to engage in play with each other than with their friends, parents and children); actual copulation, by contrast, is brief, and not much more enjoyable for either party than normal play. Females typically engage in two or three of these breeding periods each time they enter heat – most often, they breed with their mate, but it is not unknown for them to breed with their mate’s father or brother instead. This reinforces bonds within the band, and acts as a safeguard against infertility or impotence. Clearly, cuilco breeding – from the difficulties of sex identification to the non-obviousness of heat to the length of foreplay required – has evolved to strongly deter casual breeding with outsiders, and to reinforce the bonds of loyalty within the group.
Of course, cuilco may have evolved to live in small, tight-knit communities, but that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of co-operation with outsiders. Indeed, as cuilco have little instinct toward dominating or controlling other cuilco, cuilco bands were usually able to co-operate relatively peacefully and easily, and in large numbers.
However, cuilco bands lack a defined leader, and have little explicit hierarchy or law (as they rely on familial love to enforce altruism within the band), and this made many forms of collaboration difficult – each individual would need to be recruited to a task individually, they could not simply be ‘commanded’. As a result of this, monetary systems of exchange arose extremely early among cuilco, even before agriculture, irrigation or mining.
Nonetheless, cuilco were able to recognise the value of sharing larger communities than their personal bands – for one thing, collective judgement and punishment was often required when individuals violated their contracts or engaged in violence. Accordingly, primitive ‘chiefdoms’ developed. The more succesful chiefdoms attracted immigrants and were able to sustain higher growth rates, gradually transforming into small civilised states.
Yet states do not come naturally to cuilco. Cuilco have no sense of duty, other than the very vaguest, to any other cuilco than their own band, no instinct to obey laws or rulers other than out of fear or self-interest. Left to their own devices, they minimise contact with outsiders and live as much as possible within their own families. As a result, while states were able to grow, they were never able to remain stable – with prosperity accomplished and threats abated, ‘decadence’ quickly set in, each cuilco looking out for their own interest and that of their immediate companions – concepts of glory, power, fraternity, or honour, that so motivate public-spirited actions in other species, have had very little hold over cuilco souls (though this should not be entirely overstated – cuilco are able to understand these concepts, may even praise them, but no not find that they arise naturally or readily, or have any great emotional power relative to other motivations). Cuilco co-operation has always leant very heavily on monetary rewards.
The success of cuilco societies, therefore, has been closely tied to their social structures. As explained above, cuilco are only able to sustain meaningful and emotionally-invested relationships with a relatively small number of individuals; in primitive bands, these relationships are ‘closed’, in that members of the band had relationships only to other band members. This forms tightly-bound, inward-looking groups, which do not bind strongly to other bands. But as bands began to co-operate with one another more fully, some members of the band would come to have relationships with outsiders. They would thus be invested to some extent in the well-being of these outsiders, and their families would share this investment through them, and so on. The more ‘open’ and inter-woven the networks of relationships became, the more cohesive the society that formed. Open networks birthed succesful, powerful societies capable of flexible collective action, widespread altruism, and the enforcement of good order. Yet as these societies became wealthier, the pressure to co-operate by forming relationships with outsiders lessened, and societies became more divided, and eventually fell apart. This process occured repeatedly at several levels: within a society, the more openly-connected became rich and succesful, only to be replaced as the elite class once they had become too comfortable and inward-facing; and the same occured for towns and chiefdoms within a state; and the same occured for states; and the same occured for zones of civilisation.
Large-scale progress therefore required the existence of enduring open networks of relationships, that appealed to more permanent and less achievable motivations than comfort, safety, leisure and luxury. These networks were religions. Religious organisations arose that enforced open networks upon their members. These did not typically try to engulf the whole of society, but spread through society as a supporting lattice, enabling a degree of continuity and society-wide solidarity.
Yet even religion has not been a sufficiently powerful force for order. Atheism, religious wars, and moral terpitude have repeatedly seen religions collapse, and with them the societies they support.
Most importantly, when cuilco, centuries ago, finally reached for the stars… they discovered other cuilco. This is at least the second era of interstellar cuilco civilisation. What ended the first is unknown: there is no shortage of records (cuilco civilisation is tens of millennia old, and records and monuments of the past are ubiquitous), but there has not survived either the technological or the linguistic knowledge to interpret them. As a result, given this ominous and little-understood lesson from history, cuilco tend to be pessimistic about the future of their own current civilisation – even though it currently appears secure and sound.