In 1959, the same year as the Cuban revolution, Soviet scientists began implementing a project to tame silver foxes on a farm in the ill-famed region of Siberia.
From among the initial population they bred the meekest animals, repeating this procedure with each subsequent generation. After several decades the outcome turned out to be as encouraging as it was surprising.
Much earlier than expected, they managed to transform the fierce silver fox into a meek, playful little animal that was avid for human affection (it would be necessary to investigate further to find if they were like that in the most intimate settings of if they developed dual behavioral patterns).
However, what was most curious was that with that meekness appeared other unexpected phenotypic features (such as changes in color and hair texture, the configuration of their ears, et al.).
The experiment on that Siberian farm is helping us understand how wolves and other wild animals became domesticated, yet it could also shed some light on the socio-biological processes that human beings suffer under totalitarian systems.
I wonder if there isn’t also occurring social and/or genetic selection among the meekest of us, with other repercussions taking place in terms of our physical characteristics. Could it be that this is what has been happening to Cubans since ‘59 up through today?
Since this website is a blog and not a scientific magazine, I take advantage of it to talk about my personal experiences. Other people will have stories that both support and contradict mine.
More than 30 years ago, the children in my neighborhood were quite different from those today; their raging mischief was much riskier, and by high school they had already solidified the temperaments of men and women. But 15 or 20 years later, the situation changed considerably.
Toward the end of the ‘80s, the games started becoming more docile, and even with good diets subsidized by the USSR, kids were becoming increasingly childish at around the middle school level.
The regression to the frikis (“freekies,” or punk rockers) is another example that I can point to. Those punksters of 30 years ago were young people who were skeptical and suspect of social norms.
They went around almost always eating poorly, drunk or popping pills, along with a scruffy look and the macabre air of “I don’t have any reason to like you” – which was consistent with their continual rows with the police.
Their closest relatives today are the “emos”, with their expensive body piercings and hairstyles.
Different from in the past, these kids will promptly and submissively comply when the agents of law and order run them out — embarrassed — of their niches when these authorities pull out their night sticks (of course there are always exceptions).
From my childhood and my teens I remember the tremendous pressure at school, public morals and the family to “achieve” while they simultaneously reinforced meekness in me and other children. Thank God I reacted in time and in the opposite direction.
At this moment in time, despite my 36 years, I still conserve many of my physical and mental features of adolescence, which to some degree are reflected in each one of my posts. I don’t know if I should protest or be pleased with the differences between me and my father and grandfathers (no hair has ever grown on my chest, though I rule out our incongruence due to other likenesses).
If my hypothesis is true (one which I’ve “heard” before from the mouths all types of radical philosophers as well as demented and lucid ones), then this phenomenon should have began to reverse itself with the crisis of state “socialism,” which started in the “Special Period” crisis of the ‘90s.
In fact, I believe that the reversion is in progress since everybody’s complaining that kids these days (especially those from the barrios), are increasingly unmanageable. They’re unmanageable with tendencies toward vandalism and a preoccupation with money, which is another form of meekness.
But I don’t blame them. It’s the times, in addition to the unexpected results of such an old experiment as that of the Siberian silver foxes.