Advanced Happy Valentines Day!

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Who would one expect to see jumping up and down with excitement? Lovers all over the world? Wrong. Most excited of all will be the retailers. Valentine's Day is an occassion that sees us engaging in a most wasteful orgy of gift-giving and consumption. Compared to that other consumerist occassion, Christmas, where the proportion of durable goods that exchange hands is relatively bigger, trinkets that are bought and given out during Valentine's Day are primarily non-durable. Almost all end up destined for a landfill or a sewer within days of their purchase.

This is because Valentine's Day is a mating occassion. The biggest excesses in terms of consumption and fitness displays are manifestations of a multi-million-year-old biological predisposition coded at the genetic level that is shared by all sexually-reproducing organisms regardless of what part of the food chain they form part of.

Anything that is not essential to survival but is displayed or engaged in conspicuously -- a male peacock's tail, bird songs, facial hair, pouty lips, obnoxious SUV's -- are all fitness indicators meant to attract mates. The silliness of Valentine's Day rituals are channels for signalling one's fitness indicators. An ability to deliver to one's prospective mate costly but pointless goods and services -- expensive dates, non-essential treats, richly-adorned trinkets, etc. -- imply surplus resources at one's disposal. Prospective mates reading these signals evaluate these on the basis of the strength of a single message -- that the signal sender's ability to afford wasteful consumption is an indicator of a surplus of fitness and therefore a highly eligible specimen to mix genetic code with and produce offspring that are highly fit to propagate one's genetic code down the line.

There is nothing about the wastefulness of Valentine's Day that need be subject to moral judgment. It just is. It's just the way we are. It's just the way we evolved. The splendid specimens of our species that we are today are the results of hundreds of thousands of years of our parents', their parents' and their parents' parents' engaging in this process of sexual signalling and sexual evaluation. Suffice to say, individual organisms within species that lacked a genetic predisposition to both strut their stuff and choose their mates shrewdly did not make it.

Happy Valentine's Day in advance (we here at tend to be quite a number of steps ahead of most as a matter of habit)!

Primary reference of this article:

Miller, G. F., (2009). Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior. Viking Adult (New York)


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