A speaker at a conference on ageing I went to recently explained why it is that women live longer than men. Apparently it’s because of the boar hunting. Women’s immune systems work better than men’s because with our ancestors women regularly went through periods of semi starvation. This happened because we valued the aggression and energy of the young men who had the job of hunting the boars enough to give them more food. I hadn’t thought of it like that before, but it is a reasonable explanation of why young men do things differently.
There were a series of things on the radio this morning that made me think about young men, and the place of boar hunting behaviour in politics.
There was the quiet measured voice of Hans Blix talking about his impressions of the Chilcot Inquiry. He was talking about his slow and careful search for the truth of what was happening in Iraq, and how this came up against Tony Blair’s certainty and need for decisive action.
Then there was the upsetting case of the violent young brothers in Doncaster http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8473888.stm
The BBC’s Home editor Mark Easton, did his best to cover this in a fair way, and I found he was also talking about the certainties of young men. He recollected the 1993 speech of Tony Blair and the strong impact that the James Bulger case had on the nation. He talked about the way David Cameron is now using this case. He doubted the advisability of using these extreme cases in this way. He felt that Tony Blair was wrong then and David Cameron is wrong now.
This case is of course is following the standard pattern of the “moral outrage” story that seems to be favoured by Conservative media advisors. First you get the lurid headlines, then you get the question at PMQs and then you get the measured speech, in which we are told Cameron will claim that he has the answers and everything previously has failed.
It takes the arrogance of a young man to be able to make these claims, and of course they are not well founded. These are intractable problems, rare cases, indicators of generations of abuse and unhappiness. There are no quick answers. To indicate that there are is to mislead people.
But to come back to the boar hunt. Elections are our political equivalent. Just getting through a gruelling election process is done with a great deal of adrenalin, testosterone and anger. It’s a young man’s game, which is probably why we are regularly treated to shots of David Cameron out jogging, sweating manfully.
The boar hunters may bring home the bacon, but do they have the qualities we need for good government?
Like it or not we probably need young men, their energy, enthusiasm, and even at times their misplaced certainties and arrogance, but we also need to find ways to ensure that back home at camp, when the boar hunting is over, and the process of governing resumes, that other quieter voices will be heard.