Pecking order is a hierarchical system of social organization that originally referred to the dominance in chickens, like those that run the yards at my Sand Valley neighbors. Power in chickens is asserted by various behaviors, including pecking, but in other animals by tooth and claw, while humans use lingo, gloves, shivs, and money.
The ultimate function of a pecking order, as reported from the ivory towers, is to increase the individual or inclusive fitness of the animals involved in its formation. Closer to the truth, in the wilds, fighting to acquire resources such as food, water and mates is expensive in terms of energy and the risk of injury, and by developing a pecking order animals determine which individuals get priority access to resources, particularly when they are limited.
The order isn’t as neat as a deck of cards, graceful as a statistical curve, exacting as a Marine roster, or accurate as a mafia hit system, however it’s seen in every walk of life.
Today, while walking the jungle trail around the Island of Iquitos on crutches, I fell upon two men sparring their roosters ‘with the gloves on’. Each bird wore ping pong balls on the razor spurs, and a 6″ segment of plastic tube that ran from the top to bottom beaks, thus dulling every strike. The animals fought bitterly without blood in an instinct for pecking order for three five minute rounds – the equivalent of about eight rounds of professional boxing – before being put to rest in the shade of a stilted hut. They looked like scuba chickens with regulators and floats, reminding me of when I was chicken to enter the oceanic job market that would include stints as a gardener, babysitter, construction, factory, shop, playground supervisor, cleaning kennels, veterinarian, hobo guide, landlord, author, publisher, teacher, security, professional athlete, coach, technical analyst, psych tech, old folks counselor, and swap meets.
‘Money is the way we keep score at work,’ told a one-lunged semi-pro quarterback and swap meet mogul. This is the attitude I’ve carried into each job, and that there must be more to work than money. You should consider jobs that you would do without a love for money, and let that score be secondary. This is possible in America, but less so among the masses of billions around the world. However, once you make enough money to buy the necessities and are able to focus on the luxuries, then the ‘Pecking order of Finance’ comes into play. This defines the capital structure of an entrepreneur or company, and how it makes financial decisions. The basic idea is that businesses will tend to take the course of least resistance in seeking their financial sources, taking first from the sources that are most readily available, and then steadily moving to sources that may be more difficult to utilize.
If you have ever watched a Peruvian crowd observe a weakened bird pecked to death in the wilds, or a dog among a pack, fish in a feeding frenzy, or cannibals around the spit in the Upper Amazon, it quickly becomes evident that they think differently than the reader. Why are they mesmerized? It’s a death rehearsal for each observer, and he leaves the scene as if rising from a psychiatrist’s couch and greatly relieved that the burdens of his life will end so effortlessly.
And, I clomped from the rooster fight with gloves, leaving stabs in the mud like dropped coconuts, to circle the island. I’m working out to recover from the worst case of anemia in jungle history, and yesterday was a bit dizzy in the steamy humidity and fell bruising a knee. The rental crutches should be pitched tomorrow to resume the normal mend. I hipped past the 800 lb. grandest pig of the island that grunted at the new look, and by a giant turkey that surpasses Guinness Book of Records for the biggest tom at 86 pounds that charged me like a Rottweiler with wings puffing its breast feathers and fanning its tail. But a ‘Rule of Thumb’ of pecking order is that if one individual sees the other is larger, faster, or more determined, he will back off. Previously, I hadn’t had this problem with the animals, and believe they sensed a weakness.
Near the end of the two-mile perimeter hike the trail is trimmed to widen to enter a fifty shanty town on whose fringe a pack of about 15 dogs attacked me like buzzards after intestines. They were of innumerable breeds and varying size, barking ‘Gringo!’ Two wooden canines flashed unexpectedly and caught two of the curs in the chops, that sent the rest of them off yelping, as is the gang way.
The establishment of the dominance hierarchy reduces conflict and is a sort of account. I was the top chicken on the island today, and shall get the royal treatment tomorrow.