Dateline: GREENLAND—A sociobiological study from Bigwig University in Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland shows that the areas around the world with the hottest temperatures tend to be inhabited by more aggressive, bellicose peoples, or “hotheads,” as the study calls them, while colder zones are home to more peaceful, even timid populations.
The team of scientists concludes that collective belligerence is a form of literal hot-headedness in which a screaming-hot environment transfers its heat to the human head and turns the mind into a stew of animal reactions, bypassing the brain’s rational faculties and driving the population as a whole to childish displays of wonton irrationality and brutality.
The deserts of the Middle East and Africa, along with Southeast Asia, Central America, Mexico, and the southern (Republican) United States are marked by dictatorships, perennial civil wars, gang wars, coups, chaos, rampant crime, riots, bloody uprisings, bigotry or fundamentalist lunacy.
By contrast, Canada, Alaska, the northern (Democratic) United States, and Europe are known for being sober, peaceful, and stable to the point of being infamously dull.
“It’s hard to stir up trouble,” said the team’s lead researcher, Professor Francesca Bobbins, “or to get all offended and hot-headed when there’s a foot of snow outside your door or when you know the snow will come in a matter of weeks or months. I mean literally, it’s hard to heat your head enough to sustain animal rage when it’s often super-cold out.
“But just imagine living in a desert that fries and scrambles your brains. How can you stop to think when you’re always stinking and soaking wet with sweat? Haven’t you got to take your rage out on someone, like the government or a rival sect or some other scapegoat? Mustn’t the excess heat that bubbles up in the heads of those dwelling in a humid environment be vented back into the world by some series of violent outbursts to prevent those heads from exploding?”
The researchers tested their hypothesis by observing the facial expressions and by measuring the heat steaming off of the heads of subjects who agreed just to stand for hours in the streets of altogether too-hot places, including San Antonio, Mexico City, Khartoum, Riyadh, and Bangkok. Invariably, the test subjects became increasingly agitated as the sweat streamed down their faces, dampening their shirts and messing up their underwear.
Subjects reported feeling their blood boil when strangers stopped merely to say “Hello” and were unable to concentrate when the researchers posed simple problems to them to determine whether heat negatively affects cognition.
“The sociobiologist asked me, ‘What’s two times four?’ and I swear I blanked,” recalled one test subject. “Back home in Halifax, Canada, I could have answered that with no problem, but standing there in Riyadh in that dreadful heat, my fevered brain was racing from one impulse and nonsensical notion to the next, as if the desert were boiling my neurons. All I could think was: ‘Get me the fuck out of this oppressive heat!’ And failing that, ‘Whom can I take out this aggression on?’”
As one of the researchers explained, “It’s like the difference between cold and boiling water. When water is very cold it’s frozen and so it tends to stay put, going nowhere; but when it boils, it spills out and bubbles up everywhere from the transfer of energy.”
Critics point out that the experiment was conducted in large cities, which suggests that the aggression may have been caused not by the blazing heat, but by the nearby presence of way too many people, the principle being as Sartre said, that “Hell is other people.”
The researchers replied that there are large cities in peaceful nations too, such as Toronto, Canada. What turns one large population into “placid, mousey little nobodies” and another into “a horde of raging orcs and barbarians” is largely the climate, said Professor Bobbins. “For example, the infusion of Middle Eastern immigrants into France and the UK and the conflicts this has stirred up there can be interpreted thermodynamically. The immigrants’ heads store the excess heat from their native lands and disperse it in the cooler climates of Western Europe. That transfer of heat causes social chaos.”
The report has also been criticized for failing to take into account the counterexample of Australia. Australians are known for being friendly and laid back, and yet much of that continent is as hot as anywhere else on the planet.
The researchers credit this apparent discrepancy to Australia’s British heritage. Like Canada, modern Australia was colonized by the United Kingdom. The team theorized that abundant rain can function like snow in dissuading a population from wanting to go outdoors to kick up a mighty ruckus.
“The rain-soaked temperament of Brits was passed onto Australian culture, making Aussies as tranquil and bloodless as Canadians,” said Professor Bobbins.
“As for Russia,” she continued, “while it’s true that Russians have historically preferred authoritarian rulers and been as brutal as all get-out, as in their laying waste to the Nazis, it’s notable that the soviets saw their ideology as being especially rational, even scientific. The Nazis, too, looked to science to support their social Darwinian prejudices.
“Temperature is only one factor in determining a population’s passivity or aggression, not the only one,” she conceded. “But while European and North Asian forms of violence are couched in rational or pseudoscientific terms, those forms that break out in scorching-hot zones are chaotic or primitive, showing similarities to the sort of genetic tribalism we see in other species.
“This is because the sweltering heat shuts down the cerebral cortex, leaving mainly the older, emotional and reactionary parts of the brain to steer the ship—and to pick up the pieces when those primitive forms of thinking crash the ship into a cliff.”