Richemont and defending the caveman

It’s a meme of our era that human behaviour can be traced back to our cave-dwelling days. I’ve often wondered about this. How many randomised-group, dual-structure, controlled experiments have been conducted comparing cavemen and modern Homo sapiens? Not many, I suspect. The notion that our tendencies solidified in pre-history seems to me slightly suspect, no matter how tempting it is to justify our modern-day actions in terms of our notional biological history.
Take this question: Do we fear failure more than we value success? Ah, well, someone will surely say, we have to go back to our caveman days to answer that. Survival in these times naturally depends on caution. It’s all just a question of logic.
Take this example: You have two random cavemen, one of whom was intrigued by the hissing sound emanating from beneath the bush, while the other thinks it might be a better idea to just quietly pass on by. There is a good chance that, on average, the least curious caveman is going to make it back to the cave, where he will enjoy some recreational activity and pass on his lily-livered genes to the next generation. The curious caveman . less so.
Hence, we have inherited a biologically determined fear of failure. Call it the law of the survival of the faint-hearted. Over the millenniums, we have gradually and sensibly become more afraid of failure, because there was a time when our very survival depended on it. It’s rather obvious.
Or is it? Every day, you see people walking on high wires, climbing mountains, driving too fast and generally being idiots from the standpoint of survival. People are such maniacs, we have to have laws preventing them from doing harm to themselves and others, like driving blindly through intersections. Sadly, that law has not yet made it to SA.
These thoughts about the value of failure and success passed through my mind while reading the outcome of the Richemont AGM last week. Richemont AGMs have almost never been in the news. But this time, the company was facing an activist shareholder, Bluebell, which was seeking to put a representative on the board to speak for holders of A-shares. The family holding company of Richemont’s chairman, Johann Rupert, holds 9.1% of the total A-shares, but the family company’s B-shares hold 50% of the voting rights.
This kind of dual-class structure is one of the controversial issues of our times. The ...