Class Warfare Blog

August 14, 2018

More on Social Control of Society

Filed under: Culture — Steve Ruis @ 9:36 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

I commented recently that “Societies that do not control their own member’s behavior do not survive.” Obviously I am no expert but it is clear that certain memes are fed to us with our mother’s milk that are used as levers later to control what ether happens or can happen.

One of these is tradition. We do things traditionally or because of a tradition. This is basically a brake upon change. A tradition is simply a different way to say “the way we have always done this.” In a culture, this is a way to not forget important things, but how are these traditions created? They are created by people creating them … out of any sort of motivation they want. This is how an annual golf tournament is first staged. How a memorial service is begun (just do it and talk about doing it again next year). Many things are just done in the course of events and become “the way we have always done it.” Coming to my mind are things like harvest festivals and mid-winter fests. As a tradition Christmas, which seems so entrenched now, had a very tough row to hoe (look up the history of Christmas and you will see how many ups and downs it has had).

Another such cultural construct is “honor.” The concept probably stemmed from less experienced hunters being trained by more experienced hunters. It morphed into a code of conduct (actually many such codes) that we applied in militaries, secret societies, etc. In some cultures, honor is prized above many things more real. In a number of countries now there are still honor killings (India?). A young woman gets raped and thus brings dishonor to her family (WTF?) and so her family kills her. Presumably her “reward” will be in whatever afterlife is made available to her.

A third concept is pride. This has both positive and negative connotations. “Have you no pride?” is an admonishment of an underachiever. “You need to take pride in what you have accomplished!” is a compliment. “Pride goeth before a fall” is a warning to not become too prideful. It seems as if there is a pride economy out there in which you can accumulate credits. Could we live without this concept? I suggest, yes, very well.

We are social animals. We have controls on individual behavior to benefit the whole group. Gossip is one such … yes, gossip. By “telling” on everyone, no one in the tribe will be unaware of a miscreant’s misdeeds. Of course, too much of a good thing is always possible and always a mistake. Think of the opinion we have of gossips and scolds. The list above shows others.

So, why do we not educate our people as to these controls and how to function well under them? Is great puzzlement.

Postscript I had a student I was mentoring about what he could get from college. He shared some of his poetry with me. It was not even sophomoric (he was as yet a freshman) but was characterized by lacking any capital letters. I asked about this and he told me it was because of E.E. Cummings (or e.e. cummings as many like to award him) a poet who often used no capitalization. Obviously what was being copied was form and not substance. This is a common mistake of the young (I sure did it a lot). So, since copying is a major source of learning, maybe we need to educate all as to how we control anti-social behavior in our culture. We already teach about the rule of law and law enforcement as a societal control, maybe we need to look into the other founts of such control, including religion.

 

 

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December 18, 2016

Theists are Right … But For the Wrong Reason

We all know that the greatest determinant of which religion you will profess is where you are born. For example, if you wanted to find a Hindu, where would you look? India? That would be my first choice. How about finding a Hindu in the U.S.? New York and its environs is a good place to look, as well as San Jose, California and a county out in Colorado that has over 5% of its population comprised of Hindus. The rest of the country? Well, the odds are not good.

Is this a manifestation of “birds of a feather flock together”? Let’s look at this.

I have been reading the book Sapiens recently, which I recommend to you highly, and the author reminded me that gossip may have played a significant role in the development of human culture. The argument goes like this: Homo sapiens, aka modern humans, shared the planet by as many as five or even six other Homo species for tens of thousands of years, then about 70,000 years ago, Homo sapiens took off like a rocket and, well, see any other Homos around (no, not those homos!)?sapiens-cover

The springboard for this rapid growth of human (sapiens, not just Homo) culture has been assumed to have been the development of language, but as this idea has been explored, it cannot have been just language that caused this cognitive explosion. Other hominids had language and modern apes and other animals do as well, so what was it? One idea worth exploring was that it was gossip (yes, that gossip). Small family groups are cohesive because all members of the troop interact frequently. All members are known to all other members and whether they do their fair share of the labor involved is also known. As groups grow and expand to numbers in the 50-100 range, it gets very much harder to keep track of all the members of the troop, especially with regard to trustworthiness, so when bands got to this size, they often split into smaller, more manageable groups. Then some sort of beneficial mutation in Homo sapiens allowed more sophisticated communication via language and gossip was born. Gossip is how a larger community keeps track of the trustworthiness of larger numbers of members.

Interesting, no? It turns out that there are limits to gossip fueling growth in group sizes, though, the common estimate of that limit being about 150 members in a group. Past that point, something else is needed, and that turned about to be fiction. We made up all kinds of ideas that were at best abstract, but were sufficient to keep people working together. Ideas like collective safety, gods, the superiority of the Green Bay Packers, American Exceptionalism, patriotism, etc. These are all at best pure fictions that people repeat to one another until they are accepted as “gospel.”

This is the role gods play in our societies and cultures. When people say they “believe in god,” they are not saying “I believe in a bunch of foolish nonsense” but are saying “I am a useful, moral member of my community.” When people, like me, go to someplace that is god infused like the Ozarks and say “I do not believe in god,” I am basically saying “I am dangerous and not to be trusted.”

This is why religious folk tend to be found clustered together. Their code for “I am to be trusted” doesn’t work if you are the sole Hindu in a Baptist community. The Hindu pass code only works with other Hindus and the Baptist’s code words only work with other Baptists. Actually most Christian sects will give you a pass if you are a Christian, but this has many, many exceptions. Being a Muslim gets you into almost any Muslim community around the globe, one of the strengths of that religion and, I think, a reason it is growing faster than other religions in numbers of adherents.

This “god pass” is a stage away from gossip. One has to live in a community and interact with a fair number of people before there is a body of gossip that indicates that you are a trustworthy member of the community. Even that is fallible, for example, every mass murderer had a neighbor who characterized him (why aren’t more women mass murders, feminists aren’t working hard enough, I guess), who characterize him as a “quiet boy, who seemed polite,” or some other similar characterization.

The “god pass” can get you into a community or keep you out of one. Look at how Muslims are looking for acceptance and often not finding it here in the U.S., even though they profess to worship the same god as most Americans (but apparently not in the right way).

In the absence of such “passes” most people are treated as “others,” that is with suspicion and caution which can expand into hatred and even violence.

The biggest problem with the “god pass” though, is that it has so much baggage with it. There are some here in the U.S. who seem to worship the Bible more than the god it describes and they have definite rules and ideas of how people should behave (that are often not supported by Bible texts, but that’s irrelevant in that their fiction is just supplanting a Bible fiction). If “I believe in god” were just a simple claim of basic trustworthiness and morality, we could find another fiction that could replace it (I believe in the American flag?) fairly easily, preferably one that doesn’t contradict reality so often. But because of the baggage and the links of extraneous things to that baggage, it will be quite difficult.

The only thing I could come up with is I could start selling identity cards that contain a statement that “The Bearer of this card doesn’t not believe in God (or Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, or any other supernatural being) but is basically a good person who wouldn’t hurt a fly unless attacked and just wants to get along with one and all so we can all live good lives.”

We could call it the Good Samaritan Card. Don’t leave home without your God Pass™!

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