Showing posts with label Tribalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tribalism. Show all posts

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dealing With "Isms"

It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group.  A racial group.  Or a language.  Or anything, as long as it isn't the whole population.  Friday Baldwin in Friday. Robert A. Heinlein. 1982.

One of the unfortunate features of social media is that people are sorted out into groups based on one "ism" or another, usually on the basis of what they are against rather that what they are for.  Feminism for example has a package of male behaviors that they rebel against, Paternalism, privilege, Bro networks, sexism, (as defined by feminists) and others.   Many of these are justified, but men are judged by gender rather than whether they actually exhibit any of these behaviors. 

 Once an "ism" gains traction it generally fractionates into groups with agendas that are more important than the overall ideals of the nominally fundamental "ism."  In a few cases a charismatic leader can unify the groups under a larger tent and become a political or socially potent movement.  Charasmatic leaders generally are short lived, frequently literally, and their movement fractures once again into narrow interest groups.

 The most important way of dealing with isms is not to get sucked up into one.  The customs of your ism become a part of your cultural matrix.  
To believe you can live free of your cultural matrix is one of the easiest fallacies and has some of the worst consequences. You are part of your group whether you like it or not, and you are bound by its customs.

Don't belittle customs.  It is easier to change Mendelian characteristics than to change customs.   If you try to ignore them, they bind you when you least expect it.

Don't break them--avoid them.  Take them into your considerations, examine how they work, and make them serve you.

Claude Morden, Beyond This Horizon, Chapter 15, p 147 NAL, Robert A. Heinlein.  

 While I am an ally and active supporter of many isms, I am very selective in how I do so, and am very careful to avoid making the cultural matrix of the ism part of my thinking and behavior.  

 I was brought up by strong, independent women to believe that women were just as capable as men at anything they chose to do, and therefore chose to consider only such women as possible mates.  One would think that Feminism would therefore be a natural cultural matrix for me, but none of the strong, independent women I knew would have anything to do with Feminism as they were too involved in their own ventures to have any interest. I chose to do all that I could to support their ventures, at a high cost due to the cultural matrix of the Paternalistic culture I was part of as a child, and opposition from the cultural matrix of the feminists.  I expected the Paternalist opposition, and knew how to deal with it, the Feminists were a surprise.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tribes, Monkeyspheres, Governments and Cults

 Tribes are the normal social systems for humans. Once tribes get beyond the Monkeysphere* which describes most modern tribes the possibility of becoming cults is an ever present danger. 

  Seeing through the crap is the first step in apostasy. Being identified as a radical is the first step in excommunication. You can't change them. Save them the trouble. Find a support group elsewhere and Fuck 'em.

 Where large organizations break down into Monkeysphere tribes, cults are usually avoided. Most companies, even large companies until the '60s were generally collections of tribes. So were most churches. 

 One of the advantages of small senior communities and Gated Communities and city villages is they preserve the tribal community for better or worse. Tribes tend to be homogeneous in culture and ethnicity. When they get too big for the Monkeysphere the homogeneity can become the basis for a cult.

 I think it is no accident that the village or parish is the basic unit of human society. Our monkeysphere is about 150-200 people whose behavior we can affect with the subtle social cues (the raised eyebrow, frown, or quick smile ) to say that behavior is or is not in accordance with the morals of the society. That is, what our common moral tendencies tell us is right. The morality of the village is pretty well solidified by Fulghum's Kindergarten.
 Where these groups are local, isolated and stable almost anything can be moral, witch burning, infanticide, child sacrifice, killing everybody in the next village. Whoops, almost forgot, except the virgins.  Blue Roads 4/26/08

 I suspect that as the twitterspheres and facebookspheres sort themselves out they will become either tribes or cults.  I have some friends on Facebook that I have to block their cult posts.  Not really an issue if they have other redeeming values they can still be in my facebook tribe which is well below my monkeysphere in size.

 There are very few of us who can find what we need for personal fulfillment if we become "Stickers" for the sake of sticking and building and maintaining a community. The school to meet our aspirations may be across the country or around the world. The job we have prepared for may not be in the same community as the school where we learned our trade. Then we grow in our trade and outgrow the job that started our career, or our significant other may have outgrown the community we live in and another community change is in order.

  Friends and associates in our monkeysphere also scatter so even if we would like to be stickers, the rest of the community isn't and we are stuck with a bunch of new neighbors, new industries, and even a bunch of new people in our church. that may change it beyond our comfort level.

  There may still be a few communities where sticking is a possibility, but they are rare and the vibrant cutting edge industry that is a necessity for such a community, works against the stickers maintaining a stable community.

  Where are we to find our roots? Is it possible that soil and bricks are no longer necessary for rootedness, but that the nascent communities on the internet will become the new roots for the boomers (old definition)? Is facebook our new village green or post office where we get our daily social strokes? Are blogs the coffee houses where we share our profound ideas with like minded profound thinkers? Is our little piece of the net the new community where the boomers are rooted? I think so. There will still be meet ups and face time but they will be increasingly mediated on the net, and with few exceptions community roots in jobs, churches, and neighborhoods will be non-existent. 
Blue Roads, 7/7/09

 I have been thinking a lot recently about that responsibility for the other "We's." I know where it begins. It begins with those closest to me, and extends at least to the monkeysphere. Probably also to those anonymous readers of this blog and the letters I write to newspapers etc, It certainly extends to the audiences I perform for. But does it extend to the bigots who are trying to change my laws, or only those who will be affected by those laws. Am I responsible for the Shiites and the Sunnis, or should I be content to let them bomb themselves out of existence with perhaps a little help from the Israelis and Wahabis.

 Or Haiti? Or New Orleans. If they do not have the resources through their own mismanagement/misgovernment to rebuild or even succor the injured do I have any responsibility to help? I'm thinking the answer is no. Humans are evolving, and in evolution the winners don't help the losers. They are too busy helping themselves. I have limited resources, and even if I didn't, the buck at Radio Shack for Haiti will be used for much more worthwhile causes. Blue Roads 2/12/10

 *There is a much more scholarly version of the Monkeysphere out there but as usual Cracked explains more. http://www.cracked.c om/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html

Thursday, April 13, 2017

On Humor

 Another guest post to begin an essay I have been thinking about for a couple of years now.
Nyah Wynne
Somehow we have gotten this notion in the culture that humor is value-neutral. That something being a joke means it doesn't mean anything, it doesn't affect anything. But it's absurd. Humor has a powerful social function. Several in fact. It can help people bind over shared adversity. It can smooth over feelings of social discomfort around uncomfortable or uncertain events and ideas. In this last, a message about how to think about something is often included implicitly. But it also plays a very large role in social censure and definition of in/out group. As social censure it acts as an attack against people -doing- things that are culturally deemed unacceptable but not so bad that they warrant punishment(or where social systems don't exist to enact punishment). This can be very useful, as mocking those acting rudely or engaging in petty cruelty can help to correct those actions, or can be destructive if the taboos they enforce/reinforce are unjust.

But this same social censure can end up targeting whole groups of people along utterly arbitrary lines. And when they do they tend to create/reinforce and recreate in each new generation systems of social advantage/oppression. Humor is possibly The Strongest Inculcation Tool for teaching prejudice. Because it is a set of social cues we are primed to respond to without thinking. Because humor has such a strong group-bonding component, the social incentive to laugh along with the joke is high. And when you see others laugh with the joke, the incentive to tell similar jokes is high. And the group bonds over it, and the message sinks in without really ever being critically appraised. And eventually that message forms a baseline subconscious assumption about the world unless you run into a strong reason to actively work to weed it out.

It ends up playing a part in defining on a deep level who is and isn't fully worthy of empathy. Who 'deserves' abuse. Who should automatically be respected and who shouldn't. And these same things end up coloring how we see the world. How we respond to what people in various groups say and how they act. Who is given the benefit of the doubt and who is suspect. Who is assumed to be competent or worth listening to. What sorts of ideas are even worth consideration, because humor is extremely good at painting whole ideas as beneath contemplation and therefor dismissed -without ever being consciously evaluated-. Whose ideas are worthy of such thought.

Because the same mechanism involved in many of these sorts of jokes is the social tool we use to single out rude people, or liars, or people who cheat. It's never just a joke. It's a bit of prejudice you learned at some point that you never even noticed yourself learning, which you are passing on without realizing you are doing it. No one joke is going to just make a person prejudiced, but each little bit adds up. Because as rational and introspective as we might think we are, as humans we are all pretty impressionable, and worse we tend to be very blind to how we are being affected.

Think about your humor. What you laugh at. What jokes you pass along. And if you get called on a joke, instead of getting defensive, consider questioning the joke itself. Why you found it funny, but also what sort of messages it's conveying. You telling this kind of joke doesn't make you a bad person, you just picked up somewhere that it was funny. But it still has an effect, even if you don't see it.
Mel Brooks/Groucho Marks:

Tragedy is when I cut my finger.  Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.
 All humor is ultimately a pratfall, but most important the pratfall happens to "them" not "us."  Think of any ethnic joke.  OK you got one don't you?  Now name your most important in-group.  Your church, your school, your community.  Now tell the joke with the ethnic group replaced by the in-group name preferably aloud in the in-group.  Is it still comedy or does it become a tragic comment on the failing of the group, or worse it makes you rude to point it out.  

 The truth of the pratfall is irrelevant to the designation.  You may claim it is ironic, or if it is perceived to be on them, satire but the message is clear: This is what they are/do and we must be careful that it never happens to us.  

 One of my favorite religious jokes is the poem 
We are the world's sweet chosen few.
The rest of you be damned!
There is room enough in Hell for you,
We won't have Heaven crammed.
Note the open sewer there.  It may be simply a mud hole if you don't believe in Hell, but nevertheless if one of "us" fell into that mud hole all would rally around to rescue the victim, and the joke falls flat.  The message for apostates is unmistakable and the message for non-believers is that you deserve the open sewer preferably sooner rather later, and "we" will be glad to help. 

"It's a joke, son." is a way of defusing criticism of behavior that is not consistent with the mores of our tribe by associating it with another tribe, preferably one that is not too dissimilar but clearly not one of us.  Interstate jokes being the most benign as the neighboring state is clearly a lot like us and only the worst of them indulge as the butt of the joke. The sharp edge remains however to remind "son" that we don't do things like that.  If the cutting edge of the humor doesn't cause a bit of discomfort in the audience of the comic it probably was wasted and unsuccessful.  

Humans laugh because they are uncomfortable but either unsure of the source of the discomfort or because the source of the discomfort is a trusted figure of some sort.  Consider tickling.  Tickling is a serious invasion of personal space.  But only someone that has permission to invade personal space can be in a position to tickle.  It is a restrained aggressive act, but protest would be inappropriate so we express our discomfort with laughter. 

Da Capo.
“Laughter is really interesting because we observe it across all human cultures and in other species,” says Carolyn McGettigan, a cognitive neuroscientist at Royal Holloway, University of London. “It's an incredibly important social signal.” ...
Subjects whose medial prefrontal cortex “lit up” more when hearing the posed laughter were better at detecting whether laughs were genuine or not in a subsequent test. (This brain region is involved in understanding the viewpoint of others.) “If you hear a laugh that seems ambiguous in terms of what the person means,” McGettigan explains, “it makes sense that you're going to try to work out why this person sounds like this.”

 There is a lesson in this for those who persist in telling jokes that are offensive to some.  They can tell that some are "laughing to be a part of the crowd" or to be polite.  How they deal with that knowledge is an important social signal that can in an extreme situation be a reason for calling them out as an asshole that does not belong in the social circle they pretend to be in. If it is yours, kick herm the hell out. No Platform the asshole.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Humans as Tribal Entities.

  Humans are tribal animals.   For most of our existence the tribe, however it was defined was critical to our very existence.  Any serious violation of the mores of the tribe or the tribal elders gets one thrown off the sleigh to the pursuing wolves.

  Until one is sure of alternative tribal support questioning any important belief using the null hypothesis that the belief is false is generally fatal as expulsion is the usual penalty for even questioning any tribal belief.   

  For much of human history gods and goddesses, if any, were local and the head of the tribe was a real person or council of people that were at least theoretically accessible to all members of the tribe.  The tribal leaders and even members might consult the local deities or ask for blessings,  but the tribal leaders and not the dieties were the source of the mores of the tribe. Tribes were generally small and concerned with tribal cohesion, cooperation and protection from predation.  Some intra-tribal conflict was common, generally territorial but occasionally philosophical (for lack of a better word) as some tribal mores were predatory.  See Spartans in ancient Greece. 

  The most important predators were rogue humans that either left or were expelled from their home tribes frequently taking a few discontents with them to try to figure out a way to survive.  By hunter/gatherer behavior if the land would support them or predation on other tribes if the tribe was too small to farm successfully.  Once agriculture was common and meat animals were domesticated the pickings in the wild were slim especially for a tribal group which left predation as the only option.      


Friday, July 3, 2015

Hillel, Jesus and the Decalogue

christine3 wrote:
"These are our highest most honesty-keeping rules and should be considered sacred. If you follow these rules you will not be cut off, you will live in the world to come." For the Commandments were written with the foreknowledge that there was going to be a world to come.

Neither the Hebrew nor the OT Commandments were written with salvation or a world to come.  There was a hint of a world to come in Isaiah but the life after death, sin, and salvation were all invented by Paul. The Decalogue is simply a sacred rulebook as you note.  
I do find it interesting that in the Hebrew Decalogue the social rules are mashed into 2 verses.  In your version the 10 could be contained in 3.  1 through 8 condensed into ""These are our highest most honesty-keeping rules and should be considered sacred."  I can see where Hillel the Elder got his one foot Torah.  And Jesus found his Two Commandments: 1-8 condensed into Love the Lord thy God, and the rules condensed into Love thy neighbor as thyself.

I know why my Jewish friends liked to talk about Hillel the Elder.  I didn't really notice that God was missing from our discussions.  I have no doubt that God was assumed by Hillel and my friends as the originator of the social rules, but the overemphasis on worship and obedience to "I am the Lord Thy God" was clearly missing.  No wonder atheism is compatible with Judaism.  If the rules, all 613 of them were the result of a tradition that worked there is no reason to add God to the tradition except to establish a supernatural cop that would punish transgressors. Moses was for some reason having trouble governing his tribe, and perhaps thought that a supernatural supercop was just the thing he needed. It sure did work.  A few thousand years of working.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pain and Death and Morality

Humans and other social animals work very hard to eradicate pain because pain is next to death on the spectrum of things to try to avoid. There is a problem, however, in that humans have been inventing tools, weapons and machines that are designed to inflict pain and death in order to conquer and use other humans for thousands of years. Somebody want to continue this thought? I don't know exactly where to go with it. .christine3

Inflicting pain and death is part of survival for predators and frequently pain and risk of death are part of predation.  And humans are certainly predators.  Avoiding pain and death is a characteristic more of prey than predators, and social prey animals develop moral strategies to minimize pain and death for the social unit.  One universal moral imperative is protect the next generation at any cost.  Although it might be argued that this is a species survival instinct rather than a moral precept for our purposes the difference is probably insignificant. 

The real problem for humans is that they are both prey and predators.  In tribal societies (aren't we all) especially nomadic tribes resources are generally controlled by other humans and tribal survival means better killing tools, weapons and machines and not incidentally tribal moral imperatives that encourage their use.  Kill or subdue all the heathen, gentiles, or other "non-humans" that is, not us,  with the fear of pain and death.   It is no accident that religious morals distinguish strongly between "us" and "them" and discourage any sympathy or empathy for them. 

It is perhaps significant that the "thems" have not only developed highly efficient defensive killing and pain inflicting weapons, but have also developed more inclusive moral imperatives that recognize others as important as well.  Probably the most radical and important moral innovation of the Enlightenment was that all are equal.  OK all men, but that was the critical break with the "Us v. Them" morality.  And put the human race on the slippery slope to the humane treatment of all.  There are still those trying to claw their way back up the slope to the rock of hatred, frequently led by God the rock, but those "defensive" horror weapons in the hands of the relatively enlightened are formidable intimidators of the remaining predator humans. 

Interestingly one of the most intimidating of those weapons is the Enlightenment idea that all are equal.  The people in the streets have no fear of pain or death, and can in fact defy the most powerful offensive weapons.  See Tiananman Square or Kent State University. Certainly many were hurt and killed, but the mores of the world were radically changed.

Incidentally, I would put pain as a much greater fear than death. Suicide is a common solution to pain, emotional and physical. Three banksters seem to have heard the call to jail them and fear the pain that will be inflicted if those calls are implemented.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A World without Borders

Is Theism Simply Fear Of Facing Reality? - beliefnet

I like to imagine a world without borders, without local goverments or political parties , without different religions or beliefs and where equality is not and empty word but a reality, where diversity is respected and appreciated for its contribution to enrich cultures, and where nationalities are not seen as a threat because there will be only one, Earth citizenship.
This world is closer than you think. It is a world-wide coalition of educated intelligent people leading the world into a gender, skin color, nationality neutral rational meritocracy. It is being lead by the secular Chinese, abetted by secular Americans, Europeans, Indians, Australians and several other secular parts of the world. I say secular, as most religions discourage the rational education required to be a part of this coalition especially for women who are the natural leaders in this coalition.

Unfortunately it won't be for everybody. Religious and political leaders will opt as many people out of it as they can to maintain their control. In the US the politico-religious axis will opt most of the country out of this revolution. This is the reality that religions are seeking to avoid. Or looking at it crassly, religions are using to sell the big rock candy mountain in the next life, to substitute for the reality in this life that they cannot deliver.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Is This Life All There Is?. - Beliefnet

As intelligent social animals I would argue that the basic human evolutionary unit is the tribe. Larger than a relationship clan but small enough that all members have a 'nodding acquaintance or potentially so. The tribe sets the mores, creates the Gods, and establishes the membership rules. And historically, establishes other. Gods allow the tribe to exceed the acquaintance limitation, as all tribal members worship God as the unifying entity. And use the rituals as the unifying principles. As long as communication was controlled by the priesthood, this worked well, although resource conflicts with the others were always an issue.

Gutenberg, laid the groundwork for the disintegration of the tribe, and humans have basically tried to find a substitute since. Nations, Religions, and Ethnic groups have all in one way or another tried to replace the tribe, and it seems we are still working out the solution. It is as the Chinese Edit: proverb curse notes 'Interesting times.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tribal Moral Law

atheism is NOT a "worldview" - Beliefnet

All moral law is ultimately the mores of the tribe. That which allows the face group of the tribe to function. The tribe may adopt a moral law giver in the form of a shaman or imaginary super shaman, but either will of necessity codify the mores of the tribe: Be nice to members of the tribe, protect the children of the tribe, respect the leaders of the tribe and protect the traditions and lore of the tribe.

In the modern world tribes are larger than a face group, and dispersed among other tribes in the society, but have common tribal values. Some are built around a religious tradition, others are built around business traditions, and another is based around the traditions of the university community. The university communities are typically split into the scholars and the warriors, and loyalties to each group carry beyond the campus with the warriors transferring loyalties to professional warrior teams, either sport or military.

The above is grossly stereotyped of necessity, there are major differences within each 'tribe.' Religious groups in particular are split into smaller and smaller groups some as small as a parish, each with its own mores and most with it's own higher moral law giver providing an absolute higher moral law for the tribe. Of course it is too much to expect that these absolute higher moral law agree on much of anything except that they are right and all the other absolute higher moral law givers are wrong.

It should be noted that there are atheists in most of the tribes, and the atheists generally adopt the world view of the tribe with the exception that the absolute higher moral law giver, if there is one, is an imaginary myth.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Morals of the Tribe.

The 'existence' of gods - Beliefnet

They both are talking about morality. The real issue is where Ken gets his preferences and cptpith gets his empathy basis for good and evil. And for that matter where you get your 'God says'

Humans are basically tribal animals. Tribes these days are distributed in the larger society. But within the tribe morality, that is, what is right and wrong is as rigid and strict as the 10 Commandments, although less frequently violated. 'Aunt Matilda' tells mom and dad which fork to use, who may screw whom, and who may own whom, and all of the other rights and wrongs of the tribe. Mom and Dad in turn make sure the children from the time they are old enough to play with other children internalize these rules with their pablum. 'Aunt Matilda' has lots of help, other relatives, teachers, mentors, authority figures all play a role in defining right and wrong for the tribe.

Your tribe throws God into the mix, but in general God's moral precepts are so archaic that even the most devout must pick and choose among them and interpret the ones they choose so heavily that in effect God's morality is the believer's personal preferences just like Ken's. I would bet that Ken's preferences are based on a modern educated tribe's morality, and that in fact they are more rigid than a believer's.

If the believer has chosen only the Second Great Commandment and discarded all the rest of the archaic moral precepts, they don't have much of an argument with cptpith, except maybe that God said so rather than the tribe dictates.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Tribe as the Human Evolutionary Unit.

What is the Purpose of Religion? - Beliefnet

As the human evolutionary selection unit is the tribe, as long as tribes were small enough and cohesive, a god was a useful entity to take the responsibility of leadership from the tribal leaders. 'Hey, it isn't me making bad things happen, it is God. I only take credit for the good things that happen.' Religion codifies the social necessities of tribal cohesion, providing the moral and social rules that allow the tribe to function. Another important function of religion is to codify and preserve the stories that transmit those moral and social rules. Humans are story telling animals and the stories told in the gatherings are the way the mores are transmitted and preserved.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tribal Issues

king of the universe(s) - Beliefnet

The basic human social unit has been the tribe or clan. Certainly tribes and clans competed for space and resources, just as religions and nations do today. But within the tribe or clan social compliance, that is being nice to one another, was absolute. A serious social error got you expelled from the tribe, and until very recently a lone human was a dead human. Even today, disfellowshipping or shunning can be a devastating experience that frequently leads to suicide or in some cases being killed. The social contract between the individual and the social group is critical to the survival of both. Even at the nation level an individual who violates the social contract no matter how powerful can be brought down by the tribe abetted by modern communication channels. See Nixon and Mubarak. There will be more. You got to be nice to your fellow tribespeople no matter how big the guns at your back are. Those guns are operated by members of the tribe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tribal Issues

At Davies Symphony Hall last night sitting in the cheap seats next to a family obviously out of place in the setting. Chit-chat quickly revealed that the youngest daughter was in town for a master class with the musician on stage. The family was obviously uncomfortable with the fact that ":She really likes classical music:" but were determined to give her a chance to follow her muse. Probably putting a fair dent in the family budget to do so to provide lessons with a world class musician in the rural city. Kudos to that world class musician who was "also an attorney" for carrying the rational educated tribal values to the hinterland.