[extropy-chat] Bully Magnets

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Wed Dec 13 04:26:25 UTC 2006

Keith writes

> Now virtually all the reasons in the stone age that people perceive a bleak 
> future was because of other people--too many of them.

Harsh winters and lack of food sometimes contribute to bleakness too,
you know.

> So evolved mechanisms that turn up the gain on dehumanizing memes
> against various out  groups make sense.

The unfortunate words "dehumanizing" and "inhuman" sadly relate to a
huge blindspot many modern people seem to have regarding human
nature. Was what Genghis Khan did "inhuman"?  Was what the Romans
did, or Mayans, or Vikings, or Greeks did "inhuman"?  Do we really
want to call the Athenian treatment of the people of Melos "dehumanized"?

The truth is that these behaviors are all *too* human. It is only with
agonizingly slow progress that we climbed up and away from barbarism,
and only by maintaining utter intolerance for those among us who 
would revert, can we cling to something better.  The old-time religions
realized this when they presumed that the devil was in everyone, and
that a close eye on everyone had to be kept.

Unfortunately, this awareness has been lost, especially in modern
America.  When did your family begin locking its doors at night?
This is, in my opinion, an extremely important sociological question,
and I have only very limited data. (Any input, on-list or off-list, would
be greatly appreciated.) Most people I know relate that their
folks began locking their doors at night around 1960. (But it's also
true that in a few very small towns, people, who Al would refer to
as "rubes", manage somehow to feel so little fear that they still to
this day leave their doors unlocked!  Now *that's* trust!  Who're
the true rubes, us or them?)

> If you think western peoples are different in this respect from Rwandans, 
> you are sadly forgetting your history.  When the chips are down, the 
> Western Tribes (and include Japan adopted into this culture block) are 
> bloody vicious.

Yes, but the chips have to be down (as you say).  We, especially in the
west, have made no small improvement on what is human *normal*.

>>And those like you who fail to recognize evil
>>are in my eyes little short of evil themselves.
> Lee is providing a good example of the evolved-in-the-stone-age
> mechanisms that kept the population more or less in balance with
> the ability of the ecosystem to feed them.

It's true that aggression against other societies was good for survival:
Those groups which lost the ability to have a strong concept of self
and a strong willingness to defend it went by the wayside.

I'm not sure that this potential hostility against other tribes accounts,
however, for the strong sense of internal social justice I and many
other people have---an instinct that acts to block and deter slips
within our own society towards the barbaric.  Many of us find it
nearly incomprehensible that large portions of our inner cities have
been handed over to barbarians.

> When people perceive a bleak future--and at this point a fairly high 
> percentage of the populations in the world do--then dehumanizing
> memes such as "these people are animals and should be rounded
> up and executed" become more widespread in the population.

That may be true---but it's a side-benefit when compared with the
value of constant vigilence against criminal behavior *within* one's
own group, quite independent of population density. The frontier,
for example, was lightly populated, but they knew what to do with
horse thieves, and, truth be told, they had no alternative.   Altruistic
punishment also evolved for excellent reasons, and it's a shame
when some people can't remember any longer why hating criminals
is a good idea. 


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