Thoughts on David Hegg (Nov. 24), John Boston (Nov. 22), Karen Roseberry (Nov. 21), Johnathan Kraut (Nov. 26), and to those in despair seeking answers to the question…why? …and our general social condition:
Community and communion are highly overrated. Their joys are mainly transitory. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt. Have I lost my mind? Maybe. But – read on – I don’t believe I am alone.
The heart and the mind have some opposing drives that are deep-seated conflicts, built in by a creator or wrought by evolutionary forces in the survival instinct. Kicked out of the garden, we choose to harm others, single them out, or deride or criticize, for odd reasons based in some tribal meme planted or assimilated that grows/festers. Perhaps we paint it as justified, or reasonable, or heroic, or Christ-like.
One thing is certain: To foster community that is bred and based upon a singular ethic will only end in a collection of tiny genocides. Social isolation or rejection or fatal acts against outlier individuals, cliques and subcultures, are the predictable result. It’s the dog lovers vs. the people who aren’t so keen on canine admiration. It is a meanness that hates onto individuals. Or cuts off the guy who you think cut you off on Valencia Boulevard.
To sacrifice the independence of an individual mind at the altar of another mind’s ethics is the erosion of self, the initial act of submission to the hive. Some sacrifice their own minds (shiver), some attempt to find a sacrificial lamb to offer by imposing ethics that subsume the prior ethics of the sacrificial lamb.
Whatever…the good-natured drive to unify and be good to each other as a social normative is not imposed nor long-lived unless the mind of the individual embraces the ethics as its own. Every other instance of socially normed behavior is a patch: a bandage on an injury. The heart wants community, but it wants the community that it knows, and eschews (or worse) the “other” community.
The rational mind can properly identify and parse real existential threats from incidental and inconsequential ones.
We label people and classify them according to our threat/ally biases using heuristics as a very poor guide. This is, incidentally, the exact way that deep learning algorithms are trained, using data that reflects human behavior/systems.
In a recent study, the conclusion of the study was that because the data included systemic human bias, the only way to eliminate the bias that the machine learning algorithm manifested was to precondition the data. Thus, the only way to train a machine to be unbiased is to eliminate the humanity from it. (Science Magazine, Oct. 25.)
A problem arises because we have eliminated many real existential threats (diseases, unsanitary water, crop failure) that our grandparents knew as individuals only a hundred years ago. The flawed and conflicted human psyche becomes bored with this situation and begins to make up threats…and identify enemies with a human face.
Tribal urges divide and dissect any community into subtribes and cliques. Examples abound in sports fan violence to (otherwise harmless) subculture sniping among political/socioeconomic/demographic but otherwise faceless, statistically significant, or fringe groups. Woe to anyone who gets her face identified as the face of any group. It’s Us and Them.
That is how an otherwise rational mind can suddenly and unpredictably act out on the urge to defend its own. It is not evil. It is human weakness.
Madness, built in. Mad human activity like wars are good places to see the results. Soldiers are trained to overcome the internal conflict through a circuit of rationale; most do, but some do not. Some return and never resolve the conflict for or against that rages within.
There is no way out of this situation except to recognize the flaw and resolve to change our own minds to rise above our internal conflict. We have evolved or been designed this way. We have no choice but to master ourselves as individuals. Changing ourselves is difficult, yet changing ourselves is still much easier than changing someone else. Also, if we hold machines to a high standard and we fail to exceed this standard for ourselves, there is a grim outcome pending.
Consider…If we respect each other’s minds and hearts, even the “sick” or “twisted” ones, if we recognize our fatal flaws, if we recognize that we are all out there trying our best to achieve such mastery, and — yes — if we have gratitude: grateful that we all came into this world to witness all those hearts and minds and grateful for the opportunity to master our place in it, if we pursue or achieve these things, we might have a chance for real community.
There is no artifice that will ever achieve community outside of the individual soul pursuing it. We must love every single other soul.
And Jesus wept.