IS AMERICAN SOCIETY UNRAVELING?

by Craig Cantoni, blogging at The Libertarian Institute, ©2017

(Aug. 16, 2017) — When the news broke about white supremacists inciting violence over the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, I was reading one of the most thought-provoking books on human nature that I’ve ever read—namely, the New York Times bestseller, Sapiens:  A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari.

One can’t have a fragile ego to read the book, for it doesn’t speak highly of Homo sapiens. But it does explain why modern humans have such violent disagreements over statues and other totems and the ideas they represent.

It wasn’t always this way.

Throughout most of human history, the natural limit on the size of social organizations was about 150 people.  Tribes and clans didn’t exceed this size because the social glue that kept people together was their familiarity with each other.  After all, it’s difficult to know and trust everyone when a grouping is larger than 150.

This limit held until the recent development (recent in evolutionary time) of language and abstract thinking.  This development enabled humans to greatly exceed the natural limit and to form villages, city states, kingdoms, nations, and empires.  The glue of personal relations was replaced by the abstract glues of religion, mythology, laws, manifestos, constitutions, economic theories, and flags and other totems.  Strangers could come together under such symbols and beliefs to work cooperatively toward common goals and mutual defense.

Of course they also could come together to subjugate and kill those with different symbols and beliefs.  In fact, humans began attacking each other over ideas with as much fervor as they once did over food, territory, and plunder.

A sampling:  Thousands of years ago, the new idea of monotheism in the Old Testament, coupled with the idea that the Israelites were the chosen people, resulted in bloodshed by the Israelites and against the Israelites.  Christ was later crucified for departing from the established idea and saying he was the savior.  Polytheist Romans fed Christians to the lions before Constantine declared Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire.  Christians burned heretics at the stake over ideas they didn’t like.  The idea of a master race led National Socialists to come up with the Final Solution.  Bolsheviks fought White Russians and starved their own people over ideas about class and economics.  Communists and capitalists continued the fight through direct conflict, proxy wars and the Cold War.  Sunnis and Shia continue to kill to each other over their respective ideas about Mohammed.

And so it goes, ad nausea, with humans continuing to attack each other over political ideology and religion—that is, over different ideas and dogmas.

Which takes us back to the statue of Robert E. Lee.  The statue is a tangible object, but it also stands for abstract ideas.

For some, it stands for valor, honor, and states’ rights.  For others, it stands for enslavement, white privilege, and rebellion.  Still others see it as a racial marker; that is, as a rallying cry for white supremacists or a rallying cry for those who still feel victimized by racism but have racist attitudes about whites.  Historians see it simply as an historical artifact, one that tells a complicated story about the nation’s history.

I’m with the historians.  Let the statue stand, but with interpretative signage that explains the competing ideas that led to a half-million Americans being slaughtered by their fellow Americans.  One of the ideas from the Confederate side was that someone could be a good Christian and still own other human beings—an obvious intellectual contradiction.

But, admittedly, printing that contradiction on an interpretative sign for all to see would trigger even more outrage, albeit from a different group:  those who can’t tolerate any criticism of their religion.

As the book Sapiens makes clear, most of the cherished beliefs and ideas and myths and totems that hold together a social grouping are full of inherent contradictions, whether the grouping is a nation, a religion, a political ideology, a political party, or a large organization like Google.  This holds true for the dialectic of communism, the market philosophy of Adam Smith, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the political beliefs of contemporary conservatives and liberals, the policies of Republicans and Democrats, the echo chambers of talk radio and NPR, the worship of racial and gender diversity at Google, and, especially, my libertarian beliefs.   Each has flaws in logic, each doesn’t tell the whole story, each ignores countervailing facts, and each requires some degree of faith and suspension of reality.

Take my boyhood religion of Catholicism, which teaches that the pope is infallible, a teaching that has been proven wrong repeatedly throughout history.  Cognitive dissonance is necessary for someone to ignore this contradiction, just as mental gymnastics are required to ignore other contradictions inherent in not only Catholicism but also in other religions, political ideologies, and economic theories.

To summarize:  Ideas are the glue that holds together societies, nations, religions, and other large social groupings.  And cognitive dissonance protects the glue.  Without the protection of cognitive dissonance, the glue melts under the heat lamp of facts and reality, and social adhesion begins to come apart.

We’re watching this happen to the USA.

 

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  1. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/08/24/nancy-pelosis-father-helped-dedicate-confederate-monument.html

    Whoreable Nancy Pelosi and Traitor-trader George Swartz-Soros and ungrateful un-American Barry Soetoro-Obama II are despots who despise apple pie America. THESE THREE ARE AMERICA’S LEADING DOMESTIC TERRORISTS!

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/despot
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/despise

    COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF TRUMP:
    Until The Whoreable Nancy Pelosi is arrested for soliciting Constitution Prostitution on 08-28-08 et al, America, and your MAGA efforts, remain in danger of a Theft Left Pelosi-Soros’ Soetoros-led civil war.
    http://canadafreepress.com/2009/williams091209.htm

    DEVELOPER-PRESIDENT TRUMP:
    DEMO DEMOCRATS:::DUMPSTER NANCY-BARRY-SOROS’ LICENSED ATTORNEY-CRIMINAL PROTECTIONS TO THEN FREELY ARREST CRIMINALS NANCY-BARRY-VALERIE-HILLARY-SORRY SOROS ET AL FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY 08-28-08- TODAY:::RENOVATE AMERICA!

    KEEP THE STATUES OF AMERICAN HISTORY:::DEMO THE DEMOCRATS!

  2. 08-28-08- TODAY: THE BLACK MALE BLACKMAIL OF BLACK LIES MATTER

    “ATROCITIES” This is the “one reference” that estimates some 450,000,000 human killings caused by some 9 different repetitive causes of opposing violent beliefs (such as religious righteousness, land area disputes, un-resisted genocide, et al) during recorded human history:
    https://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/atrocities-matthew-white/1113025412/2677640932268?st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Marketplace+Shopping+Books_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP1755&k_clickid=3×1755

    One way Nature can not play groups of humans against each other in mutual murder games is for each opposing group to UNDERSTAND that your perceived mortal enemies might actually be fighting along side of you, and protecting you with their lives, if they had grown-up and matured within your same life circumstances, and vice versa = conditioned like-mindedness.

    In the end, however, all mortal humans are merely pawns of the forever forces of Nature, me thinks.

  3. Great article, added to perhaps the best site, P&E, which might eventually be referred to by all of humanity to expose one of the greatest lies of all human history, namely, 44 Soetoro-Obama II 08-28-08- TODAY.
    http://canadafreepress.com/2009/williams091209.htm

    Look closely, because every “belief” contains a “lie”.

    EXAMPLE 1. For some 1900 years, the Christian Church mandated that Earth is the center of the universe and the heavens…until Galileo Galilei proved that the Earth simply rotates around the Sun. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Galileo-Galilei

    Here is a quote by Galileo about seeking “the truth”:

    “See now the power of truth; the same experiment which at first glance seemed to show one thing, when more carefully examined, assures us of the contrary.”

    EXAMPLE 2. All during 08-28-08- TODAY, some Obama LOVERS Guard Government COVERS to willfully foist the “belief” that the Pelosi-Soros’ Soetoros (Barry and Michelle) were/are 100% Constitutionally eligible to be presIDent No. 44, while willfully, if not violently, rejecting all facts to the contrary as openly archived on this remarkable fingertip accessible documentary/reference website, The Post and Email.

    WHEN WILL ALL 323,000,000 AMERICAN CITIZENS HAVE THEIR OWN INDIVIDUAL “GALILEO MOMENT” AND ACCEPT THAT ex-presIDent Soetoro-Obama II is simply a political myth of THE BLACK MALE BLACKMALE OF BLACK LIES MATTER FOISTED BY AN UN-GRATEFUL UN-AMERICAN THEFT LEFT?

    EXAMPLE 3: Demolishing real Confederate monuments to build today’s unreal 44 library.
    FANTASY: https://www.obamalibrary.gov/
    FACT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuhF-Ok3djI

    But, it doesn’t really matter what anyone believes, because in the end,

    Nature Rules, and men follow.

    Nature reduces rocks and humans to dust, eventually, and since the beginning of recorded history, according to one reference, some 450,000,000 humans have been killed by Nature’s use of violently opposed “beliefs”. Violently opposed “beliefs”, then, in all our minds helps Nature balance the human population, don’t you think?

    Many times, the truth, like the tooth, can hurt!