Social Atomization Highlights Unwantedness
All functional social groupings, especially those made up of deliberative individuals, require a set of unwritten but important preconditions. One of them is that individuals need to feel “wanted” by the group to continue playing nice with other individuals.
A large part of human thought, culture, behavior and rituals is driven by the often unconscious understanding that people will stop co-operating if they are made to feel “unwanted”. As a corollary, most people do not expect those who are made to feel “unwanted” to continue playing nice or fair. Indeed, it is fair to say that the percentage of individuals that feel “unwanted” is very strongly linked to the level of dysfunction in any given society.
Being “wanted” in human societies is not as simple as sniffing each others secretions and accepting group membership- as is the case for insects or most animals. It is a far more complicated and dynamic process with many opportunities for failure and widespread disaster.
For most of human history, a series of social, economic and logistical considerations kept most people from feeling “unwanted”. Most people were pretty poor with few material possessions and therefore depended on interpersonal relationship for survival. Under such conditions making any more than a few people in your group feel “unwanted” was a recipe for personal disaster. Moreover changing fortunes and the vagaries of illness, disability and death made it rather foolish to create unnecessary adversaries.
However the rising standard of living and increasingly impersonal nature of living under the current socio-economic setup has fundamentally changed the need to behave humanely to people around you. Today it is possible to treat people around you like crap without suffering any real consequences. All you require is a bit more power in one particular situation than the person you are abusing.
This new found ability to abandon millennia of basic social protocols does however carry a nasty long-term consequence- a fatal weakening of the very structure that allows civilization to function.
As I have previously said, most people will play nice with others as long as they are made to feel “wanted”. However feeling “wanted” is not an end in itself. As far as human beings are concerned it is the precursor to benefiting from group membership. You can scam people into feeling “wanted” only to later screw them over so many times before they become too cynical.
Social atomization, by its very ability to isolate people from the consequences of their actions, encourages people to scam others by making them feel “wanted”. However it simultaneously it much harder for the disillusioned individuals to get support after being scammed. To make a long story short- it pumps put an ever-increasing number of cynics. But that is only half the story.
The considerable worldwide decline in birthrates has also cut the number of naive replacements who could be indoctrinated, abused and exploited. Therefore we have a self-accelerating increase in the real number (and percentage) of cynical individuals in societies as well as a concurrent decrease in the number of naive individuals who could replace the hardened cynics.
Today most people under a certain age are fairly cynical individuals whose life experience has shown them that they are “unwanted” by others and pretty much alone.
Somehow all of our sociolo-economic institutions, rules, laws and models are still based on the assumption that these people are naive individuals who can be exploited because they supposedly like to be “wanted” by people around them. But if that were the case why would so many prefer laptops, gaming consoles, smartphones, books and Netflix to interaction with people around them?
Could it be that, deep down, they know they are “unwanted” by others around them?
The next question is- Can a society made of individuals who know they are “unwanted” by people around them withstand even a moderate crisis or disruption of the rather delicate status quo? Would you cooperate with others if you knew that you are “unwanted” and would not benefit from your sacrifice for the group? Face it- nobody want to be the sucker who took one for the team and was ridiculed for their naivety.
What do you think? Comments?