"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Rational People Are Inimical To Social Cohesion

Functional societies so far require people to have weak powers of reason and to adopt starkly irrational beliefs.  Groups that can trick their members into acting against their individual best interests are those that thrive.

A typical man’s biological interests are best served by impregnating as many women as possible and providing as few resources as he can to each so long as the offspring survive, so he can continue to search for more.
The tradition of marriage harnesses his sexual energies into productive tasks that harm his own immediate interests but help the society.
Going to war is completely inimical to his interests.  As far as he’s concerned he loses all if he dies.  His death may preserve his society, but that serves him little solace if he is no longer alive.
Or take voting in elections, walking into stores without stealing, or any other activity inspired by moral imperatives.  If he thinks completely rationally, he understands that his life does infinitesimally little to win a war or his vote to win an election.  It is irrational for him to participate in these affairs.
His fear comes from moral imperatives—that if he doesn’t fight the invaders millions of other men will also stay home and everyone loses.  However, if he sees millions of other men willingly go to war it pays handsomely to defect and dodge the draft, ready to snatch up all the widows when the war is over.  The motto of all social relations is “Don’t be that guy.”
In the American Civil War, there were professional draft dodgers who made a living by snatching up money incentives to join then disappearing and doing the same thing again under another assumed identity.
In a strictly rational sense these guys were the winners.  The guys who cooperated and went to die or become cripples were losers.
Of course, war is a gentleman’s gamble, the survivors return bedecked with honors to a land less competitive than before.
But no one who takes those odds seems at first to think they’ll be the ones to lose the bet.
At the end of every war there’s cities erected for honorable men built grandly with marble whiter than bone and the door of every abode adorned with plaques emblazoned with soothing platitudes in all caps.  All to disguise the ugly fact that within lies a teenager who was torn to shreds by a landmine, sent to take the risks pulling chestnuts out of the fire for the dominant older men.  It speaks loudly that across the ages, we have to try so hard to make ourselves believe.  But if social norms are strong enough and everyone imbued with dogma from birth, most people gladly subsume their inner dissonance to fit in.

The trouble is that this trickery becomes much harder in a world where most people are literate and access to the internet is widespread.  People are pretty well bred for obedience to social norms, but given enough sources, a vocal minority begins to question and deviate, undermining the unity of the rest.
I have encountered inquisitive minds on the internet that perceive many of the same problems I do in modern societies.  But the proposed solution I most often hear is to bring back old religions or at least adapt them somehow to modern conditions.  I do not see how this can be so except by fundamentalist peoples demographically displacing technocrats over time.  And then the problem is not solved.  Either their society stays in the safety of stagnation or at length the new theocratic rulers are likewise corrupted as they advance and the cycle repeats as their creed too is unable to cope with the needs of an inquisitive and informed populace.  I see many merits in the arguments to bring back old creeds as a deliberate social strategy, but the need for people to be ignorant of their best interests for these systems to work suggests to me we must formulate an altogether new sort of system that makes use of game theory and takes informed, discerning people into account.

9 responses to “Rational People Are Inimical To Social Cohesion

  1. Pingback: Rational People Are Inimical To Social Cohesion | Neoreactive

  2. Sam September 29, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    I think you might like this guy.

    A quote from one of his post which is apropos to your article.

    After us, the people of our race will wear garments of gold; they will eat sweet, greasy food, ride splendid coursers, and hold in their arms the loveliest of women, and they will forget that they owe these things to us.
    -Genghis Khan

    I feel like the US is exactly the same way. I have hardly watched TV in decades?? but every now and then I turn it on and the bullshit they’re saying just astounds me. I can not believe it. Now I know this is mostly manufactured but why doesn’t everyone just laugh at them?

    • Giovanni Dannato October 9, 2015 at 5:11 am

      I’ve already found that guy and have a link to his site on my smartphone homepage. Finding pieces of a greater puzzle one at a time.
      TV is absurd when there’s the internet, but TV and even movies have declined in importance. I notice that the age of the average lead in TV shows has gone up dramatically. 40 year old female main characters are normal now. From this I gather, it’s disproportionately older generations stuck in their habits that keep obsolete TV going.

  3. Kal September 30, 2015 at 1:45 am

    > biological imperatives

    The parental strategies of r- vs k-selection unfortunately make me cast doubt on the hypothesis. As far as I can tell, humans are not solely r-selected or k-selected. We have imperatives both to impregnate wildly and duly raise our young. Having both the mother and father raise a son or a daughter diligently seems like it would lead to a more virtuous, more humane and strong offspring than letting all offspring leave subsistence lives. Black ghettos, where such a reproductive strategy as you outline is common, with mommy or daddy problems due to dysfunctional families is not conducive to a lawful society.

  4. A.B Prosper October 9, 2015 at 1:02 am

    Normal human societies, i.e the ones we are evolved for are made of people with close lifelong ties to each other and as such, people rationally won’t betray kinship arrangements.

    Its only complex alienated societies that produce sociopathic behavior as rational.

    Thus its a product of urbanization more than nature.

    • Giovanni Dannato October 9, 2015 at 5:18 am

      “Normal” human societies aren’t normal anymore. The movement of people to the cities is a worldwide trend. The requirements of hive life exert strong selection for either animal level unawareness(that allows reproduction without planning and/or indoctrination by fundamentalist religious doctrines) or strong abstract reasoning that allows one to game complex systems. The intellectual middle class of humanity that tries to get ahead by accumulating credentials for a desk job gets cut out and loses, or at best breaks even while groups on the extremes surge ahead.

  5. cryptonymousbill December 11, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    I just blew through a few posts of yours, so pardon me if you’ve already covered this or if I’ve missed what you’re driving at in general, but I think you might find extending your analysis of culture and politics to the forms of rationality profitable.

    If democracy has debased statecraft, if widespread literacy has debased literature, why wouldn’t universal Enlightenment debase reason? Rational people, as such, aren’t inimicable to society, they are necessary – in small numbers.

    Most people are natural ‘defectors’: give them reason, and they will use it selfishly. Defection will start to look like ‘rationality’ -and then we will start to say it is inherently ‘rational’ to be profligate, fraudulent or cowardly, while wondering at how irrationality, which is by definition without order, can be the bedrock of a well-ordered society.

    • Giovanni Dannato December 13, 2015 at 6:54 am

      Yes, that’s the problem of modernity. How do you get a society of rational individuals to cohere at least enough to keep people in a pre-conscious animal state from crushing them through unity and sheer force of will?

      High Humans have an easy understanding of what Kant might call a moral imperative. That is, they don’t shoplift because they understand that if everybody did it, the merchandise is soon kept behind bullet proof glass.
      Strictly, speaking on the level of the individual, it is rational to steal whatever is not sufficiently guarded by superior force. When most people think this way, we always see defection followed soon after by a tragedy of the commons.

      I think I partly agree with you. In my childhood, I attended school in one of the poorest states in the US. Many if not most of the kids did not want to be in school by middle and high school. They relentlessly disrupted the classroom for those who wanted to learn. There was little teachers were allowed to do about them. They could not be “fired” in a compulsory system, so at the very least they could shit on everyone else for fun.
      In a just system, perhaps those illiterate by nature be allowed to remain so and the poets encouraged to ascend the heights attended by winged cherubs.

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