Monday, October 15, 2012

You know that group of people that you feel a connection to and feel like you share a lot with...

You spend your life going to the same places, sharing the same rhythm of how life is lived. You talk similarly. You eat a lot of the same things. You do the same sorts of things for fun. A lot of you have the same sorts of jobs. You experience autumn in much the same way. Your kids play at the same parks. You vacation at the same beaches and camp at the same state parks. You swear at traffic on the same roads and even at the same intersections. You come across the same subcultures and grew up with a lot of the same traditions.

That's all in your head.

Trust Ryan Murphy. Karl Marx told him. What could possibly go wrong here?

If the word that comes to your mind to describe the way that billions of seemingly happy and peaceful people naturally experience life is "contempt", something is seriously wrong. Ryan allows for allegiance to family because of some deeper human psychology. But this is ironic, because there is no respect for deeper psychology in anything else that Ryan writes in the post. You have to train yourself to think like Ryan thinks, precisely because it rebels against the sense of solidarity that comes naturally to human beings.

I have almost exactly the opposite view.

I think enjoying this sense of community and further cultivating these communities is very important. In fact I think we need to do more of it, and I think that the progress of the human race is in fact the progress of our ability to feel solidarity with others, even if we've exhausted our Dunbar number.

Now Ryan may agree with me and counter that he's just skipping ahead and being in solidarity with the entire human race. Maybe. But then clearly his distaste for "imaginary communities" is a farce, because such cosmopolitanism clearly exceeds kin or Dunbar numbes. And if that's a farce one wonders why the most holistic community is OK but other communities are not.

He seems like he may be suggesting that less-than-universal communities are somehow a denial of the universal community. Of course he offers no evidence for this. In fact as I read history the heroic figures that embraced solidarity with their fellow man when it was unpopular were always pushing the frontiers of solidarity outward. There is friction in human life, as there always is, but there is no inherent tension between local and general solidarity. Local solidarity seems to have a tendancy to knit itself together and become more general over time.


  1. *Differential* treatment, Daniel, is what needs to be explained.


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