Something I've been thinking for a fairly long time but occurred to me in a particularly stark fashion tonight.
Draw a picture of some random bit of street - flip your pencil around so you've got the eraser: Now then. Start scrubbing out the bits where people who don't know each other already are [SIZE="3"]un[/SIZE]likely to meet and talk.
What are you left with? Companies - companies bring in new people a fair bit. Schools. The occasional club. And miles and miles of blank paper. White voids where the soul of a nation perhaps, once upon a time, went.
You get people out of school and onto welfare - and the nature of that will only increase as the efficiency of production increases; there's only so much shit people need or want.... And how do they take part in anything? What's really left?
Been struggling to come up with an answer for that for a while now. And for the life of me I can't think of one that bodes well for us. You start asking questions like 'Why would people hurt others' - and interface it with that.... you end up shifting the emphasis - why wouldn't people.... What goes in that blank space. And if you can't come up with an answer. Well, 'oh dear.'
So the question I have for you is this, if it wasn't clear already: What do you leave standing when you take your eraser to society? What do you see in the blank spaces of others? ... do you think we really have a community, as such, or a collection of niche enclaves playing the role of an integrated, diverse, society?
People can meet anywhere. I think it really depends on the person. Most people probably know their neighbors if they've been anyplace for a long time. The miles of blank space is where people live. Schools, companies, bars are good places for meeting people because you automatically have something in common and you're in close proximity to one another.
I don't really understand what you're trying to say in the last lines.
I'm not sure I understand the thrust of your argument. You you're erasing all the places people who don't already know each other can meet and talk, and that leaves a lot of white space. Isn't that a good thing? Doesn't that mean that there's a lot places people can meet new people and talk with them?
The human being is a gregarious animal. With very rare exceptions, they love to talk, to socialize, and to meet new people. Sure, there are folks who don't, but they are the minority. Even in this connected electronic age, people still know their neighbors, their kids, and their families. It's fashionable and popular to bemoan the lack of "human contact" or "society," but the reality is that it hasn't gone anywhere.
Professor Dr. Scientist;5569664People can meet anywhere. I think it really depends on the person. Most people probably know their neighbors if they've been anyplace for a long time. The miles of blank space is where people live. Schools, companies, bars are good places for meeting people because you automatically have something in common and you're in close proximity to one another.
I don't really understand what you're trying to say in the last lines.[/QUOTE]
If you know your neighbours - well that's four people on either side of where you live. While there might be a certain mimetic diffusion from people they they know you receive that second/third/... hand. What fondness do you really have to wider 'society' with that as your building block? It seems to me you have lots of groups of - at most - eight people. And that's what I mean by an enclave as compared to an integrated society. You just have a lot of enclaves with some mimetic diffusion around the edges. A fractured image like a stained glass picture - shattered. Sure there's no real holistic sense of hate - but there's no real holistic sense of belonging either.
You can move out on your neighbours with barely a thought. If that's all your society adds up to....Demonseed;5569666I'm not sure I understand the thrust of your argument. You you're erasing all the places people who don't already know each other can meet and talk, and that leaves a lot of white space. Isn't that a good thing? Doesn't that mean that there's a lot places people can meet new people and talk with them?
True. Possibly I needed an extra negation in there to make it reflect what I meant. I'll go back and change that. :)
To clarify then: My point is that if you look at the vast majority of society its shops, streets, houses. Places you don't get to know anyone new. You settle down in your area and that's it. And if you look at the likelihood for people to form new connections it doesn't add up to much. Possibly it never did, there's certainly an argument that can be made in that direction.
And if you interface that with the idea that people are increasingly going to be unemployed as efficiency of production increases without a corresponding market growth... If you have people who have no real reason to spread out into these blank spaces....
[QUOTE=Demonseed;5569666]The human being is a gregarious animal. With very rare exceptions, they love to talk, to socialize, and to meet new people. Sure, there are folks who don't, but they are the minority. Even in this connected electronic age, people still know their neighbors, their kids, and their families. It's fashionable and popular to bemoan the lack of "human contact" or "society," but the reality is that it hasn't gone anywhere.
Neighbours, kids, families; not really a diverse cross section. That's how many people really? Kids - well maybe 2.4 as the average. Neighbours...? Four? Maybe eight at the outside? Families? Maybe add another two or three people for distant relatives that people actually give a flying about? You're still looking at a bare handful of people - most of whom will have more or less the same experiences anyway.
What you've described here doesn't match up with the idea of humans as a species that like to seek the new - it sounds like a bunch of people intent upon disappearing, to put it a little crudely perhaps, up their own backsides. My family, my neighbours - they're all people very much like me.
I'm not talking about a lack of human contact - I'm talking about... a lack of belonging, something to belong to - to dream of, to vest self in. A sense of something greater than the individual. Something you don't just turn around and go 'Fuck it, I'm moving across the country; see you all in hell.'
Nemmerle;5569670Neighbours, kids, families; not really a diverse cross section. That's how many people really? Kids - well maybe 2.4 as the average. Neighbours...? Four? Maybe eight at the outside? Families? Maybe add another two or three people for distant relatives that people actually give a flying about? You're still looking at a bare handful of people - most of whom will have more or less the same experiences anyway.
I'm not sure where you live, but I can tell you that having lived in my current house for about eight years now, I probably have met and spent time talking with well over 100 people in this neighborhood. We talk on the street, we have neighborhood cookouts in the summer, our kids play together, and we are all friendly.
Now, I live in the South, and this is pretty much the norm here. I grew up in a very small town (less than 6,000 people), and you knew everyone. You spoke on the street, you asked about their family, and you pitched in to help folks out in bad times. Like I said, that's just how it is where I live.
I know that in large cities people tend to be more insular, but overall I think that's a function of geography and demographics, not the human condition.
I live somewhere where the question of whether there exists within the context of broadly western economic/social modelling such a thing as a community is a meaningful question.
I live in a town of around 150,000, all within a reasonable driving distance, with around 55% unemployment. I think I see, on a regular first-name sort of basis, maybe six people outside my immediate family. Most of which I have a rather superficial business relationship with. And I've no idea where you'd go to meet anyone else or develop any other relationships.
I've enough money from various investments I made with my uni grant money and gambling that if I really wanted to I'd never have to work a day in my life. I doubt very much that holds for the majority of my peers but - well, that's what job-seekers allowance and so on are for.... I remember my friends at uni were talking about getting married and applying for housing before they left university so that it'd be in place when they ran out of grant money.
The human condition? Well we can argue nature vs nurture/environment forever. We're all human, and wherever you happen to live - that's your condition.
What do people see when they look at the world? If small towns of a few thousand tend towards greater community integration maybe that's the way to go.
We've got free hugs campaigns for fuck's sake. People are so lonely that a random guy standing on the street offering some physical contact with a lack of any deeper relationship is something to be thankful for. That's how lonely and disconnected people are in my cross-section.
You look at people like that and you can't help thinking -
[INDENT]My god, you poor bastard. [/INDENT]
And if that's what we've got left....
England just recently had a set of riots that seem all but forgotten and forgiven. The poor have gone back to their estates and no-one gives fuck why they kicked off. And I feel like that fella in Unforgiven asking 'Well, why not shoot a president?' Except it's, 'Why not let the world burn just to see what it looks like?' There are clearly massive social problems and in all honesty I've little idea how to engage with that except to phrase the normal questions in the negative. Our economic model seems to have been pushing us towards cities over the last few hundred years and if this is the sort of picture of society it produces when you start rubbing things out....
If small towns of less than six thousands seem to increase communal integration maybe that's the way we should be moving. I don't know. I tend to run this thing past a mental prisoner test:
If you had a guy locked up in jail and you were trading with him. His lifestyle of crime for your lifestyle of following social rules.... Well if you have a hundred people that's a LOT to trade with him. A peer group of a hundred people or so sounds pretty damn attractive even to me - right now I'm think of where I could move to get something similar. But the sort of place I've grown up - you've got nothing to trade with him, if he grew up here he may not even be aware there's the possibility of such a thing. A peer group of what - six, twelve - who you could have anyway in a criminal enterprise; and more closely bound to you by selection pressures at that? It gives him nothing to follow the law - bar the risk of getting caught and punished, which at the end of the day ain't much.
If you can't offer someone a better life than a criminal then your society is fucked. That's basically my internal metric. Can we? I don't know. Your post is the first I've ever heard of the possibility of communities numbering somewhere around a hundred. Which is interesting all by itself - certainly casts Blake's poems in stark contrast if nothing else. ;)
By and large, it's a function of the social structure of the places we live, and types of environments they foster. Even the town I live in now would be considered small by most people's standards. I live in the capital of a state, and there are less than 30,000 residents.
I've traveled over a lot of the US, and I can state that in my experience, this is the way people are in the South and the Midwest. More rural communities tend to be more community-minded. Larger cities seem to foster more of an 'every man for himself' types of attitude. If you were to visit here, I'd daresay that you'd meet a hundred friendly folks in the first few days. It's just a difference in attitude.
Having never visited places overseas, I obviously can't speak for their conditions. However, I can say that smaller communities do tend be closer knit.
A great example is the different ways that people respond to disasters. Hurricane Katrina was devastating to New Orleans, and the rampant looting, violence, and depravity that followed was horrific to anyone who saw it. In contrast, the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri (or the one that flattened much of Tuscaloosa, Alabama) was devastating to the community, but the next day people were out helping their neighbors clean up, salvage what they could, and begin working to rebuild.
Granted, Katrina affected a lot more people, but the mindset is very different. I think it goes back the fact that people in small, rural communities are used to doing things and helping their neighbors do things, whereas folks in larger cities tend to wait for someone (the city, the government, whoever) to come and pick up the pieces.
You might consider a smaller, rural area. You might find just what you seek.
I understood the scrubbing out part before you added the additional negative, now I don't.
Anyway, like Demonseed said, the way communities form and their size probably depend on where you live. In Germany, for example, it is not very common for people who don't know each other to just start talking on the street. How large your own little community is depends mostly on your character though. Maybe it also depends on how much you really value connections to other people. Some people may really enjoy having lots and lots of really superficial connections while others need only a few strong connections or maybe none at all.
What this means for society is a difficult question. I guess empathy could be connected to the degree people are connected, but if I look at people who know many other people I often get the impression that they instrumentalize these connections and would cut them as soon as they don't add value. That doesn't exactly spell empathy to me.
Anyway, some random thoughts which may be consoling: it seems that all people are connected to each other by at most 6 degrees of separation. Also, it isn't just schools, pubs or sports clubs where you meet people. Dogs fulfill that function as well, so do unusual situations.
I feel the idea of "local communities" acting as a catalyst for the formation of lasting and meaningful social relationships to be a bit of a sham anyway, but I don't see that the amount of empty space on your picture says anything about it in particular. Is it your view that there aren't enough places for people to meet and interact? Where would you expect people who are hungry for free hugs to find social interaction, that isn't already available to them? Also... why are people who do already know each other - that is, already met as strangers in the past and formed a social relationship based on shared values and interests - not a part of your picture of community?
Accidentally posted twice.